Dubai’s real estate market needs sustainable pricing for middle-income families

Dugasta Properties is launching a scheme that offers 8% guaranteed returns


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Sun 27 Aug 2023, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Sun 3 Sep 2023, 7:47 PM

Middle-income families are usually priced out of Dubai’s real estate market every time the demand of properties goes up as developers increase profit margin. Prices of a studio apartment that currently ranges from Dh800,000 to Dh1 million reflects a possible ‘overheating’ in Dubai’s real estate market. Investors who are buying property at the current price, might not be able to sell them at the same price if the market softens in the coming years, says officials and market analysts.

Rental income of at best Dh40,000 from a studio flat that was purchased at Dh800,000 translates to a 5 per cent annual return, excluding the service charge. It is safe to calculate the rental income to be around Dh32,000 and if the service charges are included, the return is less than 4 per cent on investment of Dh800,000. This could make investment in real estate ‘uneconomic’, as there are other investment instruments that might offer higher returns.

A Dubai-based property developer, Dugasta Properties Development, is launching affordable homes with prices starting from as low as Dh400,000 for a studio apartment. Moreover, it is offering an 8 per cent annual guaranteed return on investment ­– based on certain terms and conditions – for the first five years for all types of apartments may it be Sudio, 1-bedroom or a 2-bedroom apartment – that aims to re-balance the real estate market and also attract new buyers into the market who were earlier priced out due to high cost of home acquisition for many fixed-income families.

Dugasta is also offering a buy-back option after the five-year period – based on certain terms and conditions – if the buyer wants to sell the property. Dugasta will buy back the property from the buyer at the original sale price, depending on certain terms and conditions, a top official told Khaleej Times.

“This effectively means that the home buyer or investor would get back 40 per cent of their investment in the first five years,” Tauseef Khan, Founder and Chairman of Dugasta Properties. “As per the programme, we are also offering the buy-back option of the property, if the buyer/investor decides to sell it off. Although properties are currently selling at a higher price, we have decided to enter the market at a comfortable and attractive price point that will attract the middle-income families to buy their dream homes and we believe this price will be sustainable in the long run even in the case of softening of the market.”

Dubai’s real estate sector saw the number of land and property transactions reach 76,119 in the first half of 2023, worth Dh283 billion, growing at 76.87 per cent from Dh160 billion recorded in the corresponding period last year. This reflects an unusually strong growth due to not only the rise in the number of sales, re-sale and mortgage of properties, but also in the increase in the value of properties and transactions.

This effectively means that the value of average transactions has also grown compared to the corresponding period last year, reflecting a jump in average price of properties. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, the price of a studio apartment that was sold at Dh400,000 to Dh450,000 in January 2022, jumped to Dh800,000 to Dh900,000 by January 2023 – just double in a year.

Tauseef Khan, Founder and Chairman of Dugasta Properties Development. — Supplied photo
Tauseef Khan, Founder and Chairman of Dugasta Properties Development. — Supplied photo

“This unusual jump in property prices makes properties unaffordable even for high-income families, making the real estate prices unsustainable. Buyers investing in properties at such high prices, will not be able to sell them at their asking price if the market softens,” Tauseef Khan, who brings more than three decades of experience in leasing and selling property across Dubai, through his leasing and sales arm, City Tower Real Estate, which manages more than 7,000 apartments and villas in Dubai.

“As we celebrate the Year of Sustainability in the UAE and prepare to host COP28 Summit in November, it is important to practice sustainability in all aspects. For us, economic sustainability is more crucial than environmental sustainability as we need to sell properties at a price that market can support in the long run. Hence, we have decided to start the price from as low as Dh400,000 for a studio, although we could sell at a much higher price. I believe, this price is very affordable and sustainable and the market could support this price even in the face of a soft landing sometime next year.”

Khan believes developers could make money even in affordable homes as the volume of transactions will compensate for lower profits, as the lower sales price will help sell the properties at a faster pace than the luxury units.

“Our properties will be affordable to customers and economically sustainable. The affordable price will help more families to move from rented homes to their dream freehold properties and save them from rent-related inflation,” he says.

As per the 8 per cent guaranteed return on investment scheme – depending on certain terms and conditions – an investor in a property priced, for example, at Dh1 million will receive Dh80,000 every year for the first five years upon handover and subsequently receive a guaranteed total of Dh400,000 in five years, regardless of the market conditions – and then if he wishes to sell the property, the developer could buy back the property at the original sales price, depending on certain terms and conditions.

“Such a move will not only boost investor appetite and increase demand, but also help the industry grow in a more sustainable growth path as it helps all the stakeholders,” said a Dubai-based property analyst.

Dubai’s average prices grew at the strongest pace since late 2014, increasing by 16.9 per cent in the year through June 2023, says real estate advisory CB Richard Ellis (CBRE). This is up from the 15.9 per cent growth registered a month earlier. Over this period, average apartment prices grew by 17.2 per cent and average villa prices by 15.1 per cent. As of June 2023, average apartment prices reached Dh1,294 per square foot, and average villa prices reached Dh1,525 per square foot.

“For the third time in the past 20 years, the real estate market in Dubai is witnessing significant growth, with an increase in both the number of transactions and property prices. This surge in activity raises concerns about the possibility of another housing bubble, considering the market crashes experienced by Dubai in 2009 and 2015,” Anastasia Petrova, an analyst, says.

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