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Why Russian buyers are attracted to Dubai's realty market

Tax-free regime, affordable mortgage and business opportunities are big incentives


Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Sat 4 Jun 2022, 10:26 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Jun 2022, 11:03 PM

Maria Shurshalina, a 20-something Russian from Sverdlovsk, has seen the graph take off since she landed in Dubai six months back. The trendy marketer with smart aviators, who loves luxurious scents, has become a successful realty broker in double-quick time. Her success mirrors the growing Russian interest in the emirate. The savvy broker has sold over 92 properties, including apartments, villas and townhouses, in the past few weeks to Russian investors.

“At a conservative estimate, property prices have surged over 30 per cent in Palm Jumeirah, Downtown, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence and Dubai Hills. Russians love the sun and the sand in Dubai and the UAE. But they are shrewd investors, too,” Maria says.

Buyers see a lot of value for money. The emirate’s ease-of-doing business, a tax-free regime and affordable mortgage plans are big incentives for Russians looking to buy a home away from home.

Brokers surmise at least 100,000 Russians have arrived in Dubai since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, doubling the size of the community. Many newcomers are also looking at homes in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, where Russian signages on shops and eateries have been commonplace through the years.

Maria weighs in on the advantages. “An investment of Dh750,000 in a property ensures a three-year residence while a larger investment can secure the longer-term Golden Visa for my compatriots.” Consider the case of Roman Igonin, a Muscovite entrepreneur who first came to Dubai five years ago and fell in love with the emirate.

“I must have visited Dubai at least 10 times since then. Time is ripe to open businesses here as I own two properties in Downtown and The Palm.” Roman is looking at starting a chain of dental clinics across Dubai — at least five to begin with. He wants to zero in on Dubai Hills, Business Bay and Dubai Marina.

Alessia Sheglova, CEO of Dacha Real Estate, has been living in the UAE since 1994 as a seven-year-old when her mother, Angelika, moved to Sharjah, except for a few years when she pursued higher studies in Canada.

“My mother started her own business shortly after she moved here. Her business centred on sending cargo containers to Russia; those days Deira was the hub of activities.” Alessia’s own business was set up in 2004.

“Initially, the going was good, as Russians were flocking to Dubai, and many were keen to invest in realty,” says the alumnus of the Sharjah-based International School of Choueifat.

Celebrities, lawyers, students, artists, and professionals—they are all lured by Dubai. All have a role model in Pavel Durov, the Dubai-based founder of the messaging app Telegram. Last year, Durov was named the richest UAE resident by Forbes with a wealth of $17.2 billion, up from $3.4 billion in 2020. Durov was the first UAE resident to be ranked among the world’s top 200 billionaires.

Russian broker Denis Scvortsov has been living in Dubai since 2011 but joined realty two years later. He largely works on off-plan projects. His client, Pavel S, sums up the Russia story “Usually, I visit Dubai twice a year. I was thinking of investing in realty for a long time. My wife and I were planning to purchase a property in 2020, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t pull it off. Now, we almost got pushed by the situation in our country. We had to move our savings to another country, and we chose Dubai and the UAE as it is one of the few destinations welcoming Russians.”

Was Dubai his first choice? “My wife and I had considered Turkey as well. But now Dubai appears to be the best bet.” Similarly, Ksenia V moved to Dubai in April on the back of the crisis.

“I sold my property in Russia and was looking for alternative places where I could invest. Dubai is one of the best cities in the world. (It’s) not far from Russia… so it was a no-brainer. Besides, some of my friends had bought property in Dubai and I decided to join them,” she says.

Ruslan S, who moved to Dubai in March, is upbeat: “I see a lot of potential in Dubai, including attractive payment plans. A stable currency and access to the sea tilted me towards Dubai, a truly modern city with out-of-the-world civic amenities. Soon, I’m planning to move the company here.”

Andrei Sivkov is a professional with over 20 years of experience, including 15 in international energy companies. He moved to Dubai in 2013 to join an oil company. “Though my wife and I fell in love with Dubai almost instantly, we decided to stay on after my first work contract got over. Tax-free income, good international business opportunities and safety make Dubai a top choice for investments.” Andrei is impressed by Dubai’s child-friendly environment, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, access to the sea and luxury resorts.

Natalia Remmer, a journalist who has been living in Dubai for over 10 years, says the Russians have been investing in properties in Dubai since freehold options were made available over 15 years ago.

“The UAE is a friendly country for Russian investors as they can invest in real estate with fewer restrictions. Though Turkey offers citizenship against investments, the UAE is also a preferred destination. The Russian community is growing by the day and many people, who may live in Moscow and Geneva, are investing in off-plan properties to diversify their investment portfolio. They feel that not only their property but also their privacy will be protected by the law in the UAE, and children will feel safe in this country that celebrates multiculturalism, business opportunities and religious tolerance.”

Evgeniy Morozov, who started his career as a classical violinist in the UAE over 20 years ago, has since moved into hospitality and event management. He is the star attraction on most evenings at Chalet Berezka. His personal touch and affable nature are in evidence as he mesmerises the diners while property deals are struck over sumptuous meals in the fine-dining restaurant. Morozov has been the brain behind headline acts of artists and entertainers from Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) during the annual PaRUS International Music Festival in Dubai.

Kirill Mishanin and Irina Mishanin, who are from Krasnoyarsk (Russia) and Sverdlovsak (Ukraine), respectively, got married in Moscow in November 2020. Kirill, a co-founder at Infodriver Capital asset management fund and blockchain consulting company, booked an off-plan property for Dh1.3 million by Azizi Developers around nine months ago while Irina moved in this April and is dabbling in lifestyle consultancy while honing her proficiency in English.

“I have made a 30 per cent down payment and the rest by mortgage,” says Kirill. He has also moved his parents to Dubai, who are currently living in a villa on rent. Irina, who always wanted to live by the sea, is bowled by Dubai and plans to bring over her mother as well.

The Borisovs — husband Vsevolod, wife Anna and their three-year-old daughter Nika — have been living in a two-bedroom apartment in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) before Expo 2020 Dubai. Vsevolod, who works as a solutions architect with UWill Global, belongs to Moscow. Anna is a self-styled entrepreneur who offers marketing services. The Borisovs will wait and watch the property market till their rental lease runs out on October 31.

Vsevolod is acutely aware that “the realty segment in Dubai can be volatile because of socio-political trends across the world”. However, he is willing to hedge his bets and is likely to invest after he is convinced about a good price.

The Borisovs are a glorious exception to their compatriots, watching and waiting for the right realty moment. They know they have come to the right place.

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