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Further signs Dubai property market is stabilising

Slower declines across property rental and sales continue, says Asteco Q1 2011 report

For the first quarter in nearly two years there has been a virtual stabilisation with slight declines in certain areas according to the Q1 2011 report from leading UAE property management company, Asteco.

Apartment rentals averaged a decline of 2% over the quarter, though drops of as much as 5% and 7% were seen in selective areas. Discovery Gardens and Dubai Marina fell 6% and 4% respectively, but with high transaction activity due to their favourable locations and increased affordability.

“The rental market stabilised in certain areas, with a downward trend in others, albeit at a lower rate. This is attributed to the pressure of new stock on the already oversupplied market, especially for apartments and offices. Internal movement is still high and is predominantly driven by a flight to quality and value for money,” said Elaine Jones, CEO, Asteco Property Management.

Overall, the report found these declines herald more rental declines in coming quarters, fuelled by various factors including tenants capitalising on lower prices by moving to more upscale developments. Increased supply in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi is also having an impact on rents, seeing some tenants who had commuted to Abu Dhabi from Dubai moving to the capital.

Villa rentals fared better, showing virtually no change since last quarter. Demand in secondary locations has increased as better prices and improving infrastructure boost value for money. The report found downward trends in villa rentals was set to continue, with more supply to be handed over in coming months.

Apartment sale prices also show continuing signs of stability, with prices having eased by 1% in the sector during the first quarter of 2011, with the decline slowing further from the 4% seen in Q4 2010. While the figure represented an overall trend, the report emphasises the depth of the Dubai market, characterised by a wide choice of high- to low-end properties in primary and secondary locations.

“The Dubai property sector is a dynamic market, with different areas and qualities catering to the various sectors of the market. While sales price trends for the last quarter were down, the decline is continuing to slow, as in previous months,” said Jones.

Demonstrating the variations, DIFC has seen prices reduce by 7%, attributed in part to the handover of new buildings. Falls here are also a result of landlords’ attempts to attract investment and increase transaction activity by lowering prices. Apartment sales figures in The Greens were down by 3% due to investors opting for nearby developments with more mature infrastructure and fewer congestion-related access problems.

“Transaction activity is on the rise, and as sentiment increases this will continue, with returning stability also aided by finance becoming more readily available,” added Jones.
No change was seen across villa sales, with low transactional activity continuing due low private investor interest. While further minimal declines are expected, Asteco’s report indicates improvements should be seen as improving economic prospects increase finance availability and down payments become more affordable.

Significant falls in office rents continued, at 10% over the Q1 2011, though at half the 20% decline seen in the previous quarter. The slowdown is the result of both domestic and international factors, including the country’s ongoing political stability, strategic location and attractive business environment, particularly amid the turmoil of some parts of the region. Businesses continue to move into Dubai from both international locations and other parts of the UAE, particularly the Northern Emirates.

“The UAE’s political stability, well-established financial credentials and strategic location at the crossroad of the east and west has always attracted inward investment and currently could well be viewed by many as a safer haven,” added Jones.

In office sales, transactional activity remains subdued, with prices dropping 3% over the quarter. JLT declined 4% as new supply continues to be delivered, but showed some of the highest transaction activity. The report attributes the ongoing slow-down to companies continued austerity in adopting asset-light strategies to reduced business fixed cost.

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