No New Year cheer for UAE property market

Abu Dhabi rents are expected to drop by 5 to 7 percent and Dubai property values are expected to decline by 3 to 5 percent in 2018 (Shutterstock)
Updated 31 December 2017

No New Year cheer for UAE property market

LONDON: It is that time of year when the Gulf’s plethora of real estate pundits look into their crystal balls to see what the future might hold.
Last year was a particularly difficult for the region as it contended with weak oil prices, political tensions and volatile investor sentiment. The introduction of value-added tax in Saudi Arabia and the UAE from 2018 will inject yet more short-term uncertainty into the market, some commentators have said.
However, as the global price of crude picks up, the economic growth prospects of the region’s oil-exporting countries are projected to improve in 2018.
The latest IMF forecast for 2018 expects Gulf gross domestic product (GDP) growth to rebound to 3.3 percent, largely driven by a turnaround in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But whether this new economic confidence filters into the real estate market remains to be seen — with further declines forecast in the UAE’s two main property markets, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Arab News takes a look at how the two markets are looking this year.
Dubai: A mixed bag with hopes of a “bottoming out” in 2018
According to a report by property consultancy Cluttons, the three years up until winter 2017 were “very challenging” for Dubai’s residential market, with capital values dropping by 16.6 percent. Residential values were estimated to end 2017 down 5 to 7 percent on 2016 numbers, the consultancy said.
“The introduction of Federal Mortgage Caps and the collapse in oil prices during 2014 have been key catalysts in shaping the market over the last 36 months, alongside the deteriorating global geopolitical backdrop, which also spooked investors,” Cluttons said in a report.
Around 40,000 more residential units will be completed in Dubai in 2018, according to the Property Monitor Supply Tracker. This may put further pressure on rent and sales prices, in particular the secondary market, analysts have said.
According to Cluttons, 2018 still has the potential for values to start “bottoming out” in the second half of the year, but much will depend on the yet-to-materialize “Expo 2020 effect,” the strength of the US dollar and a slowing in both the rate of delivery and type of new residential schemes announced, with “affordable” housing being key to helping the market stabilize.
“On balance, we expect values to decline by an average of 3 percent to 5 percent (in 2018),” Cluttons said. “The rental market is expected to mirror the performance of capital values in 2018.”
According to Cluttons, low-end apartments and villas encompassing the city’s most affordable locations such as International City, IMPZ, Discovery Gardens, Jumeirah, Sports City and JLT, collectively registered no change in average rents in the third quarter of 2017, highlighting “the potential depth of demand for more affordable rental accommodation going into 2018.”
Syed Wajih, a property consultant at Better Homes Dubai, told Arab News: “This is a temporary dip and it’s the best time to buy. The prices are low because of the oil price, VAT uncertainty and uncertain sentiment, but there is a lot of movement now because of the low prices.”
Abu Dhabi: Gloomy market with falling property prices
According to JLL, Abu Dhabi residential rents and sales prices dipped in the third quarter of 2017 as vacancies increased in response to subdued demand and increased supply. Rental demand has been negatively impacted by job losses and cuts in housing allowances while suppressed sentiment has resulted in fewer sale transactions, the consultancy said.
JLL said apartment rents declined by around 13 percent on a year-on-year basis in the third quarter due to the “continued increase in vacancy rates, resulting new supply completions during a period of job losses and cuts in housing allowances.”
Residential vacancies are expected to increase further in 2018, causing further rental declines, the property firm predicted.
Residential prices have also continued to fall, with average prices for prime villas declining 8 percent in the third quarter, down 13 percent year-on-year, said JLL.
“Declining sentiment and reduced transaction volumes have driven these falls with average prices expected to decline further during 2018,” it said.
The latest Abu Dhabi property report from Cluttons noted: “Weaker economic growth has taken its toll on the hydrocarbon sector in particular, which has been a key driver of demand in the residential and commercial markets in the emirate historically.”
Cluttons added: “(2018) is likely to see rents slipping further, with newly completed buy-to-let stock becoming a particular challenge in some of the city’s newer neighborhoods.”
The firm predicts that Abu Dhabi rents are likely to drop by 5 percent to 7 percent in 2018, “unless there is a notable rebounding in economic growth.”


A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

Updated 05 December 2019

A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

  • Products used by WashyWash are non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral
  • Amman-based laundry service aims to relocate to a larger facility in mid-2020

AMMAN: A persistent sinus problem prompted a Jordanian entrepreneur to launch an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that could help end the widespread use of a dangerous chemical.

“Dry cleaning” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not really dry. It is true that no water is involved in the process, but the main cleaning agent is perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that experts consider likely to cause cancer, as well as brain and nervous system damage.

Kamel Almani, 33, knew little of these dangers when he began suffering from sinus irritation while working as regional sales director at Eon Aligner, a medical equipment startup he co-founded.

The problem would disappear when he went on vacation, so he assumed it was stress related.

However, when Mazen Darwish, a chemical engineer, revealed he wanted to start an eco-laundry and warned about toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning, Almani had an epiphany.

“He began to tell me how PERC affects the respiratory system, and I suddenly realized that it was the suits I wore for work — and which I would get dry cleaned — that were the cause of my sinus problems,” said Almani, co-founder of Amman-based WashyWash.

“That was the eureka moment. We immediately wanted to launch the business.”

WashyWash began operations in early 2018 with five staff, including the three co-founders: Almani, Darwish and Kayed Qunibi. The business now has 19 employees and became cash flow-positive in July this year.

“We’re very happy to achieve that in under two years,” Almani said.

The service uses EcoClean products that are certified as toxin-free, are biodegradable and cause no air, water or soil pollution.

Customers place orders through an app built in-house by the company’s technology team.

WashyWash collects customers’ dirty clothes, and cleans, irons and returns them. Services range from the standard wash-and-fold to specialized dry cleaning for garments and cleaning of carpets, curtains, duvets and leather goods.

“For wet cleaning, we use environmentally friendly detergents that are biodegradable, so the wastewater doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals,” Almani said.

For dry cleaning, WashyWash uses a modified hydrocarbon manufactured by Germany’s Seitz, whose product is non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral.

A specialized company collects the waste and disposes of it safely.

The company has big ambitions, planning to expand its domestic operations and go international. Its Amman site can process about 1,000 items daily, but WashyWash will relocate to larger premises in mid-2020, which should treble its capacity.

“We’ve built a front-end app, a back-end system and a driver app along with a full facility management system. We plan to franchise that and have received interest from many countries,” Almani said.

“People visiting Amman used our service, loved it, and wanted an opportunity to launch in their countries.”

WashyWash has received financial backing from angel investors and is targeting major European cities initially.

“An eco-friendly, on-demand dry-cleaning app isn’t available worldwide, so good markets might be London, Paris or Frankfurt,” Almani said.

 

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian
and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.