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.”


India opens vast railway network to private players

Updated 58 min 45 sec ago

India opens vast railway network to private players

  • The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily
  • India’s railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes
MUMBAI: India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.
The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.
In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.
“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.
The project will require an investment of $39.8 million and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatize a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.
“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.
“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady,” he added.
The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre.”
Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.
The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.
Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.
Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.