Home buyers seek quality of life purchases

A sense of community and quality of living are dominating the sales market for homes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, property brokers say, with Al Reem and Marina topping the list.

Property buyers are attracted to Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, although most of the buildings are still being finished.
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A sense of community and quality of living are dominating the sales market for homes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, property brokers say. Dubai Marina and Abu Dhabi's Al Reem Island have emerged as the top places to buy a home. Almost two years after the financial crisis sent the country's overheated property market into downturn, the economy around the sale and purchase of homes is maturing.

In 2008, the price of unfinished homes rose above those of completed villas and apartments - a classic symptom of a speculators' market. Now, details developers considered an afterthought in 2007 and 2008 are becoming deal breakers. More than 40 per cent of the transactions handled by Better Homes in Dubai have been in the Marina, with another 20 per cent just across Sheikh Zayed Road in the lower-rise communities of the Emirates Living area - the Springs, the Lakes, the Meadows, the Greens, Jumeirah Lake Towers and Jumeirah Islands.

Kosta Giannopoulos, the manager of residential sales and leasing at Better Homes, said these two larger areas offered not only a space to call your own, but also a lifestyle. "They have a community feel, good access to leisure such as restaurants and cafes, and established gardens," Mr Giannopoulos said. "Properties in these areas were previously unaffordable but now attainable to more people." There were few areas in Dubai that showed signs of competing with these established communities. As these areas gain larger populations as part of the migration of residents to better accommodation as prices decline, a "reinforcing cycle occurs where more people gravitate to the most popular areas", he said.

A similar pattern is in its early phases in Abu Dhabi. While most of the capital's largest and most modern buildings are still being finished, buyers appear to be preferring those that promise a community experience. Peter Samaha, a director of Quest Property Services, said the top areas were Marina Square, Sun and Sky Towers, Al Raha Beach, Al Raha Gardens and Al Reef Development. "There is a large number of people interested in Reem Island, and Marina Square in particular, but they are still a bit hesitant to buy because we are so close to handover they would rather wait and see the finished product," Mr Samaha said.

Prices in Marina Square have fluctuated between Dh1,150 (US$313) and Dh1,300 a square foot since October last year. While there has been no rise in the number of sales, Mr Samaha said he had been receiving a growing number of inquiries. A major change has been the rise of end users looking to buy homes to live in. About half of the buyers are end users, with the other half made up of investors looking to rent the apartments out.

Emiratis have been more interested in Al Raha Gardens and Golf Gardens as an investment, where only locals can own properties. "The properties are very popular amongexpats and are always in demand by tenants," Mr Samaha said. "At current market prices, it will be possible to achieve a gross return of 10 to 12 per cent." bhope@thenational.ae