Indians head queue to buy property in Dubai

India Dispatch: While property prices have risen sharply in Indian cities in recent years, prices in Dubai fell as much as 60 per cent, making the emirate attractive for investors.

Indians were the top property buyers in Dubai in the first half of this year. Gabriela Maj / Bloomberg News
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Faisal Husain, the founder and chief executive of an IT company, bought a luxury six-bedroom villa on The Palm in Dubai last year.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the villa's value may have increased by as much as 30 per cent since he bought it in April, he says. Mr Husain, 38, from Bhopal in India, explains that he bought the property primarily as a home, but he is obviously delighted at its rising market value.

"We first moved into an apartment at Jumeirah Beach Residence in 2008," he says. "Because it was a fairly big move we weren't sure if it was going to work out, so we took small steps. After two or three years we realised we were really liking it and it was a great place to raise a family.

"In 2011 when we purchased the property on The Palm we felt it was a very good buying opportunity because of the downturn, so we wanted to take advantage of that and we really felt this was a place we could spend a fair amount of time in the next five to 10 years."

Mr Husain wanted to be close to India and the ease of travelling to countries all over the globe from the UAE, which is required for his business, mean Dubai is an ideal place for him to live, he explains.

"Dubai is a two-and-a-half hour flight from Delhi and Mumbai and it's got world class infrastructure."

While property prices have risen sharply in Indian cities in recent years, prices in Dubai fell as much as 60 per cent. This has been followed by a renewed property boom in the emirate, with a number of ambitious projects being revealed in the past few weeks. All this is combining to present a potentially attractive opportunity in Dubai for Indian buyers once again, analysts say.

"Media reports in India clearly indicate a revival of real estate in Dubai, and if this is positioned well by Dubai's real estate developers in India, it will certainly help in drawing interest back," says Om Ahuja, the chief executive of residential services at Jones Lang LaSalle India.

There were many who were burnt by Dubai's property market before the downturn. Many investors had bought on the speculation that prices would continue to soar.

Mr Ahuja explains that activity in terms of resale of property and fresh investments in Dubai had been dampened because of the negative experience of Indian investors who took a hit during the downturn.

"Considering the current price points and options available, Dubai real estate is very attractive when compared to options in Indian metros at current price levels," Mr Ahuja explains. "Investments from India can certainly rise, given the currency volatility and affordability aspect."

Figures from the Dubai Land Department shows that Indians claimed the number one spot in terms of foreign property purchases in the emirate. Indian investors bought 2,153 properties worth a total value of Dh3.75 billion (US$1.02bn) in the first half of the year, according to the data.

Consequently, developers in Dubai recognise the importance of the Indian market.

"India is a key market for Damac Properties, making up around 30 per cent of our buyers," says Niall McLoughlin, a senior vice president at the company. "Given the number of Indian buyers we currently enjoy, it is important that we design and style our products towards the Indian market.

"There has been a significant pickup in overseas investors returning to the Dubai market throughout 2012 and India is no exception."

There are a number of factors driving buyers from India to purchase property in Dubai, he says.

"This could be the geographical proximity to home or a desire to purchase a property for family members living or studying in Dubai," he adds.

"Prices in many areas of Dubai are currently much lower than certain areas of India and savvy investors are recognising the growth potential of investing now and reaping the rewards, both in capital growth and rental return - all of which comes without any capital gains taxation."

But, there are also drawbacks.

Despite an announcement last year that visas for property buyers in the UAE would be extended from six months to three years, the law has yet to be implemented.

Yashwant Dalal, the president of the Estate Agents Association of India, says legislation also needs to be relaxed to attract even more Indian buyers.

"Resident visas are available for a certain period, but buying a property is a permanent thing. If there is a government policy for permanent [residency] or something like that then people will buy property in Dubai. Otherwise it doesn't make sense for many Indians."

Mr Ahuja says measures that could be taken to make Dubai more appealing to Indians include assurance of attractive rental yields, the facilitation of rentals and the activation of the resale market.

"In the absence of revival in the resale market, [there needs to be a] minimum return guarantee from the developers," Mr Ahuja says.

"To make it investor friendly, these aspects need to be looked at before positioning to Indian investors."