Major developers build on resurgence

Three of Dubai's biggest property developers between them brought more than 400 new off-plan homes to the market.

A crowd queue outside a Nakheel office in Dubai as Jumeirah Village Circle villas go on sale last week. Sarah Dea / The National
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The opening day sales of new property developments in Dubai these days are becoming a bit like buses - you wait ages for one and then three come along at once.

Certainly that was the case this weekend when three of Dubai's biggest property developers between them brought more than 400 new off-plan homes to the market.

In a series of announcements reminiscent of the heady days of 2008, first Nakheel, then Emaar and then Damac attempted to capitalise on reports of an improvement in market sentiment by selling off as yet unbuilt luxury homes to investors.

However, little information was available about how many homes the developers actually sold, prompting some property agents to speculate that the launches were more about marketing than sales.

For luxury developer Damac, Saturday in fact marked the company's first major property sales launch for four years when it released 295 serviced apartments for sale at its The Distinction scheme in Downtown Dubai.

The developer said yesterday that it was benefiting from "improved market sentiment, which has shown average prices increasing by 14 per cent in the first nine months of the year," while hotel occupancy improved 7.5 per cent over the year.

"Luxury projects in prime locations are driving the UAE property resurgence and 'The Distinction' will provide the quality of finish and service expected at this end of the market", said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president at Damac. "An improving economy and limited availability of high-end luxury developments, is driving demand."

He added that as a private company Damac does not disclose sales figures but that main contractor ANC Contracting had already started work on the project, which is set for completion in 2015.

Nakheel too was hoping to cash in on the improvement in sentiment on Thursday when it started selling 90 off-plan villas at its Jumeirah Village Circle scheme.

The company behind the Palm Jumeirah reported crowds of investors queuing overnight to buy the villas, although by mid-morning on the day of the launch the Nakheel sales office appeared little busier than normal. The company also did not provide sales figures.

"There were many people here at the sales launch," the chairman Ali Rashid Lootah said. "Most of the sales have been to end users."

When asked yesterday how many villas had been sold, a Nakheel spokesman added: "There has been a positive response to our Jumeirah Village Circle villas, with confirmed bookings and enquiries from serious investors."

Not to be outdone, Dubai-based Emaar yesterday launched another tranche of off-plan penthouses at its The Address The BLVD scheme in Downtown Dubai. The Burj Khalifa developer announced it would start to sell its so-called "Sky Collection" in the scheme of 523 serviced apartments and 200 hotel rooms from yesterday. The developer did not reveal how many apartments would be included in the launch.

"Over the last couple of years there has been little demand for off plan sales and as confidence returns to the market we are starting to see demand coming back," said Craig Plumb, the head of research for the Middle East and North Africa at Jones Lang LaSalle.

"However, this remains select and buyers are generally more cautious than previously. A number of recent launches have been effectively pre-launches. That means investors are only requested to register an interest rather than committing to a future purchase."