Abu Dhabi steps in to cut cost of home loans

The Government has stepped in to reduce the cost of home loans in the capital by 1 per cent below the best rate available.

October 1, 2009 / Abu Dhabi / A view from inside the Sun Tower overlooking Reem Island October 1, 2009. ( Sammy Dallal / The National) *** Local Caption ***  sd-100109-sunandsky-12.jpg

ABU DHABI // The Government has stepped in to reduce the cost of home loans in the capital. Buyers can now obtain mortgages at 5.75 per cent interest, compared with current rates of more than 8 per cent, a saving of Dh2,450 (US$667) a month on a typical Dh2 million loan.

Abu Dhabi Finance, a mortgage provider part-owned by the Government, revealed yesterday that it had received funds from the Department of Finance with which it will cut the cost of borrowing to 1 per cent below the best available. "Abu Dhabi Finance is one of the tools that the Government is using to stimulate the real estate market," said Ali Eid al Mehairi, the company's chairman. The move comes amid a property downturn in which prices have fallen by 50 per cent in parts of the capital. The two largest developers, Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate, have reported few sales in the past year and the two largest home finance providers, Amlak Finance and Tamweel, stopped issuing new loans in November 2008.

Mr al Mehairi said Abu Dhabi Finance received unspecified funds from the Department of Finance three weeks ago at "commercial terms", without providing details. Together with bank loans the company has obtained, it was able to reduce interest rates to between 5.75 per cent and 8.5 per cent. The best rate available from other providers is about 6.5 per cent, said Chris Dommett, the chief executive of the mortgage advisory company John Charcol in Dubai.

"A lot of people in Abu Dhabi have been comparing the cost of renting with the cost of buying," Mr Dommett said. "Lenders are looking at how to lower the rate to where it becomes cheaper to buy. This will encourage more people to go and buy properties." Only the most credit-worthy applicants, around 20 per cent, will qualify for the 5.75 per cent rate at Abu Dhabi Finance. The company launched in late 2008 with a stated focus of improving mortgage customer service, but as the economic crisis deepened the Government has taken a keener interest in it as an instrument to increase property sales. The chief executive, Philip Ward, said in August that it provided between 20 and 25 per cent of mortgages issued to home buyers in Abu Dhabi.

Damian Hitchen, a director at Emirates Conveyancing in Dubai, said the finance house had a reputation for being competitive. "They have very much concentrated on the Abu Dhabi marketplace at this moment, but my understanding is that they have plans to expand." bhope@thenational.ae