More than 100 real estate developers are expected to showcase projects at the Cityscape exhibition in Abu Dhabi this week, as recovering oil prices and slower rate of price declines rejuvenates investor sentiment.
"We are confident that the attendance figure will exceed last year's 17,549 participants," Carlo Schembri, exhibition manager at the annual conference that takes place in Abu Dhabi from 17-19 April, and in Dubai later this year, told The National.
“A significant number of new exhibitors taking part this year come from Sharjah and Dubai, which is a promising sign that Emirati-led companies are playing a role in the show’s growth.”
Among the five biggest projects on show at Cityscape next week are Sharjah-based developer Arada’s $6.5 billion Aljada mega-community, and the 18-hectare Makers’ District in Abu Dhabi, whose developer Imkan will market ‘Pixel’, the scheme’s first mixed-use destination on Reem Island.
Aldar will market at Cityscape the first phase of its planned Dh10 billion Al Ghadeer masterplan that unveiled on Monday. The first phase of the affordable scheme comprises 611 homes, including maisonettes, townhouses and villas with prices starting at Dh290,000 for maisonettes and Dh899,900 for townhouses.
Other projects to be showcased at Cityscape include Binghatti Developers’ Dh400m Millennium Binghatti Residences along Dubai Water Canal in Business Bay, and Azizi Developments’ Meydan Avenue, a mixed-use scheme close to the 47 million square feet freehold scheme, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City and Meydan Racecourse.
Last year’s Cityscape Abu Dhabi was a “fruitful” event for exhibitors, Mr Schembri said, although he declined to reveal the estimated value of deals conducted during the show. Listed real estate developer Aldar Properties sold out homes in the first two towers of its The Bridges scheme at last year’s event, with a total value of Dh400m, while Sharjah-based developer Tilal Properties said they achieved around Dh8m of sales. The 2017 post-show survey showed that 63 per cent of visitors “expressed interest in making a purchase from an exhibitor within the next 12 months”, he added.
The UAE property market has slowed in recent years on the back of a three-year oil slump that has caused job losses, dampened demand and subsequently pushed sales and rental prices of residential units lower. Analysts predict the market will continue to decline, albeit at a slower rate, before bottoming out later this year.
Increased interest from investors in the first few months of 2018 suggests a more optimistic sentiment, even if this has yet to have an impact on property prices, analysts say, and this is likely to provide a boost to activity at this year’s Cityscape.
“Prices have been softening for a while now, but it appears they are starting to plateau,” said Faisal Durrani, head of research at real estate consultancy Cluttons.
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[ Asteco expects 'moderate' dip in Abu Dhabi housing prices, rents in 2018 ]
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“At the top of the market – let’s take Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, which remains the most expensive place to buy residential property in the emirate – residential sales prices have seen no [downward] movement for two quarters, indicating some price stabilisation. We are starting to see a return of purchasing activity as a result.”
Still, average residential prices on Saadiyat Island are down 26 per cent since the start of 2015 so it is too early to talk about price recovery, he added.
Rents across Abu Dhabi’s residential investment areas decreased by 2.3 per cent during the first quarter, following the 4.3 per cent drop during the final quarter of 2017, according to Cluttons’ Spring 2018 Abu Dhabi Property Market Outlook.
Cautiously optimistic, developers will be marketing their schemes at Cityscape with attractive buyer incentives including low down-payments, attractive payment plans spread over several years, and extended post-payment handover terms, said Craig Plumb, head of research at broker JLL Mena.
While some “brave” developers may launch luxury schemes at this year’s show, the 2017 trend towards affordable housing will persist, he added, as housing allowances are still being squeezed across the UAE and consumers continue to restrict their spending.
New details related to the tie-up between Aldar and Dubai-based Emaar Properties may emerge at Cityscape, Mr Plumb said. The UAE’s two largest real estate developers entered into a strategic partnership in March and are expected to unveil plans for their first joint project, Saadiyat Grove, comprising around 2,000 residential units as well as hospitality and retail.
Riyadh City, a new housing scheme for Emiratis on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, is also set to be launched at this year’s show. “We’re confident that the 12th edition will be another success for all parties involved in the show,” said Mr Schembri.