Dubai property developers try new ways of attracting buyers as market remains in a rut

Post-handover payments, guaranteed income and capital guarantees among the perks on offer as developers seek edge in a softer Dubai property market.

A rendering of a villa in the Akoya by Damac development near Arabian Ranches in Dubai. There are a total of 2,400 villas within the Akoya project. Courtesy Damac
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Dubai property developers are offering increasingly generous terms to clinch sales in a softening market.

Incentives include deferred-­payment plans and guarantees over income and capital values.

Last week, Emaar Properties and Meraas Holding even offered a deal where investors can pay 40 per cent of the purchase price after handover of homes at Sidra villas in Mohammed bin Rashid City.

The developer G&Co announced a similar payment plan for its Dh1 billion Jade at the Fields project, also in Moh­ammed bin Rashid City.

The company, which is owned by the former Menacom chief Joseph Ghossoub, asks investors to pay just 5 per cent of the value of a property, followed by a further 6 per cent every six months during the three-year building programme. A further 15 per cent is payable on completion, totalling just over half of the building’s overall value. The rest can be paid in quarterly instalments for three years after the handover.

The moves follow a highly publicised deal by Damac Properties offering investors a guaranteed annual return on advance payments during construction of 3 per cent a year – twice the amount likely to be received from a bank – until completion.

Damac's managing director Ziad El Chaar said the offer of a guaranteed return of 3 per cent on funds invested during construction is currently a trial, and only available on serviced apartments at its Paramount Hotels and Residences project in Business Bay. e said that the offer was aimed at encouraging reluctant buyers.

“Many people today are thinking ‘maybe I will invest after six months or maybe the right time to go into the market will be after one year’. The main driver is to motivate people to enter the market today.”

Damac also announced a “capital guarantee” offer, which guarantees the value of a home for two years after delivery. Again, this is a trial offer and is currently available only for buyers of villas at its Akoya by Dam­ac scheme. Damac has said that it will pay the difference to investors if the villas, which are due for completion this year, decline in price by the end of 2019.

Mr El Chaar said that the company was not taking unnecessary risks by offering such a guarantee, arguing that Damac took a conservative approach to managing its finances and that it had net cash of close to US$1.5 billion. Moreover, its exposure is only on the remaining villas at its Akoya scheme.

It does not reveal sales figures for individual projects, but there are a total of 2,400 villas within the Akoya project.

“We usually launch such kinds of projects on products where we have a good pot in the escrow accounts, so we are not taking unnecessary risks,” Mr El Chaar said.

Craig Plumb, head of research at JLL’s Dubai office, said: “With the Dubai market softening, developers are thinking up ingenious ways to try to attract buyers.

This is a sign that risk is shifting to developers. It will limit the amount of new projects developers can do.

“I imagine this will make developers themselves slightly less attractive as an investment or slightly riskier but really, extending the payment plan to after hand­over is really just bringing Dubai more into line with other international markets where people would get a mortgage for a property and spread payments over 25 years.”

He points out that the Islamic finance company Amlak, which is partly owned by Emaar Properties, grew out of a similar attempt by Emaar to take on property debt during the Dubai property boom. The lender faced collapse as the housing bust of 2009 came close to wiping out the value of its portfolio but resumed trading on the Dubai Financial Market last year.

“These offers are indeed a sign that the market is getting more competitive, but we believe that it doesn’t have any particular effect on the stock,” said Sanyalak Manibhandu, head of research at NBAD Securities.

“These sort of deals are the sort that only the big developers are able to afford to do. Effectively, what they are doing is pricing smaller Dubai developers out of the market. We don’t expect them to offer these sort of deals on all projects, and if they find that they aren’t working then they will probably not continue with them.”

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