Middle East ultra-wealthy own most homes in the world, finds Knight Frank

Survey from 2018 Wealth Report shows real estate is a preferred asset class for the region's ultra-rich

Emirates Hills is one of Dubai's prime residential villa communities. Middle East ultra-wealthy individuals are said to favour real estate as an asset class, says consultancy Knight Frank. Sarah Dea / The National
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Ultra-high net worth people from the Middle East own the largest number of first and second homes in the world, as levels of wealth rises in the oil-rich economies of the region, according to a new report.

The ultra-wealthy people of the Middle East own an average of four homes each, ahead of Russia (3.5) and significantly ahead of other regions including Europe (2.7), North America (2.7) and Asia (2.9), newly released material from real estate consultancy Knight Frank’s latest annual Wealth Report shows.

Levels of wealth are rising in the Middle East as oil prices stabilise after a three-year slump. However, the region's ultra-wealthy are increasingly looking to invest overseas amid geopolitical tensions and to capitalise on a rebounding global economy.

The region is also becoming a magnet for international wealth managers, with Bank of Singapore and other lenders with strong private banking divisions strengthening their presence to serve local clients.

Published last month, Knight Frank's 2018 Wealth Report showed that the rise in the number of ultra-wealthy – those with personal assets of $30 million or more – in Dubai outpaced that of other global financial centres.

The number of super rich living in Dubai, the commercial and business hub of the Arabian Gulf region, increased by 12 per cent between 2015 and 2016, and is expected to rise by a further 60 per cent by 2026, Knight Frank said.

This is compared to 6 per cent growth in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong, and a 6 per cent decline in the proportion of super rich in London, as wealth flows shifted eastwards in recent years.

The latest findings are the result of an Attitude Survey of 500 global private bankers and wealth advisers, which between them represent more than 50,000 clients with a combined estimated wealth of more than $3 trillion. The survey suggests real estate is a preferred asset class for the gion’s rich. The Middle East ranks top in terms of the proportion of wealthy individuals planning to buy a new home in 2018, according to the survey.

A third of respondents from the Middle East said their clients are planning to buy a new home in their country of origin this year, while 39 per cent of the wealth managers said ultra-wealthy were looking to acquire a new home overseas. Rich people from the Middle East favoured the United Kingdom as their preferred destination for property investments, followed by the UAE, United States, France and Turkey, according to the report. Knight Frank is currently tracking £3.9bn ($5.48bn) of private wealth in the GCC seeking to invest in overseas real estate.


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“A substantial share of this private wealth is looking into investments in the UK’s commercial market due to its solid fundamentals (liquidity, transparency, and high quality stock) and attractive pricing,” the consultancy said.

However, with the number of East ultra-wealthy in the Middle forecast to grow in the coming years, the region, specifically Dubai, is expected to lure more ultra-wealthy buyers in the years ahead with its strategic location and improving infrastructure.

Prime residential property values in the region - defined as the sector’s most expensive 5 per cent sub-segment -  are expected to outperform the overall real estate market, which has witnessed steady price declines on amid low oil prices and reduced government and consumer spending, Knight Frank said in its report last month.

Average prime residential prices in Dubai rose by 5.1 per cent over the five-year period to the end of 2017, although there was a 3.3 per cent drop more recently, between November 2016 and November 2017, amid subdued demand, the report said.