Cityscape 2021: home working drives rush to build new desert villa communities

Housing market set for a surge as new developments unveiled across Dubai

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The property market came back with a bang at Cityscape on Tuesday as developers unveiled latest plans for new villa communities across Dubai.

One of the largest property conventions in the region has become a staple in the emirate for more than two decades.

Like most other annual conferences, it fell by the wayside in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The city is so crowded now and people want to move further out so they can move freely
Bakhit Alfalasi

A glut of properties and a downturn in the market due to widespread economic uncertainty forced estate agents to retreat into retreat as rental prices plummeted.

But they are now back in business and bullish about the future.

Cityscape Dubai may not be on the scale of previous years but if the number of new homes on sale on its first day is anything to go by, the market has turned a corner.

At Damac Lagoons, 6,000 new villas are planned on an abandoned golf course near Remraam and Damac Hills, due to become available by 2024.

“People want space and there has been a big influx of wealthy people from overseas into Dubai,” said Niall Mcloughlin, senior vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Damac.

“They have seen how the UAE has handled the pandemic and vaccinations and that has encouraged them to move here.

“People overseas have been in lockdown for six months and now with more business being done remotely, they are relocating their families to the UAE.

“They want high-end, luxury real estate and they want villas.”

In their sharp suits and shoes without socks, agents prowled the floors of Dubai Exhibition Centre hoping to entice new buyers to invest in thousands of homes planned for the city.

There was no time to lose with the conference running for only three days. Laser pointers were the weapon of choice to light up models of developments due to come on to the market "very soon", with substantially more homes due to be built than those on display.

The pandemic has been a game-changer for the property market. As the workforce were confined to their homes, outdoor space and an indoor office became premium.

That trend looks likely to continue and could be contributing to greater congestion on the roads as more people have returned to the office but live further outside the city.

Experts said new villa communities could be good news for renters.

At least 6,000 new villas are planned as part of Damac Lagoons. The development is due to become available by 2024. Pawan Singh / The National

“Once Damac Lagoons is open, that should have an impact on rental prices in Damac Hills and bring them down there,” said Mr Mcloughlin.

“It is supply and demand so that is what we would expect to see. In 2019 there was glut of properties but that has now been absorbed.

“We are optimistic there is a more of a balance now but there will be a softening of the market again. That is how real estate works, it goes around in cycles.”

Mr Mcloughlin said traffic surveys and urban planning carried out well in advance of new community construction were enough to ensure roads would not become overloaded.

Spread across 145 square kilometres near Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai South is one of the city’s largest new developments.

Phase one of The Pulse, a residential community of 288 homes, has three, four and five-bedroom villas starting from Dh1.35 million ($370,000).

“This is the new Dubai and the near future,” said Bakhit Alfalasi, marketing manager for Dubai South.

“Whatever people need they will find it in Dubai South. The city is so crowded now and people want to move further out so they can move freely.

“It is a new trend and we are giving them what they want and need. The community will have schools, health care and plenty of public transport.

“People can walk or cycle between these facilities, so it will encourage them to be outside.

“We all want space and privacy. It has become very important.”

Flexible working has fuelled the trend towards villa living across much of Dubai with greater demand for a home office.

That is good news for developers who can release villa communities on to the market in phases, rather than vertical construction projects that can only be filled once fully complete.

Kory Thompson, Middle East country head of office suppliers IWG/Regus said flexible working is here to stay and is a main driver of new market trends.

“More companies will adapt to realise their employees can get on with their work at home without them watching over them,” he said.

“The trend will move towards access for more professional work environments, away from the regular office space.

“People shouldn’t have to travel an hour to go to the office every day, maybe just twice a week.”

Updated: November 09, 2021, 2:51 PM