Frosty reception for Dubai Creek property sales in London

Emaar launch luxury apartment sales at London hotel, but the turnout was poor.

At about 8am on Saturday, there were just four people waiting outside the Four Seasons Hotel near London’s Park Lane. Stephen Lock for The National
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LONDON // Perhaps it was a response to Dubai’s cooling property market, or perhaps it was just the cold weather.

What was certain is that a sign saying “Queue Starts Here”, placed outside a five-star London hotel early on Saturday, showed some very wishful thinking.

The Dubai property firm Emaar chose a freezing winter morning in the UK to launch the last batch of luxury apartments at its Dubai Creek Residences development, a planned waterside complex near Festival City.

Like at the simultaneous events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, guests were asked to bring their passports, and were told purchases would be on a first-come, first-served basis.

But – in comparison with previous Emaar launches, which have produced snaking queues and even scuffles – few people came, and few were served.

At about 8am on Saturday, there were just four people waiting outside the Four Seasons Hotel near London’s Park Lane.

All were keen to get one foot on Dubai’s property ladder – and both feet inside the warm London hotel. “There are only four people here – so why are they keeping us outside?” asked one of those present.

With temperatures about 3°C, hotel staff took pity, quietly removed the “queue here” sign, and allowed the small group into a plush conference room.

Inside, property investor and London resident Dipak Shah was one of those facing a short wait to see an agent.

“I expected queues. When I went to Emaar launches in Dubai, we used to have to pay just to stand in line,” said Mr Shah, who previously lived in the Emirates. He was keen on buying a two-bedroom apartment, which he plans to “flip”, or sell on, for a profit.

“You can make hefty money if you plan it right,” Mr Shah said.

Four of the six buildings at Dubai Creek Residences have already been sold. The development is part of the wider Dubai Creek Harbour development, which will include the world’s tallest twin towers as its centrepiece.

The latest launch is for the remaining two buildings – South Tower 2 and South Tower 3 — which comprise one, two and three-bedroom apartments of between 880 and 2,154 square feet.

Emaar officials would not say what the apartments cost, but investors said they were being quoted prices between Dh1,400 and Dh1,800 per square foot, depending on the quality of the view over Dubai Creek.

After an initial lull, about a dozen potential investors were seen milling around the London hotel, and sales were being made.

Irfan, a 42-year-old Brit who declined to give his full name, said he had put down a 20 per cent deposit on a two-bedroom apartment. He was quoted a price of Dh1,600 per square foot. “It’s a punt – I guess I’ll find out whether it was a good investment later,” he said.

Others were put off by the development’s planned 2018 completion date. Ebiti, from Nigeria, said the project was good value but he would not be investing. “At my age, I’m looking for something that would complete earlier,” said the 66-year-old.

It is not the first time Emaar has chosen to sell property direct to investors in the UK. In May 2013 a similar event at the same London hotel attracted long queues of investors.

But with growth in Dubai’s property prices having ground to a halt, there appear to be fewer takers this time around. Emaar did not respond when asked how many homes it had sold.

Hamir Asher, who works for Indus Real Estate in Dubai, was at the London event on behalf of a client. He too remarked at the lack of crowds – blaming the trend in Dubai property prices. “That’s the market,” he said. “Sellers are holding off, renting out their property instead.”

Ben Crompton, the managing partner of Crompton Partners estate agents in Abu Dhabi, agreed that the Dubai market was cooling – and said that could be why Emaar chose to court British investors directly.

“Emaar is probably broadening the net because the sales market is softening a bit in Dubai,” Mr Crompton said. “Prices are slowing, if not reversing.”

But he pointed to the decline in the value of the British pound, along with other currencies such as the euro and Russian rouble. Today, £1,000 buys you Dh5,504, compared with Dh6,234 six months ago – meaning that Brits have less spending power abroad.

Yet at the London launch, currency rates did not deter oneproperty buyer.

“At least I didn’t have to wait in line,” said the investor, who was wary of celebrating about the purchase too soon.

“Congratulations? Let’s hope it’s not commiserations,” he said.