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Covid-19 Economy Impact
Developers1

COVID-19: Challenges and opportunities for real estate developers

In our ongoing series on the challenges and opportunities in the real estate industry, we take a look at the impact on real estate developers in the UAE.

With ratings agency S&P predicting a tough few years ahead for Dubai’s real estate developers, the recent opening up of the economy and subsequent improvement of business conditions and an easing of COVID-19 restrictions mean that Dubai’s economy is expected to rebound about 5% in 2021. So, how then are Dubai’s real estate developers adapting their business models and operations to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead?

According to Abdulla Bin Sulayem, who is the CEO of UAE-based developer Seven Tides, the Dubai property market has once again shown its resilience in the face of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Government policies and initiatives such as the easing of visa rules for residents and homeowners and the recent introduction of the retirement visa scheme for expats will help the real estate industry recover.

Despite harsh trading conditions, the current investor appetite in Seven Tides' off-plan properties sales figures at Seven Palm, which is sold off-plan, have been particularly impressive since the relaunch with more than 450 units sold to date from 43 nationalities between March and June 2020.

“A compelling proposition, based on quality, return and potential capital appreciation, will always attract investment,” Sulayem explains. “In fact, to cope with the consistent demand during this period, the Seven Tides sales office is open seven days a week and we have taken on more administrative staff to deal with increased sales enquiries.”

For existing tenants and homeowners, the developer, which is also responsible for developments such as Discovery Gardens, Ibn Battuta Gate, and the upcoming Seven City JLT, has introduced a raft of measures aimed at supporting the tenants in the short-term through lease extensions, rent-free periods, payment deferrals and easier monthly installments, as well as waived termination penalties and service charges.

Meanwhile, the continued shift in home-buying preferences after recent lockdown and extended stay-at-home periods has created an opportunity for more bedrooms, outdoor space and proximity to amenities. However, lockdown measures have caused a shift in focus on creating unique customer-buying experience with technology remaining an integral part of this.

“One of the main challenges for investors was the inability to visit properties due to isolation, disinfection programs, and travel restrictions,” Sulayem says. “Seven Tides was one the first developers to switch to a virtual business model amid the pandemic and we were successfully able to introduce 3D virtual tours and a state-of the-art visual navigator tool to cope with the steady flow of enquiries during the lockdown.”

According to Sulayem, tech-centric adoptions such as virtual walkthroughs and digital home tours will continue to revolutionise real estate. “While we have embraced innovation and technology to be ahead of the curve and, ultimately, to keep our buyers and potential tenants as safe as possible, human interaction and true engagement from in-person viewing will undoubtedly come back as these are part of human nature.”

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