Broker Profile: A low-risk choice

Broker ProfileMuhammad Ali Chawla, Managing Director of Asteco - Haxxon

Tell us about your company’s tie-up with Asteco.
Asteco — Haxxon is a licensee of Asteco Property Management. Head office reporting structure, marketing tools, mentorship, skills training and operational support make my company behave like a branch office.

Tell us about your role in your company.
As Managing Director of Asteco’s Haxxon office in Business Bay, my concentration is solely on retail brokerage services. The ultimate aim is to make Asteco a household name.

What’s the best property deal you have made in the past year?
I was mandated by an overseas client to secure bulk studios in an off-plan project. After negotiations with the developer, I flew in the investor for a day to finalise the deal, but the developer changed his mind at the eleventh hour, as he realised that studios were easiest to sell due to their high expected yields. By chance another master community launch was happening that day and I took my investor there. He liked the project and after negotiations, the developer made an exception to the rule of limited purchases per person and allowed him to buy 11 villas. When one door closes another opens.

How many agents have you hired in the past year?
[We hired] nine experienced agents in past three months and are still [hiring].

What is your outlook for the year?
After the slight softening across the board last year, the year seems bound for consolidation and even possibly due for a reversal. The uncertainty factors like oil prices are seeing their impact marginalised. Our periodical research, using the leading (as opposed to lagging) market indicators, attests to a gradual return to healthy capital gains and attractive yields.

What kind of properties are currently selling most?
Off-plan is quite popular with investors. Sizable offerings in the low- and mid-price segment ensure that affordability is catered for. Investors often perceive it as low risk compared with the luxury segment. Even investors who can afford ready property opt for multiple off-plan units in the hope of decent capital gains. Significant investment in Dubai South is testament to this. However, we still receive enquiries for luxury projects from seasoned investors.

What are the challenges unique to this market?
Readily available and accurate transactional data is not available for agents and property stakeholders.

What are the biggest mistakes buyers make?
Many buyers end up over-leveraging themselves or buying property not suited to their profile or needs.

Are sellers still able to attract serious buyers?

Its presently a buyer’s market so sellers should have reasonable expectations. Listing with many agents in the hope of maximizing exposure and selling faster and for a higher-than-market price is a false belief and quite detrimental.

What is your advice to struggling agents?
[They] should try mix it up. Research where the deals are happening and concentrate on those areas. Changing one’s geographical specialisation areas may also pay dividends. Be introspective and invest in self-improvement. Lastly, build a referral network of fellow agents to have deeper and broader reach into the market. Agents should build relations and trust first.

Does your firm have a designated trainer?
Asteco has a dedicated trainer in Brian Weaver. Derrick Maguire is a fantastic mentor to both new joiners and existing management.

How has the industry changed over the years?
The crisis after 2008 helped me get my bearings. New regulations protecting the investors’ rights and overall improvement in agency standards, reinforced my long-term confidence in Dubai’s real estate market.

What helps you stand out from others?
To many, real estate is a transient game; to me it is a life’s passion. I am a firm believer in continuous improvement. I learn and apply newly gained knowledge or ideas to people and things in my sphere of influence, often to surprisingly positive results.

Up close
Muhammad Ali Chawla, Managing Director of Asteco — Haxxon, has been advising investors in UAE real estate since 2008. He established his own firm, VIP Real Estate, in 2013, which was rebranded last year to Asteco — Haxxon following a tie-up with Asteco. Before venturing into real estate, Chawla was a Senior Consulting Manager with Price Waterhouse-Coopers in Pakistan. He has an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration in Pakistan and a Financial Risk Manager certification from the Global Association of Risk Professionals USA.

Asteco – Haxxon
Asteco — Haxxon office is a licensee of Asteco Property Management. 

“The tie-up has resulted in rebranding and repositioning my company to Asteco’s values and high professionalism standards and enabled me to concentrate on business growth instead of administrative issues,” explains Chawla. “Asteco was formed in 1985 and is presently the Middle East’s largest full-service real estate consultancy company. Over the decades, Asteco has gained enormous respect for consistently delivering high-quality, professional value-added services in a transparent manner.”

Since 2008 Chawla has been involved in property management on behalf of absentee landlords and investors, maintaining a portfolio worth more than Dh300 million and comprising entire buildings, villas, office floors and individual apartments. He has also advised clients on bulk purchases of off-plan properties.

Chawla says his foray into retail brokerage through the partnership with Asteco aims to serve a much wider base of property stakeholders and create value through high standards of service.

“Changing skylines and architectural marvels all pique my fancy,” he tells PW. “I have been in Dubai since 2008 and have loved being a contributing part of this vibrant city.”

Source: Jobannie Tabada, Features Editor, Property WeeklyPW


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