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According to Reidin.com, a real estate information company, there were 13,858 sales transactions last year up to November in Dubai. Of these, 181 were in the prime and super-prime segment, above the Dh10-million mark. The sales of properties worth this amount and above accounted for 1.3 per cent of all sales, and within this small percentage there are a handful of ultra-luxury properties that are achieving premium prices.
Having worked in London for 12 years in the prime and super-prime residential sector, I was a part of some of the world's top-end developments such as One Hyde Park and other bespoke properties created by high end developers in Chelsea and Knightsbridge.
These properties were developed with great precision and attention to detail, taking property development to another level and attracting buyers looking for exceptional standards of finish and homes that come fully furnished, so all they need to do is move in.
When I arrived in Dubai and began to work in high end real estate, seeing the properties for sale made it clear to me that there was space in the market for this kind of development. Dubai being the UAE's leading hub, with direct connections to most countries across the world, an enviable lifestyle and tax-free status, attracts ultra-high-net-worth individuals who expect excellent quality and, in many cases, turnkey properties that are fully furnished and sold as one-of-a-kind offerings.
A luxury haven
I have seen several properties that offer this level of finish in Dubai, one of which was on Frond E on The Palm Jumeirah. At Dh6,000 per sq ft, it had been beautifully designed and dressed. Multiple parties were interested in it and I haven't seen many other finished properties that have matched its quality in that area.
However, there is a new development on one of the tips that is selling off-plan, which, on paper, has a similar look and feel. It is even trying to fetch a higher price.
One of the most sought after addresses in Dubai is Emirates Hills. Known to some as the Beverly Hills of Dubai, it is set around the The Address Montgomerie Dubai's golf course and was one of the first freehold areas to be opened for sale in Dubai in 2002. A small number of Arabtec villas were built and sold, while the rest of Emirates Hills was divided into plots and sold to people who wanted to build their own dream homes.
There are still some plots that have not been developed, but the majority has been completed.
However, the difficulty I often come across when searching for villas for clients is that they cannot find what they are looking for in the properties available and end up going for villas they can customise to their specifications. Some of the problems include the plots being too small, lack of enough bedrooms, golf course views being more desirable than lake views, and the style or finish not being what buyers are looking for.
Some developers now offer a service where they will source and then develop a villa as per the client's requirements. It will be interesting to see how this service is priced.
Le Rêve in Dubai Marina was one of the first residential towers to offer true luxury in Dubai, selling off for record sums when it was launched, fully built, in 2007. This unique project offered full floors to premium buyers, along with finishing touches previously unseen in the emirate.
A stone's throw from Le Rêve is Emirates Crown, where there is a stunning lateral apartment with panoramic views of The Palm Jumeirah and a layout and finish far beyond typical Dubai properties. The development is beautifully dressed and we are selling it partially furnished, as much of its attraction lies in how well it has been presented along with the quality of finish and well-planned layout.
In the UK, I was used to properties with lofts and storage space, and this element is lacking in most properties in Dubai. But in case of the Emirates Crown property, the owners reconfigured two apartments into one 8,000-sq-ft lateral space, with fantastic built-in storage in each bedroom as well as multi-storage rooms.
There are a lot of good properties in Dubai but nothing at present is on a par with top-end developments in London and New York. However, the one to watch out for is Royal Atlantis Resort and Residences on The Palm — a $1.4-billion (Dh5.1 billion) development announced last year by the Investment Corporation of Dubai. It is to be designed by the New York-based architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, which is behind Abu Dhabi's Midfield Terminal, while London-based GA Design will do the interiors. It's scheduled to be completed by 2017, bringing an exciting new product to the market and showcasing a new level of real estate previously not seen in Dubai.
It has been an interesting year for property prices in Dubai following a massive growth of 35 per cent in 2013, which saw the government put cooling measures in place to stabilise the market. The effect of the doubling of transfer fees and mortgage caps has slowed the price rise, with only 1 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth in the first two quarters and a dip at the end of the year.
However, despite what the majority of the market is experiencing, unique luxury properties are bucking the trend and achieving record prices because they offer so much more than a standard Dubai property. The people buying these properties are prepared to pay for their quality and rightly so. When comparing what they are paying here with an equivalent top-end property in London — super-prime properties in central London have topped £7,000 (Dh38,902) per sq ft — Dubai offers fantastic value for money.
Dubai's golden zones
When searching for prime luxury properties in Dubai, there are five key areas.
Emirates Living incorporates one of the most prominent addresses in the city, Emirates Hills — set around The Address Montgomerie Dubai's golf course—as well as The Meadows, Hattan, The Lakes and The Springs with villas offering two to 12-plus bedrooms, making it ideal for young professionals as well as families. Each enclave has communal pools, children's play areas and numerous lakes with water fixtures as well as town centres within the communities featuring supermarkets, shops, gyms, cafés and nurseries such as Jebel Ali Village Nursery and Raffles.
The Lakes has The Lakes Club, where you'll find a Fitness First outlet with an outdoor swimming pool and Reform Social and Grill, a very popular restaurant. Located just off Shaikh Zayed Road, Emirates Living is well positioned, providing residents with easy access to the city centre. There are also multiple schools located in Emirates Living—Dubai British School, Emirates International School, and Dubai International Academy.
The Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Jumeirah is far from the hustle and bustle of the city, but easily accessible, traffic permitting. It's connected to the mainland by a bridge, while the rest of The Palm can be accessed from the crescent by an undersea tunnel. The Palm Jumeirah offers one- to seven plus-bedroom villas and apartments catering to young executives as well as families. Beach clubs, marinas, multiple dining options and shopping outlets make it an exciting place to live in. The apartments come with pool and beach access, while the villas have private pools.
Atlantis The Palm has many options to keep children entertained with the Aquaventure Waterpark and The Lost Chambers Aquarium. There are nurseries on The Palm as well, but if you'd like to expand your options, you can choose from many nurseries and schools in the nearby areas of Al Sufouh and Umm Suqeim.
This popular community offers families a fantastic lifestyle. With a variety of town houses and villas on offer, ranging from two to six bedrooms, it caters to small and large families. It's equipped with communal swimming pools and children's play areas in each enclave, and is home to a desert-style golf course, Arabian Ranches Golf Club, designed by Ian Baker-Finch in collaboration with Nicklaus Design, as well as Jumeirah English Speaking School. The golf club is a social hub as well as a community centre with a sizeable supermarket and coffee shops. There's also an equestrian centre with two polo fields, a show jumping arena and boarding facilities for horses. The only downside is that some people perceive Arabian Ranches to be too far from the heart of Dubai.
Dubai Marina is one of the world's largest purpose-built waterfront developments made up of more than 200 residential high-rises, shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and promenades. All properties come equipped with modern finish and high specifications, and range from studios and one bedroom apartments to luxurious penthouses.
An attraction within itself, the cosmopolitan district is also popular with business executives and tourists thanks to a wide range of top-end hotels and retail options. The benefits of owning a high rise apartment here lies in the expansive, unobstructed views of the Marina and Dubai's glittering skyline.
Al Barari is a hidden gem nestled within a lush private oasis, offering luxury family villas and, more recently, off-plan apartments. It also boasts a spa and a fantastic organic restaurant called The Farm (that also offers essentials such as bread and milk). Both are well worth a visit.
As Al Barari expands, it will have its own community centre with shops and a supermarket to cater to the residents of the secure gated community.
It's also positioned a little far out from the city, like the Arabian Ranches, but there are plans for a road to be opened that will connect Al Barari directly to Downtown Dubai.
Find out why luxury property still makes sense in Dubai
Source: Victoria Garrett, Special to Property Weekly
The writer is Associate Partner—Residential UAE at Knight Frank, a global property agency and consultancy, and has been in Dubai for more than ten years. She is a keen observer of international freehold property trends