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Whether we like it or not, cycles will always exist in our industry because humans are involved and humans tend to make decisions based on history and are not necessarily adept at predicting future events.
Dubai’s property scene is undergoing a cyclical event as I write. A correction, neatly timed, to allow the market to sit back and review the landscape, was certainly due. With it comes a promise of growth as the market plans its next foray.
Although cycles are accepted as inevitable, their nature in terms of length, levels of volatility or cata-lytic events can be difficult to identify and predict. The answer to the magic question “When does a cyclical upswing in real estate values become a real estate bubble?” is an elusive one. We need to understand the underlying causes of growth and the characteristics of a bubble to gauge when sus-tainable growth becomes unrealistic overexuberance.
Upsurge in real estate demand is typically fuelled by a belief regarding positive future outcomes usu-ally formulated in reference to a past event(s). Assuming there is a sufficient and continual level of funding, a cyclical upswing will start and gather momentum.
In Dubai’s instance, the recent upsurge in demand was created by many market factors and catalytic events. Its well-publicized debt solution, booming tourism industry, relatively affordable dirham and asset affordability all drove a new level of confidence in the emirate. If you add to that a geo-political position, which provides a prime destination for billions in capital fleeing troubled regimes around the region, you can see why demand would be accelerating.
Housing bubbles usually start when demand driven by speculative exuberance and short-term investor focus is driven to a point where the market no longer associates price levels as being rep-resentative of a realistic valuation of the underlying asset. Investors, particularly those with the short-term focus of speculators, divest their property holdings and prices start to slide. The bubble, as they say, will have burst.
So, where is Dubai relative to its cycle? There is no doubt that it has made a remarkable recovery and, if a broad-based “bubble” were to form in its property industry, it is still some way off.
The key is sustainable economic growth of around 5% through 2020 and the 5%-7% annual population increase expected to come with it. The amount of infrastructural, development and economic initiatives, culminating in the hosting of the World Expo in 2020, is indicative of the government’s determination to outpace the rest of the world in terms of emerging from recession. Progress will always attract those seeking opportunities and the potential of prosperity; in effect, people needing somewhere to live, work and conduct business.
So, how is the real estate industry poised to capitalize on the population growth that will accompany and support this economic expansion? There have been cries for a greater proportion of Dubai’s property inventory to be in the more affordable category. The good news is, the residential inventory pipeline coming on stream in 2014 and 2015 is mainly comprised of units situated on the outskirts of Dubai with projects being handed over or about to be completed. This inflow of affordable property removes a barrier to population growth and business expansion as one of the main contributors to the cost of living in Dubai, accommodation, is being addressed.
Yet, this is not to say that real estate bubbles will never occur. The market can fall victim to the shortcomings of human nature. However, after conducting a rational appraisal of where the market is relative to its cycle, identifying the risks and estimating the cause and effect of potential catalytic events, we conclude that the current cyclical upswing has some way to run yet before a broad-based bubble appears on the horizon.
You may find this interesting as well: A look at Dubai's boom from the past
Source: Mohanad Alwadiya, Special to Freehold
Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate