Eye on Dubai

PW speaks to some of the multinational real estate firms that have opened in the emirate this yearShutterstock

With Dubai becoming an increasingly popular business and tourism hub in the region, several global property companies are now eyeing its fast-growing and dynamic real estate market.

This year, a few leading international property brands have established operations in the emirate. PW talks to three of them.

Raine & Horne Dubai

In March, Raine & Horne, Australia’s oldest familyowned real estate firm, began its operations in Dubai. The company has been in the business for the past 132 years and was the first to introduce the franchise concept in Australia. Now, the group has around 300 offices employing more than 3,500 people across Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Fiji.

Raine & Horne Dubai’s office is located at the Oberoi Centre in Business Bay, with 28 team members who manage more than 600 residential and commercial listings. The company offers a full range of properties from affordable to high-end. Its commercial property portfolio is mainly in Business Bay and Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

“Dubai has become one of most exciting real estate markets, attracting large  international firms from the US, Europe and Australia,” says Sanjay Chimnani, Managing Director. “It has promising long-term growth potential, as we look for regulated places for expansion.

“This well-regulated market has recovered handsomely, probably quicker than most expectations, so now it’s finding its right price. The regulatory authorities took measures to move out speculators and attract end users and longterm investors. Steady price movements are the nature of business, however, various external factors like oil, an expensive US dollar, etc., have caused the market to slow down, but these cycles will keep happening.

“In just a few months you will get better cycles, as the fundamentals of this market are solid and we are very optimistic and confident about the place.”

Chimnani says the company offers project marketing and sales, along with retail selling services. “We are also looking to starting an Australian desk here, as Australian properties have witnessed an unbelievable continuous growth in the past six years and the Australian currency has become cheaper by 30 per cent against the US dollar, making it an attractive destination.”

He says the company will bring the expertise, knowledge, practices and processes of Australia’s highly regulated, mature market and the firm’s experience of emerging markets.

Keller Williams Real Estate Dubai

In May, Keller Williams, one of the largest real estate firms in the world, kicked off its brokerage operations in Dubai with an office on the Palm Jumeirah, its first in the region. The company plans to move to a 6,000-sqft office in Dubai Media City in the fourth quarter, which will be its new headquarters. The Texas-based company has been in real estate for more than 30 years and began expanding beyond North America two years ago.

The brand has awarded master franchise agreements covering dozens of countries, including Austria, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, Vietnam and the UAE. Keller Williams has more than 750 offices and 123,000 agents.

“We are aggressively expanding across the globe and we identified immense opportunity in the UAE, specifically Dubai,” says Zhann Jochinke, CEO, Keller Williams Real Estate Dubai. “This city is an emerging market that has just begun to enter a phase of maturity on several levels, not [only] in terms of general market conditions, regulations, or the way transactions are conducted but also in the way real estate companies are run and the way that they treat their agents.

“The Dubai property market is coming out of its Big Bang stage and is beginning to evolve. Crazy, shortterm appreciation is a thing of the past and will always be remembered as the good old days. Something similar can be said of the price slashing, deep discounts of distressed properties, post Lehman Brothers. The market today is finding itself.

“Overall, I would say it’s moving forward in a very positive direction, with sellers and buyers both paying more attention to real market data and realising that there are new norms.”

Talking about his company’s work in Dubai, Jochinke says the core focus is presently on residential resale and leasing transactions, with an inventory of around 150 units, of which approximately one third are exclusive. However, he says the firm plans to roll out a new development marketing division, with some exciting offplan projects already in the pipeline.

The way Keller Williams operates is vastly different from other real estate companies in Dubai and around the world, Jochinke asserts. “We are agent-centric whereas other companies in Dubai are brand-centric with traditional models that focus on the company first and the agent second,” he says.

“We believe that our agents are our biggest assets and that success will come through their growth and success.

“Some companies in Dubai have previously had a great run of success focusing on building their brand first. However, when it comes to real estate a brand is only as strong as the agents on its roster. If they leave, the brand has no value and [then] the company is in trouble.”

Engel & Völkers Dubai

In June, Germany-based Engel & Völkers inaugurated its operations in Dubai, bringing 40 years of experience in selling and leasing premium property. A leading luxury real estate brand, the firm has around 600 locations in 39 countries across five continents, with a staff strength of around 4,700.

In Dubai, Engel & Völkers has collaborated with Nakheel to set up a company located at the Nakheel Sales Centre in Al Sufouh that specialises in selling and leasing property.

“We are a very strong brand in Europe and operating in Dubai will allow [us] to extend services to wider audiences,” says Cesar Latrilla, CEO of Engel and Völkers Dubai.

“We believe this is a good time to establish our brand here as we see Dubai real estate has huge business potential. Last year alone, the market witnessed a transaction volume of €6 billion [about Dh25 billion] and our target is to [gain] 10 per cent of this share over a span of two years. At present, Dubai’s population is 2.3 million and to our understanding [the emirate’s] vision is to have three million people in the city in the next few years, which means more houses need to be built.

“Moreover, the country is still growing. This offers excellent growth potential to the sector.”

He says the Dubai market is different to Europe. “This is an investor’s market where people buy property to sell and rent,” says Latrilla. “In Europe, homes are purchased to live in. In our clientele, 80 per cent of the buyers are investors, and most do not live in Dubai. The other 20 per cent purchase property to live in.

“We opened our first market centre in Barcelona with almost 200 employees in the middle of the crisis, when prices were down by almost 50 per cent. “Now, we are able to make €12 million in commissions every year. This happened in just two and a half years and we have a similar focus for Dubai.”

Engel & Völkers Dubai has an inventory of 500 residential units, from mediumsize to high-end units. It has a staff of 132.

“By end of the year, our target is to have 300 people on board,” says Latrilla.

“One unique feature that makes us stand out from our competitors is that we offer a landing page to each of our agents that allows them to have their own web space. The agents can publish photos, write articles and market their listings. This, to my knowledge, is a new concept in Dubai.

“In addition, we offer various types of extensive training to our staff, coaching them to be ready to serve customers.”

Source: Hina Navin, Special to PW


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