How smart is Dubai's eMart?

How smart is Dubai's eMart?Image Credit: Supplied

You can now search for properties listed for sale or rent, communicate with landlords, brokers and management companies and also complete transactions online without the need for multiple visits to the Dubai Land Department (DLD) through a newly launched digital platform, the Dubai Real Estate Market or eMart.

This online portal designed by the DLD offers a number of useful e-services, while allowing real estate professionals to list their properties for sale and rent in the emirate.

Niall McLoughlin, Senior Vice-President of Damac Properties, explains: ''eMart is an important online tool for real estate owners, brokers and management companies to buy and sell property through the eAuction option or via a direct sale. It is a simple and convenient exchange centre where properties can find a market. It is a useful resource for individual sales of property that may have been on the market for some time.''

And the property goes to...

A property can be listed for sale in two ways: a direct sale or an eAuction. A direct sale allows interested buyers to either book a property for a certain period of time or negotiate on the final price, while eAuction helps attract the maximum number of interested buyers during the marketing period and then bidding starts on the property to win the best deal it can fetch in the market.

The first online auction at eMart, held in early December, witnessed fierce competition. eMart received more than 1,100 visits in the early hours of the first day of bidding for 17 commercial and residential properties. Buyers paid through Noqodi, an online wallet available to registered traders. Each listing included a detailed list of the property, including a map.

''With the launch of eMart auctions, we are now one step further in line with our strategic plan to be at complete harmony with the directives of the government in its transition to a smart city, through the dedication to a culture of smart and transparent real estate operations, which lay the foundations for fair competition and act as a notable motivator for international investment in Dubai,'' Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, DLD Director-General, said in a public statement.

The names of the properties and the bids were not revealed but are rumoured to have hit several millions of dirhams.

Property can also be listed for rent on eMart through the Real Estate Regulatory Agency's (Rera's) Ejari system, providing owners and management companies with a convenient way to promote their vacant properties, while giving potential renters the opportunity to search for their ideal home or office from all over Dubai. What's more, registering a tenancy contract takes less than 24 hours through Ejari if all the relevant documents have been uploaded - without paying a visit to the Rera offices.

The use of eMart is starting to accelerate, says Christopher Seymour, Partner and Head of Property UAE at EC Harris, although the volumes are quite low since it is a very young website that hasn't yet been promoted widely. ''The use of the website is likely to increase, particularly around the online auction facility, and also when it is rolled out fully for the residential sector due to the link to Ejari, which tenants will see as a major improvement in security.''

Ejari will lead to a significant decrease in forged rental contracts, a punishable offence that can earn violators up to five years in prison. ''We are all familiar with the unscrupulous rental practices in recent years and by establishing a link with the Rera register, this will help to prevent further problems. We are looking forward to seeing this become more developed as time goes on.''

Confident, secured

In this sense, eMart acts as a secured communication channel for all parties and uses validated property information to ensure the integrity of the listed properties. This fast-growing portal offers multiple channels for listing properties for sale to promote investment opportunities and attract the highest number of investors here and abroad. eMart represents a new era for real estate sales in Dubai with its first government-backed online auctions.

''Anything that is endorsed or authorised by the DLD has got to be good news,'' says Mario Volpi, Managing Director of Prestige Real Estate. ''The fact that the government has launched this website gives it credence and will give everyone - buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants - confidence in searching for their next property.''

The power of the online medium will help build confidence in Dubai's real estate market around the world by including some amount of transparency in terms of prices. ''From an international perspective, the gradual improvement in regulation and transparency of the UAE property sector make the emirates more attractive to overseas buyers,'' says EC Harris. ''From a local perspective, it increases the maturity of the transactional environment in the area and this, along with the established and more traditional routes, will assist in the ease of the process.''

The portal provides a quick and easy route to buy, sell or rent a property that is established with connections around the regulatory environment of Dubai. ''The initial disadvantage of eMart will be that the volume of transactions may be low and its reach limited,'' says EC Harris, ''but that should improve over time and, provided the IT platform has been developed to be sufficiently scalable, it will provide a good addition to the property transaction arena in Dubai.''

The website targets individual buyers and investors who are looking for offers and bargains for residential and commercial properties, says McLoughlin. ''I don't see Damac Properties utilizing the system in the short term, as our current international sales network provides access to high-net worth individuals looking to invest in luxury real estate in Dubai and the region.''

Damac Properties has its own website, which provides international buyers a convenient way to research luxury living concepts in Dubai and the wider Middle East, before making a visit, explains McLoughlin. ''Our website sparks many of the first approaches from buyers looking to invest in the market and is often the starting point of the relationship with Damac Properties.

''We always recommend that buyers follow up an online approach with a visit to Dubai to meet with our property consultants and learn more about the opportunities available,'' he says.

So, does the online platform help a first-time or even a one-time property buyer in Dubai? Will a one-time buyer purchase their only property on eMart or any other website for that matter without having seen a million units first? Perhaps not. Does this mean that buying property off websites is for frequent property buyers only?

As it turns out, the online listing of properties, such as in the case of eMart, is beneficial for first-time buyers as well. ''First-time entry buyers will physically view a few property assets within their price range and type,'' says Seymour. ''And they will typically find those opportunities online via property websites. Once they have viewed a number of options, they are then more informed about the market and are able to review many other options online without necessarily having to physically view all of them.

''This way they have gained greater choice from the online market more efficiently than visiting every agent in a given area,'' offers Seymour. However, the site is fairly basic right now, says Volpi. It will need further development, so interested parties look forward to seeing what other features it will have in the time to come. ''However, as with most initiatives and directives, there is little information given before it is launched into the public domain,'' says Volpi. As an estate agent, I would have preferred if there was a period of consultation between the DLD and certain agencies to come together and discuss how such a website could be a success - then launch it rather than just announce it one day and it appears in its raw state online.''

Younger market

''I understand that any UAE-based website will not, for some time yet, have quite as much information, in terms of data. This is due to our property market being so much younger and, therefore, will not have the resources to look up information on the past.'' Volpi concludes: ''The website, eMart, is a platform to highlight the properties available for sale; the buyers see a property they like and contact the agent.

''This website is presently free. If the DLD starts to charge to place adverts, then agents will have to decide if it is commercially viable to advertise on this portal.''

As a free platform that allows genuine listings, eMart may emerge as an important tool in tracing trends and market dynamics, but only time will tell if it will be a roaring success or fall fiat like Simsari, another multiple-listings online effort the government made a few years ago.

Source: R. Ganeriwal, Special to Property Weekly,


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