In search of mansions

Agents say sales for ready-to-move-in prime villas is picking up in Dubai

By Hina Navin
00:00 January 10, 2018
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Dubai saw of the priciest villa transactions happening in the secondary market last year. The total luxury villa sales in Dubai in the third quarter amounted to Dh688 million, with 71 per cent of transactions from Emirates Living areas. Deals at Emirates Hills alone have been worth Dh107 million.

According to high-end real estate company Luxhabitat, an Emirates Hills villa with a built-up area (BUA) of 22,780 sq ft was acquired for Dh95 million in the third quarter. A 19,982-sq-ft villa also in Emirates Hills was the second most expensive at Dh60 million, followed by two smaller Palm Jumeirah villas measuring just over 7,200 sq ft each that were sold for Dh27.5 million and Dh22.5 million, according to the Luxhabitat report, which was based on data from REIDIN and the Dubai Land Department (DLD). The fifth costliest villa transaction recorded was also in Emirates Hills, a 10,588-sq-ft unit that was sold for Dh20 million.

In January last year, Luxhabitat also sold a villa in Dubai Hills for Dh38.2 million. Many of the firm’s agents deal ready and off-plan villa properties valued between Dh40 million and Dh50 million. Dubai Hills and District One are among the emerging areas for prime properties to look out for, according to Sally Ann Ghai, associate director of Luxhabitat.

In February last year, Better Homes also sold two luxury eight-bedroom mansions in Umm Al Sheif, a leasehold community, one for Dh40 million and another for Dh41 million.

“Real estate companies are now offering fantastic deals for luxury properties, which give investors in Dubai plenty of investment options to consider,” says Ahmed Taha, residential consultant at Better Homes. “There is demand for luxurious and modern villas in locations like the Palm Jumeirah and Emirates Hills — two of the most prominent freehold communities in the city.”

For her part, Leigh Williamson, an associate at Gulf Sotheby’s International Realty, picks Jumeirah Bay and La Mer as among the new top destinations. “I firmly believe that one day they will become the most prestigious addresses to own a private luxury villa,” says Williamson. A new boutique development in Jumeirah Golf Estates is also in her shortlist of top prime developments. “There are only 24 villas all designed with a modern quality concept, ideal for a family looking for that perfect golf course lifestyle and luxury,” says Williamson.

Dubai’s attractions

Ghai says the opportunities that Dubai offers in both business and lifestyle have always attracted the ultra rich. “With an international population, it is impossible to understand its value as a world central home base without considering how the UAE fits into the global landscape,” says Ghai. “The property market that caters to these people needs to be understood in the context of the global alternatives, as to some extent any decision to invest here both financially and emotionally will be weighed against what the rest of the world offers.”

Ghai points out that the ready luxury property market has been stable over the last 18 months, but the pace of sales in the off-plan market has had a significant impact on the secondary market, eating into the available cash. “However, the unfinished and finished property sectors are very different animals, and waiting months to years for a liveable home is not a viable option for many,” she says.

For off-plan options, she says, “Dubai Hills is an important new Emaar community, well thought-out and delivering unprecedented luxury in an integrated community. Bulgari and La Mer offer coastal living as an alternative to the Palm, and Sobha Hartland has plots along the Canal in the heart of the city, which can be self or developer built.”

Global standards

The high-net-worth (HNW) buyers come with a global understanding of a luxury lifestyle, hence, they need to be catered accordingly. “A luxury home purchase for the ultra-rich in Dubai is probably going to be a family home rather than a pure investment,” says Ghai. “They come with a far keener eye for detail and more personal considerations, so it’s vital to understand a client’s personality and aspirations, often conveyed very subtly, and meet those requirements in a home.

“The wealthiest individuals will have experienced internationally the highest level of finishes, materials, innovative home systems and luxury, with the lifestyle component of convenience built in. Not all of Dubai’s luxury properties will meet this international gold standard, so the first factor to consider is whether a home stacks up on the world stage. Therefore, older properties will need to have been renovated, often gutted and re-imagined, to even compete.”

Behavioural shift

Jason Hayes, founder and CEO of Luxury Property, sees a demographic change in the requirements of HNW buyers, wherein their needs are moving from apartments and penthouses to villas and mansions.

“We are seeing more and more HNW clients with a requirement for high-value villas and mansions. This applies not only to clients with families but also to clients electing to call Dubai home, their principal primary residence,” says Hayes. “In the past, Dubai tended to be a place for vacation or second or third homes, but we feel there has been a subtle shift with clients electing to live in Dubai year-round. They escape the rather warm summer months to their holiday homes in Europe. In light of this, we see an uplift in demand for large family homes and mansions.”

Hayes also observes the luxury ready villa market as stable with demand increasing. “The absence of new stock means supply of ready luxury villas has stagnated,” says Hayes. “This will change when developers start handing over. However, the key issue tends to be the quality and pricing of villas. Our clients prefer to buy turnkey with little or no work to do. A move-in villa priced correctly will always sell quickly.”

Although the number of luxury villa communities is growing, Hayes believes there is still space for more quality luxury developments. “Recent launches at Jumeirah Golf Estates has proved popular as has the Gardenia Villas in Sobha Hartland,” says Hayes. “Sidra in Dubai Hills Estate recently launched its third phase and continues to be an incredibly popular product.

“Off-plan villa projects offering high-end units include Dubai Hills’ contemporary Sidra from Dh3.7 million and stunning golf mansions in modern, contemporary or Arabesque style from Dh39 million. District 1 by Meydan Sobha has luxury villas from Dh20 million-Dh100 million. XXII Carat on the Palm also has stunning villas incredibly well designed with direct beach access and amazing views. The Nest in Al Barari is a beautiful development of contemporary villas and will be handing over soon. Sobha Hartland at MBR City has contemporary Canal-facing villas located close to downtown.”

Selling movement

Dubai has always been about high-end luxury real estate buyers, so they never really left in essence, says Williamson, adding that these buyers and sellers like to work quietly within the market and continue to do so. Moreover, she points out that the high-end luxury villa deals now take much longer to close.

“The big villas or penthouses, generally, will take between 12-18 months to get sold. For sellers, it is vital that they work with a professional agent exclusively, listen to their expertise, and trust the process,” says Williamson. “Also, luxury property sellers should price their villa at a sellable price in today’s market to get it sold, not an emotional price they feel it is worth, which is often the case we deal with. Dubai is still not a mature market like London or New York to command certain prices. One day we will be up there, but we are not there yet.”

Williamson says there are so many overpriced properties sitting for too long, and she believes this is not helping the luxury market. Being exclusive with one agent will allow the seller to control the price as all other agents would know they need to work through that one agent, she explains.

In this regard, the high-end villa market can be tough. “Sellers must be patient and should listen to their agent when they tell them the actual selling price and adjust accordingly,” says Williamson. Buyers have choices, they look around now and generally not just in one location.

“Find a good agent and stick with it. Buyers will not get a better deal by cutting out their agent.”