The billionaires are here to stay

Dubai has firmly secured itself as the Monaco of the Middle East. For me, these past two months seem to have slowed slightly in terms of enquiries and overall activity. Then, suddenly, it’s completely reignited.

At the time of writing this piece, I am in talks with a buyer who has offered over $31 million on a magnificent beachfront minimalist villa on Palm Jumeirah, offering an enormous premium to try and secure a deal. The vendor, who is not looking to sell, kindly replied and refused. Some may say the buyer is crazy to pay this, or that the seller is crazy to refuse, or maybe this is just where we are now, this is the market, the new reality.

Last week I was very fortunate to run into a very wealthy individual (Forbes-ranked billionaire) at the Four Seasons Hotel while having coffee with a friend and client. He actually recognised my client as they had been involved in a deal together over a decade back. He approached and sat with us for a while, an almost serendipitous encounter.

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It’s how I meet a lot of my high net worths, (sitting in five star hotel lobbies!) This gentleman’s aim and ambition was to fully relocate himself and his family-of-five to Dubai on a permanent basis. I was fortunate to discuss some real estate options with him briefly and I’m now focused on sourcing a completed beachfront home for him on Jumeirah Bay Island.

But there’s an issue…. I cannot seem to find him anything! The supply and demand scale has completely tipped in favour of the vendor. Supply for high-end, turnkey, completed waterfront villas or beachfront plots is now like gold dust and the properties that can be found are at such a price point it raises eyebrows!

Many ask, almost baffled, why are so many wealthy individuals wanting to move to Dubai? It’s a multitude of reasons, but the main point being quite simply, it’s so safe. It’s a haven of safety and security in more ways than one. This is a testament to the incredible leadership we have here.

Just recently Georgetown University conducted a survey ranking the UAE as the safest place in the world for female community safety. This safe environment will always remain paramount to many, especially to the ultra-high net worth community.

Many clients I have spoken with from Europe, the UK and the US have shared stories of their unfortunate experiences where they have been victims of crime – burglary, car theft and/or assault. I have one family moving here from Montecito, California because the handling of Covid was so traumatising and frightening compared to how Dubai handled the pandemic, especially how fast they rolled out the vaccine to its 3.3 million residents.

On the Palm Jumeriah, rental figures for a fully furnished luxury villa can reach anywhere between AED5-8m per year.

Other factors to why the place is so appealing to the wealthy community is undoubtedly the income tax free advantages and the geographical location of Dubai, being an excellent hub for global travel, especially for international busines. Last but not least the impressive array of amenities, shopping malls, retail outlets, restaurants, five star hotel resorts and all the tourist attractions on offer here.

Many luxury developers have completely sold all but a few remaining units of their inventory and the rental market for luxury villas is another challenge.

What is very interesting to me is that we still have a reasonable amount of unmodified, unfurnished, basic Palm waterfront villa properties available for sale, but in need of renovation. They do not seem to be moving as quickly as expected, Why? It’s now apparent that there are three types of end user that I can see, drawing from my recent experience.

The first end-user already has a base and lives in the UAE. Their plan is to develop and construct or refurb a new dream home while living in their current residence.

The second and most common end-users are those who have moved to Dubai but have zero aspirations to purchase and refurbish, they have no time or wish to carry out any work whatsoever, they are wanting immediate high-end turnkey assets and want immediate occupation.

The third end-user still resides overseas while remotely managing their development or renovation with the aim to relocate to the region upon completion.

Unlike the first end user, the second and third face a real set of challenges.

Many luxury developers have completely sold all but a few remaining units of their inventory and the rental market for luxury villas is another challenge.

The second user who requires a ready turnkey solution will have to pay the asking price or, in the case of my recent offer, must pay a premium to convince a seller to sell or are bidding against others in the same position for something on sale. Those who are priced out or procrastinate, are hesitant to pull the trigger, have no choice but to then rent and that’s an entirely other dilemma as turnkey luxury villa availability on the waterfront is almost non-existent.

The third user, who was lucky enough to have acquired a beachfront plot and are in the midst of constructing remotely, must stay put in their overseas home until their property is either completed as moving here to oversee the build is almost impossible. Finding somewhere that meets their needs while they build is again very difficult but if by chance they do manage to find a luxury rental, say on Palm Jumeirah or Emirates Hills, the rental figure for a fully furnished luxury villa can reach anywhere between AED5-8m per year.

Naturally, prices will continue to climb while there is strong demand. The real issue buyers face will be future availability. Many buyers are long-term end users, they have no desire or intention to sell in the short-to-medium-term, this then creates a real lack of product flow and inventory that’s not coming back into the market.

It’s a clear cut example of supply and demand at its best and it’s the driving force behind the current marketplace we find ourselves in.

Chris Boswell has secured over $1.16 billion in real estate sales, which includes international deals in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Los Angeles Marbella and New York. Since 2006 he has sold 100 Palm Jumeirah properties and holds the record for the highest private residence sale in Dubai’s history.

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