There is only one topic on everyone’s mind right now, and no points for guessing what that is. I’m going to talk about what happens next.
I believe the first noticeable change will be in our spending habits once the world goes back to what we used to term normal. Where we used to freely spend our money — hard earned or easy — we might choose to be a bit more frugal. We have realised how critical it is to have savings and more importantly, the right investments.
In addition to savings, we will start to allocate our disposable incomes to forms of investments. Global stocks have seen a decline of 25 per cent; over 50 per cent of businesses globally have come to a standstill based on national directives, which means the ideal investments are hard assets.
There are multiple reasons as to why we should be bullish on real estate. Firstly, #StayAtHome and #WorkFromHome initiatives have taught us that a good portion of our work can actually be done over emails and video conferencing. This change in outlook on work will have a domino effect on our housing choices.
Incentive to own
We will choose to upgrade to bigger homes, with more open space and study rooms. This will eventually result in us choosing to own homes as opposed to renting them, as basic human tendency dictates that if we are to spend all that time, money and effort on upgrades, we would rather do it on what we own. Buyers and tenants alike have started to express interest in villas and town houses as opposed to apartment or penthouses.
Secondly, the drop in interest rates and a higher borrowing cap of 80 per cent will allow many to enter the market. If for instance we are buying a property at an interest rate of 3.5 per cent and which is generating 8.5 per cent gross income; then we are still taking home on average 5 per cent per annum. That is still far higher than in many international real estate markets.
Similarly, tenants who have 20 per cent deposits saved up could acquire their own property, wherein the mortgage payments will replace their rental payments.
Thirdly, we might see a reduction in inventory of short-term rentals. I see this trend changing not only because of reduced travel, but based on the comfort level of travellers. We might opt for known hotel chains, based on our expectation of hygiene standards that will be maintained by such property networks. Or else they will be held accountable for it. This will in turn put more units in the long-term rental market, which will create healthy competition for tenants and ensure landlords with the best maintained properties will fare the best.
Fourthly, I feel property owners might require liquidity to fund their business or perhaps other commitments, and in the instance they are unable to raise money, they might need to exit from their real estate holdings. They will need to do so in a time-bound manner, which will be prime-time for those investors sitting with funds to enter the market at attractive acquisition values.
While this might come across, as someone taking unfair advantage out of a pandemic, this has been an unsaid rule of business — one man’s loss is another man’s gain.
The UAE government has acted promptly to reduce the negative impact of Coronavirus. RERA confirmed the move to lower the cost burden on homeowners by reducing the service charges, which will give much relief to landlords. Dubai and Abu Dhabi tenants struggling to pay their rent during the pandemic are exempt from eviction as per new directives.
These gestures reflect the leadership’s humanitarian considerations at a time when people are facing never-before-seen challenges. In times like this, the UAE has proven that it looks after the interests of the entire society. This gives its investors the confidence to further bolster their contribution to the country.
— Aakarshan Kathuria is with RiseUp Holding.