Dubai: Developers in Dubai are in no rush … to finish their projects and hand over the new homes. In the first five months, just over 6,000 new units were ready and it looks like the full year will see about 21,500 units being delivered, according to the projections by the consultancy Core Savills.

That is quite a gap from the 41,000 new homes developers had promised at the start of this year. And can only mean that expectations of the more than 80,000 units being ready over the next two to three years could be a mirage.

But developers have reasons to take it relatively slow on handovers — the new supply is only adding to the pressure on property values. “Multiple phase deliveries — such as [at] Mira, Mudon and Arabian Ranches — have cast a significant downward pressure on The Springs and The Meadows’ sales market,” the report notes.

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And as Edward Macura, Partner at Core Savills, says: “The cascading effect of new stock impacting secondary sales prices, either within the community or in the adjoining areas, is one of the strongest reasons causing a delay in sales price recovery.”

The same holds true for most of Dubai’s freehold communities, and more so at its older clusters. The four weakest performing apartment areas were Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina, Emirates Living and Jumeirah Lake Towers, according to the report.

“Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina saw the sharpest year-on-year declines at 7.5 and 6.6 per cent, respectively, resulting from the large number of new launches within these areas, which shifted demand from ready built to off-plan stock,” the report adds. “Certain new developments in Downtown were launched at notably lower prices even in the context of off-plan units, indicating that developers are significantly undercutting the captive secondary sales market.”

Dubailand was the only exception to the general air of decline, with apartment prices there actually inching up 2.7 per cent from a year ago position. Some developments within that vast expanse, such as Dubai Sports City, continue to do reasonably well as new buildings get completed there.

Significant interest

Dubailand’s price gain “anomaly is due to the fact that most new sales activity is concentrated within this area with lower entry prices driving sales,” Core Savills reports. “However, many launches are in fact at a higher price/square foot — keeping the area averages steady.”

What has definitely not been happening so far this year is sufficient demand for off-plan launches. Only a handful of developers, among them being Emaar and Nshama, managed to pull in significant interest for their latest offerings.

All of which is so different from the situation last year, when off-plan sales were 23 per cent higher than both ready and mortgage sales combined.

Would the weak demand for off-plan be compensated by a spike for ready properties? “Despite overall sales price declines, average ready sales unit value has been increasing over the last year,” according to Core Savills. This indicates an “occupier preference for higher quality unit for immediate occupation.

“In contrast, the average off-plan unit price has consistently dropped over the last three years”, as developers’ only tool to compete has been by “lowering entry prices rather than other adjusting other market factors.

“As more units become available, this trend could impact the overall rental market recovery and in turn lead to contracting yields and higher vacancy levels, potentially reducing investor demand in the short to mid- term.”

More supply keeps the pressure on Dubai rents

From their peak in mid-2015, rents in most locations across Dubai are now nearly 15-20 per cent down. That and the supply of new homes is ensuring quite a few options for tenants in the city.

“Many tenants currently initiating relocations were paying higher headline rentals locked-in during the 2015 rental peak,” says the new Core Savills report. “With rents now lower, even in core established districts, many tenants are saving significantly on annual rents by either renegotiating with their current landlords or relocating within a district or moving outwards.”

Villas in locations such as Dubailand and Jumeirah Village have seen a “more direct impact of the supply surge causing rents to decline, as landlords get more competitive to avoid long periods of vacancy,” the report adds. “After being relatively resilient over the last two years, the rental market in core districts such as JLT and The Springs and The Meadows are starting to see noticeable rental drops of 9 and 5 per cent, respectively.

“With most rental relocations happening between April to June, we expect Q2-18 to see an interim dip in the continued downward rental trend.”

— M.N.