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District One in MBR City is one of Dubai's new prime residential communities Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai’s luxury mansions, villas and apartments overlooking the fairways, beaches, marinas and lagoons offer the kind of lavish lifestyle that endears the emirate to high-net-worth buyers and investors. Aditi Hariharan, associate partner, strategic consulting and research at Cavendish Maxwell, says Dubai has grown beyond Emirates Hills, Downtown Dubai and Palm Jumeirah, to offer luxurious lifestyle in many other areas such as Bluewaters Island, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) City and Dubai Creek Harbour. Even locations such as Business Bay, which generally offers a mixed bag of developments, now has luxury properties coming up, such as the SLS Dubai Hotel and Residences.

“With new developments entering the market, and a general decline in property prices over the past few quarters, Dubai’s luxury housing market has witnessed a price correction,” notes Hariharan. “Luxury properties have, therefore, become more affordable. And initiatives like the golden card long-term residency scheme are helping to attract foreign buyers to the UAE market.”

New projects

Communities like Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah and Emirates Hills have been the old favourites among premium homebuyers. However, in the last couple of years several new luxury communities are coming in focus. “Emirates Hills, Palm Jumeirah and Downtown have held on to their premium tag since 2005-06,” Riyaz Merchant, CEO of Dubai brokerage Realty Force. “The newer communities offer more contemporary style houses with better urban planning and facilities, such as golf courses and other sustainable features. For example, District One boasts the 7km Crystal lagoons, a first of its kind in the region, with a 14km boardwalk. The place consists of four-, five- and six-bedroom villas ranging from Dh10.5 million to Dh20.5 million, and even seven- and eight-bedroom bespoke mansions that could go up to Dh80 million plus.”

Dubai Hill Estates, another new community, boasts of a wonderful golf course with great landscaping. “It’s much improved than Emirates Hills,” says Merchant. “For instance, Emirates Hills is a lifestyle community, but it has far too many villas compared to Dubai Hills, which is more exclusive with fewer villas.” In Dubai Hills you will get six- to seven-bedroom mansions in Parkway Vista that range from Dh12 million to Dh17 million, and the Fairway Vista that range from Dh14 million to Dh18 million. It also has an individual villa community called Golf Place by Emaar, which is on the premium side of the golf course.

Besides Dubai Hills and District One, there are several other projects available in the market such as Al Barari, Polo Homes in Arabian Ranches, and Damac’s co-branded neighbourhoods such as Paramount, Fendi and Trump collection. The Jumeirah Golf Estates now has the Hillside for independent villas sitting on the golf course with the largest clubhouse in Dubai.

Sobha Hartland in MBR City is also aggressive in this segment with a host of unique features. In Sobha Hartland’s Forest Villas community, for instance, over 300 species of trees and plants have being planted by the developer to add to the beauty of the landscape. “The changes in luxury development span from design to execution to material and finishing, and most recently, the incorporation of smart and sustainable features,” says Jyotsna Hegde, president of Sobha Realty. “Our product in Hartland, for example, is a waterfront living community in the heart of the city, surrounded by green spaces that combines unique and smart designs and the highest standards of quality.”

She adds that the mixed-used development overlooks the idyllic skyline of Dubai on one end and Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary on the other. “Sobha Hartland has many projects. Those launched so far are Hartland Greens, One Park Avenue, Creek Vistas, Gardenia Villas and Forest Villas,” says Hegde. “Property prices for Garden Houses are starting at Dh5.33 million and go up to Dh39 million for the bespoke villas.”

Among international buyers this year, Hegde says around 36 per cent are from China, 8 per cent are from India and 7.63 per cent from Saudi Arabia.

The upcoming Port de La Mer and the waterfront town house collection of Sur La Mer are also great options, while Pearl Jumeirah offers bespoke villas on large plots overlooking the sea and close to Nikki Beach Resort, says Mark Snazell, private client advisor at

Payment plans and offers

Most government-owned developers in the luxury segment absorb the cost of the transfer fees, equivalent to 4 per cent of the property value, says Merchant. They also waive service fees for the first couple of years. Some are even offering interest-free post-handover payment plans, accepting 20, 30 or 40 per cent payment until completion and the balance paid post handover over two or three years.

For example, a Dubai developer’s summer promotion required buyers to pay only 25 per cent until completion and the balance of 75 per cent over three years. Buyers also do not have to pay the 4 per cent DLD fee, while service fee was free for the first three years. In District One, the 4 per cent DLD fee has been waived, while buyers also get a two-year exemption of service fees. Also, buyers can receive a post-handover payment plan of one to two years.

Design trends

Snazell says that HNWI clients want the design aesthetic and design schematics geared towards family living. They also require world-class amenities and natural green spaces. “Smart home technology is at the forefront of the new trends in the city, offering convenience at the touch of a button or the tap of a screen,” says Snazell. “Branded residences from renowned names in hospitality and luxury are becoming increasingly popular. Even more popular are serviced residences, which offer a five-star residential experience with boutique 1-on-1 client services such as valet parking and concierge.”

Snazell has also noticed a move to modernism/contemporary design in the market. “The contemporary aesthetic — clean lines, plenty of natural light and large open-plan spaces, is becoming the norm, and indeed is highly in demand among homebuyers,” Snazell says. “Another trend seen is the sizes of properties on some projects, which have decreased, but the standard of materials and fittings is significantly higher. Also, the interior design schematics flow better with more open-plan spaces and fenestration systems, allowing for more light and space.

“For instance, in Downtown Dubai, we see the delivery of super-prime projects such as Boulevard Crescent, Boulevard Heights, Burj Vista, The Address Fountain Views and Vida Dubai Mall. Within these projects, we see sizes smaller than those of historic downtown properties.”

While premium communities are at the heart of Dubai’s high-end offerings, the city is intent on expanding its luxury living footprint. “One could look at Five in Jumeirah Village Circle, a high-rise structure in which every apartment comes with its own private pool. For such a prime development to be located in what is, essentially, a tertiary area of the city proves that luxury is no more location specific,” says Snazell.