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Dubai is not alien to luxury residential communities, with themed developments that contain high-end villas, townhouses and apartments; the luxury market in Dubai has plenty to offer. Interestingly, while Dubai's overall residential sector is adversely affected by oversupply, the luxury segment seems to be confronting an entirely different challenge — that of undersupply.

Recent indications show that on the supply side, of the total future residential supply of 37,000 units due to be delivered by 2012, only 23 per cent is villa stock. Further, it is interesting to note that of these, only approximately 1,400 luxury villa units are planned in the city, considering existing and new supply.

This means that even by 2012, at most only two per cent of all existing residential stock will be luxury villas," says Imran Shaikh, CEO of Shaikh Holdings, which has unveiled the first resort homes at its Sanctuary Falls development.

Flight to quality real estate

Reports suggest that prices in up-market developments such as Emirates Hills and Palm Jumeirah are showing signs of stabilisation, a trend that Shaikh attributes to investors moving towards a solid value proposition rather than investments for speculative potential.

"With the market maturing and becoming driven by end-users, we believe purchasers will gravitate towards real estate that offers higher value in terms of quality and most importantly, stability. We have seen that the luxury villa segment has exhibited greater demand inelasticity than other real estate classes, and one where discerning purchasers are ready to pay the price when offered the right value proposition."

Given the limited supply in the luxury villa segment, this market is expected to witness increased activity as more properties near completion. Among these, the concept of ‘resort homes' being developed by Shaikh Holdings at Sanctuary Falls is a first of its kind in the region. The premium golf course development brings design by luxury hotel and resort specialists together, introducing resort elements within a residential villa setting.

A boutique resort community

Located on the Earth golf course designed by Greg Norman in Jumeirah Golf Estates, the Sanctuary Falls development is a boutique community that comprises 96 resort-style villas. Location and access to amenities, says Shaikh, are also of extreme importance.

"Sanctuary Falls is located on the championship Earth golf course. We offer residents 36 holes of championship golf across two signature courses, Earth and Fire. The Earth course is home to the Dubai World Championship with a prize purse of a staggering $7.5 million."

Residents at Sanctuary Falls have access to The Club, which has been open since early 2009, and features a golf shop, restaurant and recreational lounge area overlooking the stunning practice range.

"The Club has already become an integral part of the community life at Jumeirah Golf Estates and is an ideal place to relax and unwind after a round of golf," says Shaikh. The Club will remain functional until the Norman Clubhouse at Jumeirah Golf Estates opens its doors.

The developer claims that the resort home concept it has created allows residents to experience resort-style living 365 days a year. Apart from the custom interior detailing, each home also features a custom landscape plan, with resort elements that include arrival water fountains, resort-style landscaping, entertainment terraces, outdoor majlis seating areas and resort swimming pools.

Shaikh says, "Most high net-worth individuals in Dubai travel extensively and many also use Dubai as their second home base for their family or a holiday home. Many of these families look for spacious homes with a community feel, but those that are easy to maintain and secure when they need to travel abroad.

There is a gap that exists in the current luxury villa offering in Dubai for such kinds of homes. We believe Sanctuary Falls is well positioned to fill this gap with its quality resort finish and extensive amenities, all located within a secure and private community."

Residents are also provided a dedicated Quintessentially concierge with their villa purchase that extends their resort living experience beyond the boundaries of Sanctuary Falls. There are numerous villa styles to choose from, based on traditional and contemporary themes, with sizes ranging from 5,625 square feet to 10,890 square feet. These come with golf course and lake views.

Creating the resort look and feel

Shaikh Holdings has selected designers and suppliers specialising in the luxury and hospitality sectors to give the project the look and feel of an actual resort. Arabtec's luxury villa division, with its experience in bespoke Emirates Hills homes, was chosen as the main contractor, while the project architecture is done by DSA Architects, designers of the Madinat Jumeirah and the One and Only Royal Mirage.

The interiors are designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, who have designed Ritz Carlton properties worldwide and the Grand Hyatt Dubai; while landscape design was carried out by 40North and LMS, firms specialising in resort landscapes.

This project team is not only responsible for design, but also provides quality control of the finishes and workmanship, ensuring the detailing and materials application are maintained at a luxury hotel finish level.

"There is a lot of thought we have put into these villas at Sanctuary Falls. As a result, there is a lot of value not just in terms of design, but products and materials employed as well. Quality brands such as Bang and Olufsen, Villeroy and Boch, Scavolini, Miele and Fratelli Rossi have been used," says Shaikh.

Home automation

Indeed, a major feature of Sanctuary Falls villas is the presence of an advanced home automation system. The proprietary system, developed in collaboration with Archimedia, was built from the ground up, with the resident family experience in mind. The system provides user-friendly and intuitive controls for the entire family, along with the flexibility to allow the system to be customised to suit individual lifestyles.

Residents are able to control all household technology, including audio/video distribution, lighting, security, climate and communication, through any of the touch screen panels located throughout the villa.

"The system can be customised for multiple user profiles and scenes such as ‘guest', ‘party' and ‘relaxation' modes set all the technology to pre-specified levels. They can be activated simply at the touch of a button, or through your iphone or ipad. It is as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be," explains Shaikh.

Resident demographic

Shaikh says that since the launch of the project, there has been substantial interest from high profile professionals, business owners, celebrities and most recently, even the royal family. "Our current resident demographic is quite diverse, with the majority being a mix of Europeans, Asians, GCC nationals and Emiratis," he states. The celebrity residents at Sanctuary Falls also include the Bollywood couple Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who invested in a villa in this development in 2008.

Sanctuary Falls has won numerous regional awards and also achieved greater international acclaim recently, having won the prestigious ‘2010 Best International Golf Development' title at the International Property Awards in London.

Price point

Sanctuary Falls villas, expected to be handed over by mid-2011, are priced from Dh8 million onwards. Prices vary depending on the size and the amenities available.