Talking about Emirates Hills, that still remains Dubai’s most exclusive residential address, Andrew Cummings, co-founder and managing director of luxuryproperty.com gets a bit nostalgic. “I have a number of clients who fondly remember driving into the desert and seeing the flags placed on their plots, on which they then constructed their homes. Land is now scarce here. Instead, buyers are purchasing older villas and then demolishing them and rebuilding - a symbol of the ongoing demand for the area.”
One of Dubai’s earliest luxury villa communities, Emirates Hills is home to high net-worth buyers and investors. John Lyons, managing director of Espace Real Estate says, “Not only is the location on the doorstep of some of the region’s best lifestyle amenities, but the villas that sit within this exclusive gated community are some of the most visually impressive family homes that can be found anywhere in the world.”
What do buyers want?
So what do homeowners demand from properties here? Myles Bush, CEO of PH Real Estate that sold the largest ticket villa in Emirates Hills last year, says, “In the 13 years I have noticed several occurring requirements. Staff accommodation is a must. Privacy is also a requirement and a second kitchen is usually seen as a huge plus point.” Emirates Hills, despite being one community has a range of different styles and ambiances. You have the huge palatial golf course mansions of Sectors E and L, the tree lined streets of Sectors H and R and the lake view properties on Sectors P and W.
The designs here are very personalized. “You will find basements with spas, cinemas and luxury style kitchens. There is actually opportunity at the moment to come in and buy a home, update it and have a lovely golf course community lifestyle at a price we have not seen before. The UHNWIs are typically looking for basements, car parking and large master suites and they ultimately want full golf course views,” says Leigh Williamson, Emirates Hills specialist at Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty.
“Buyer demand has now shifted to more contemporary homes and we are seeing more buyers either buying to renovate or holding off because they cannot find a property that suits their style,” explains Cummings.
Bush admits it’s no secret that prices have dropped by more than 20 per cent within Emirates Hills over the last 12 months, and while this is not ideal for potential sellers, it does present opportunities for buyers. “Buyers who perhaps had a budget of Dh12-14 million were once looking at Hattan Villas and Palm Villas, can now take a serious look at entering Emirates Hills. I am a firm believer that all villas in Emirates Hills are sell-able, as long as they are priced correctly. Far too many times I have seen houses take more than a 12-18 months to sell because the listing agent has over promised and under delivered. If the price is right- it will always sell!”
Williamson agrees. “Price it out of the market and you will never sell it. Price it correctly and we will have it sold within an appropriate time frame. The hardest part is working with a seller and letting them know the actual selling price.”
Emirates Hills has seen similar price falls as the rest of Dubai, with average price per square foot dropping by 30 per cent over the past few years, says Cummings. “Prices now range between Dh1,000 per sq ft and Dh2,000 per sq ft, with land transacting around Dh750 per sq ft. Pricing varies hugely due to the varied style and quality of the villas, with many purchases being done by investors seeking to buy older homes and either redevelop them or demolish and rebuild altogether. The most expensive villa sale this year has been at Dh69 million.”
In recent years, prices in Emirates Hills have become more realistic than what it was in 2014, which has resulted in more transactions, says Lyons. “Lower pricing in the community has been well received by the market, with a general increase in demand from wealthy buyers looking for opportunities in Emirates Hills.”
New kids on the block
Given the value and scale of the properties available, Emirates Hills stands alone. “Areas like District One, Palm Jumeirah and Al Barari remain the closest competitors, all offering a slightly different lifestyle. Dubai Hills though looks to be shaping up to be a new hotspot with shell and core and ready mansions providing a more contemporary alternative to Emirates Hills,” says Cummings.
Lyons agrees that the “two obvious comparisons to Emirates Hills, with villas that fall within the same price bracket, are Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Hills, which are emerging as the new kids on the block for luxury real estate in Dubai.”