In its Sharjah Market Spotlight, real estate services provider Savills spoke of Sharjah’s growing population driving demand for residential units across what is being now called the “Emerging Sharjah”. The demand has spiked with enquiry levels across Emerging Sharjah increasing by 50 per cent from Q1 to Q2 2019 and is expected to continue for the remainder of the year. Sharjah’s population is currently estimated at 1.63 million people, up 16 per cent from 1.4 million recorded during the 2015 official census.

Limited space and historically high land prices within Sharjah City have led “developers of new residential projects looking to the outskirts of the city where congestion is lower and development land is not in short supply,” said Suzanne Eveleigh, head of Sharjah, Savills.

While ‘Sharjah City’ refers to the current established residential districts in Sharjah such as Al Khan, Al Majaz, Al Qassimiya, Al Heera, and Al Mamzar among others, Emerging Sharjah refers to the emerging residential hubs on the outskirts such as Muwailah, Muwailah Commercial, University City, Sharjah Sustainable City among others. Among those recent projects include Al Zahia, Al Jada, and Nasma Residences, which are good-quality developments at relatively affordable rates and offer excellent connectivity to other emirates.

Fewer price fluctuations

“There’s no doubt that the property market has seen a difficult period in some parts of the Gulf. However, Sharjah is a unique market and has seen far fewer price fluctuations than other locations over the course of the last decade,” says Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, CEO of Sharjah-based developer Arada. “Demand for Sharjah property has remained strong, and much of that credit has to go to the government, which took a landmark decision to allow all nationalities to purchase real estate in the emirate in 2014, and to allow all nationalities to buy property without a residency visa last year.”

Alkhoshaibi revealed that in the year to August, Arada achieved a 30 per cent rise in sales over the same period a year earlier and sold over 1,800 units this year so far. “These results tell us that Sharjah remains a bright spot for real estate investment in the wider region,” he said.

Arada’s first project, Nasma Residences, which is part of Emerging Sharjah, was launched in March 2017 and swiftly became Sharjah’s fastest-selling community when its first phase sold out less than a month after launch. Featuring just under 1,000 villas surrounded by two retail centres, three landscaped parks and a Gems international school, the first homes in Nasma Residences were handed over to owners in May this year. “Construction on all phases is under way, and we will finish the community by the end of the second quarter of next year,” said Alkhoshaibi.

Arada’s Al Jada is also believed to be a transformational project for Sharjah. Spread over a 24-million-sq-ft area, it will be a ‘city within a city’ and is expected to take around 10 years to complete. “We broke ground on the first phase of Al Jada in April last year, and are currently working hard to deliver our first homes in the first quarter of 2020,” said Alkhoshaibi

Student push

While tenants living in central Sharjah tend to look at affordability, unit size and payment flexibility, tenants in Emerging Sharjah look for amenities and facilities, security and community lifestyle. Aside from the universities and colleges, Emerging Sharjah comprises over 25 public and private schools located between Muwailah and Al Qarayen micro-markets, also referred to as Sharjah School District. The growth of the Sharjah School District has helped generate significant demand from families relocating closer to their children’s schools.

At Cityscape Global earlier this year, Georges Khouzami, COO of Al Thuriah Group, unveiled the Muweileh Community right next to Sharjah’s beautiful University City. At the launch, Khouzami spoke about the increase in demand for quality education that acted as the impetus to launch this project. “It is meant to promote workplace accessibility to the staff of educational institutions within the area, as well as give students the opportunity to look for accommodation in a well-planned community surrounded by a wide range of dining, entertainment and shopping options.”

Niche opportunities

Talking about the contribution of real estate to Sharjah’s GDP, Marwan Bin Jassem Al Sarkal, executive chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said, “Real estate is the second-largest of the four sectors that contribute most to Sharjah’s GDP, at 13 per cent. The value of real estate transactions in Sharjah in the first half of 2019 was recorded at Dh14.7 billion.”

Sharjah’s real estate market is truly unique, explained Al Sarkal. “It offers an eco-friendly mix of culture and modern architecture, which offers a lifestyle that is both luxurious as well as pocket friendly. Sharjah’s property market has a number of niche opportunities for investors, ranging from mega community projects, to avenue-themed projects and eco-friendly hospitality projects.”

Shurooq’s Sustainable City, in partnership with Diamond Developers, is the emirate’s first-ever mega sustainability project. Valued at Dh2 billion and spanning a total area of 7.2 million sq ft, this first-of-its-kind real estate project in Sharjah is powered by a fully renewable energy gridline with 100 per cent water and waste recycling capacities, and farming areas within the city. Featuring 1,120 eco-friendly and energy-efficient villas with a modern-meets-oriental design, this city reflects the unique architectural aesthetic Sharjah is known for.

It will also include a sustainable school, which will promote the concepts of sustainability through school curricula. One of its unique features will be the Sustainability Experience Centre — a platform to host meetings and forums by government and academic entities, NGOs, as well as school and university students, centred on promoting awareness about environmental issues and sustainable living. This project is expected to transform living standards in Sharjah, as well as function as a key research and study platform for local and global students.

The development of these areas in Emerging Sharjah is also in part due to a government-initiated development strategy to achieve a more balanced spatial distribution of Sharjah’s population. The emergence of University City and the School District within Emerging Sharjah have been key drivers behind the development of the surrounding areas into what are now vibrant residential communities. As project handovers across Emerging Sharjah gather momentum, occupier demand has also spiked. There has also been a similar increase in transactions across these emerging micro-markets when compared to the established residential hubs.