Anton Yachmenev at the under construction luxury villas XXII Carat at the Palm Jumeirah West Crest. Yachmenev prefers to keep the talk of prices in the millions. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: Got Dh40 million and some spare change — for registration fees and related costs — on you? Or how about Dh75 million? If the answers are “yes”, then a developer has got the villas — with private beach access, of course — for you on The Palm.

The UAE subsidiary of Russia’s Forum Group is developing 22 plots for these super-premium residences, with completion scheduled for late 2017. 

Work on the XXII Carat — as the project is known — started in August 2015. The seven-bedroom residences are between 8,000 to 13,000 square feet.

“We were slightly off schedule [on the construction side], but it was not related to any real estate market downturn,” said Anton Yachmenev, Managing Director at Forum Group.

“We are open to any buyer, across any demographic in the world, that wants to share our vision of highly specified luxury villas with large gardens on the waterfront on one of the most iconic, man-made locations of the world.”

Yachmenev prefers to keep the talk of prices in the millions. “We do not like to value our villas on per square foot pricing (psf), as in our opinion, it is incorrect. Psf price doesn’t take into account the location, pool, outdoor area and landscape design. So we prefer not to.”

With all of the projects already delivered on the Palm, one would think there wouldn’t be much space to build there. Forum Group acquired the plots in 2009.

“We do not have any more plots on the Palm … however, we do have some land bank for future development.”

Twin-tower project

But a drive through shows there is still plenty to come. Or coming through shortly, such as Nakheel’s swanky mall and a tower. Privately owned Seven Tides is topping its Palm interests with the Dukes hotel and residential project, to add to the Oceana and Anantara.

Plus, the master-developer Nakheel recently announced a twin-tower project, the Palm 360, and which will feature 12,000 square feet penthouses. Expected to launch shortly, the pricing on the Palm 360 could set a new benchmark at the higher end of the Palm property spectrum.

According to data from Core Savills, the consultancy, there have been 58 transactions involving villas on the Palm so far this year, with the costliest one going for Dh38 million and two others above Dh20 million.

“The average signature villa was previously selling for over Dh30 million, whereas now the average is closer to Dh18 million,” said David Godchaux, CEO of Core Savills. “This clearly shows that prices have not increased for the higher end of the market.”

The subdued nature of buying activity for super-luxury homes in Dubai does not faze Yachmenev in the least. “Forum Group believes the real estate luxury market in Dubai is good, especially for this kind of development as it is not just another luxe construction, but a standard of living and lifestyle that it comes with,” he added. “You buy the lifestyle along with the villa — not just the villa.

“The market is a lot more mature and we are just doing the best we can to build something exceptional with the highest sense of design aesthetic in a classic Mediterranean style.”

Customised designs

Two of the 22 villas have been set aside for Forum shareholders. On whether prospective buyers will be able to do their detailing on the construction and interiors, Yachmenev said: “We are not considering that option at the moment as we would like Forum Group’s vision to come across on our first project on the Palm and in Dubai. However, we do plan to offer some customised designs subsequently.”

Forum’s Palm push represents one of the first instances of a Russian developer fronting a project in Dubai. In Russia, it has been associated with “elite” residential communities, malls and street retail, as well as office centres. The parent company also has stakes in companies in the US and China.

The Forum move on Dubai could set the stage for other Russian investor-developers to do so if the market starts signalling a significant recovery in the medium-term. Chinese funds are already starting to get a feel of this market, primarily through joint ventures. More recently, India’s construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji confirmed plans for a developer’s role in Dubai, through an upscale tower in Downtown.

Bull rally

Dubai waits on the next bull run

Is it time to buy or sell in Dubai realty?

“Real estate prices, similarly to equities, demonstrate a mean reverting behaviour,” states the latest Reidin-GCP report. “A technical analysis of the Dubai real estate market reveals that a bull rally is on the horizon as prices rise above their historical 12-month average.”

Going by historical data, the inflection point is being reached for a new round of increased buying. According to the report here’s why: “When prices fall below their moving average it signals a sell, but when it rises above it is a buy signal. In the current cycle, we can witness that prices have risen close to its rolling average indicating that an upward trend is on the horizon.

And the same data provides evidence of why the declines happened when they did. In 2008 and 2014, property values had started to fall below their rolling averages, the report adds.

When it comes to the rental possibilities in the medium term, the data signals are as yet unclear.

“Mean reversion implies that the current rental cycle is in the midst of a long term secular downtrend of a gradually lower rental yield,” the report says. “Given the bivariate nature of the relationship in this case, this implies that either prices rise and/or rental rates continue to fall.

“Historically, the relationship has implied that price rises (not only in Dubai, but globally) accounts for a greater weightage in determining the fall in yields than movements in rents; a trend that we opine will continue.”