Visitors check out the projects on display at the Cityscape Global being held at Dubai World Trade Centre. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Getting late into the freehold game is working to Sharjah’s advantage. Developers there had a rollicking time with offplan sales last year and that momentum has continued through this year.

“From a real estate investor standpoint, Sharjah was a bit of a forgotten city - but the piece of legislation that allowed all nationalities to buy (on freehold/long-term leasehold) has brought it into the spotlight,” said Ahmad Alkhoshaibi, CEO at Arada, developer of the Dh24 billion “Aljada” mixed-use community.

“Because of that, I don’t see any slowing down in freehold sales happening this quarter or in the next year in Sharjah. In fact, more developers are likely to come in and offer freehold, and that would mark a significant lift in quality, urban planning standards, etc. So, those investors who were waiting to gauge how Sharjah real estate can perform will start coming in now.”

And the pricing, of course, will be a factor. For the price-conscious investor, Sharjah is emerging as a happening place in terms of cost of entry and the future return on their investments. Throw into the mix better planned projects and quality of build, Sharjah can tick off quite a few boxes.

At Aljada, Arada has sold about 1,450 apartments since September last year, with prices starting from Dh279,000 for a studio. In the next 12 months, the target is to add another 2,000 units to the sold list. (At Cityscape, it is releasing townhouses priced between Dh1.2 million to Dh1.6 million.) It’s not just the properties alone that are going to attract investors to Aljada. The project’s Central Hub - which will occupy 1.9 million square feet - is being designed by the late Zaha Hadid’s firm. The design has been done, with the exact centre of the 24 million square feet development to feature a 100-metre tall observation deck with a mix of F&B options.

Surrounding the deck will be musical fountains and “bubbles”, which are essentially dedicated areas given over to extreme sports and virtual reality zones.

“We are creating a new “downtown” for Sharjah city and the Central Hub is its entertainment destination,” said Alkhoshaibi. “Next month, we will be announcing an operator for the 11-screen multiplex, and who will be a new entrant to this market.

“We had the first cranes installed on-site yesterday and some of the major tenders have already been awarded for the Central Hub.

“In Q1-2019, the Zaha Hadid designed sales centre will open on site… and I would like to think it will be the first project of her firm to open in the UAE after the Abu Dhabi bridge.”

Options open for plot sales at Aljada

The developer of Aljada said it is still undecided about allowing plot sales to individual investors build their own residences. Such plot sales have proved particularly popular with freehold buyers in Sharjah, going by the experience at Tilal City, for instance.

“We will decide at a later phase of Aljada - for now, we want to set the tone and rhythm for the design and specs of the overall project,” said Ahmad Alkhoshaibi of Arada, which will also be announcing its first project in Dubai some time next year. Land purchase for the Dubai venture is still in the negotiation stage.