At a time when property prices are softening and tenants are encouraged to become homeowners, renting continues to be an attractive option, according to Arif Mubarak, CEO of Dubai Asset Management, a vertical of Dubai Holding. Property Weekly caught up with Mubarak for his views on the rental market and advice for landlords and tenants.
What tips can you give to landlords?
From our experience, it’s critical to put your customers in the centre of everything you do. You have to understand their needs and work out everything accordingly. Once you establish a dialogue with your customers, you’ll be able to address everything they require.
How can landlords achieve higher yields on their properties?
You have to look at the full cycle, from choosing the right location and product, to structuring the right lease agreement and operating your asset. All those components are investment criteria. It’s a holistic approach that you must go after to get the highest yield on your property.
Dealing with a single ownership for a vast community is itself a unique selling point. People would rather deal with one landlord that has footprint in the market and stable presence
What does your company do?
We manage the full life cycle of real estate assets — from identifying the location, product and market, to execution, delivery, operating and exiting the asset. It’s also about sustainability and maximising the value of assets. We delivered our first asset for residential rental in 2006. Since then we’ve grown our portfolio to 10 communities, which house nearly 100,000 people of around 130 nationalities. Our current residential units range from staff accommodation to upscale villas, including luxury living communities (Shorooq and Layan); family-friendly community (Ghoroob); value living community (Al Khail Gate); built-to-suit accommodation (Rahaba Residences); staff housing for Jumeirah Group; labour accommodation (Nuzul and Al Quoz) and rental-only units in free-hold communities (Remraam) as well as Dubai Wharf and Manazel Al Khor at the Jaddaf waterfront
What are the advantages of renting?
The rental market offers many advantages — the convenience of dealing with one landlord, living in a large community that’s managed by one ownership, no service charges, and you have communication tools to enable you to deal with your landlord for facility management, maintenance and any other requests. Dealing with a single ownership for a vast community is by itself a unique selling point. People would rather deal with one landlord that has footprint in the market and stable presence.
What are tenants looking for nowadays?
Location always comes first. I believe we’ve covered most of the locations within Dubai. Second is the price. Third is the unit mix in terms of offering, followed by the choice of sizes and amenities in the communities. They also look for customer experience, how easy it is to deal with the landlord and how quickly their issue is addressed. Having a landlord who is accessible gives you comfort, knowing that someone is there to look after your living experience.
How are you using technology to enhance your services?
We focus on digital services and use technology to strengthen our backbone in operations. We have aligned our vision with the Dubai Paperless Strategy, and we are the first in Dubai to offer a fully digital property rental experience through the Dubai Now app. Secondly, we recently launched an app and portal where our tenants can transact everything, including making requests for maintenance. It’s been six weeks and we’ve achieved 20 per cent registration so far, which is a good sign.
Is it a good time for tenants to upgrade to bigger homes?
We have a tool in place that allows people to upgrade or downgrade their property within our communities; they have the flexibility to move units. It’s not always about upgrading. We as landlords have to respect people’s needs whether they want to upgrade or downgrade.
How popular are the self-contained communities?
All our communities are self-contained, fully serviced and have the basic amenities that any resident would require, from retail to swimming pools to playgrounds to green spaces to transportation options. These communities are popular as their occupancy continues to be at around 95 per cent.
What are some of your most popular communities?
All our communities are popular, as indicated by the occupancy rates. Every year, we spend tens of millions into enhancing our communities. We do that as part of our asset management life cycle, whereby we re-invest in every community we own on a yearly basis. That keeps our assets at the optimum level. About 60 per cent of our customer base are individual residents, while 40 per cent are corporates. Al Khail Gate is among our most popular communities, based on positive feedback from our corporate clients that have chosen to house many of their employees here. It has a convenient location and various amenities. Shorooq and Ghoroob, located in Mirdif near popular shopping centres and schools, are also among the popular housing options.
How do you create holistic living experiences?
We focus a lot on community events to bring residents together. Last year we hosted and organised more than 50 events across our communities that were attended by over 50,000 residents. The calendar of events included yoga sessions, boot camps, family fun days, night markets, outdoor movie nights, Ramadan iftar gatherings, and much more. We continuously find ways to bring a smile to our residents, with random acts of kindness — for instance this Mother’s Day we handed out more than 600 roses across our communities and received an overwhelming response from the residents whose lives we touched.
What are your future plans?
We’re growing our portfolio very strategically and looking into opportunity-based growth. We’re releasing new inventory in Dubai Wharf and Manazel Al Khor at Jaddaf waterfront. Jaddaf is in a great location, in the middle of the city, on the Dubai Creek and next to the recently opened Art Jameel museum. The area has great potential and we believe it will see more demand.