Every Cityscape is a much anticipated event for just about everyone in the real-estate sector, irrespective of market conditions. This year the event assumes greater importance, being held in the context of negative signs in the global markets on the one hand and regional unrest on the other.
While we expect the issues in some of the GCC countries will inspire investors to take a serious look at the UAE as the best possible investment destination, reports about the bleak global outlook are likely to mar the excitement. However, there is definitely enthusiasm in the market prior to the biggest show for the country's and the region's real-estate markets.
Whether the event will live up to the hype remains to be seen. In the meantime, Property talks to some real-estate experts who have seen many ups and downs in the market over the past few years in an effort to find out what lies in store at Cityscape Global 2011.
James Gauduchon, head of marketing, Better Homes
Over the past six months, we've witnessed some momentum and traction within the real-estate industry, particularly in the residential sales sector. We feel Cityscape will observe and receive a positive sentiment, along with a steady volume of footfall.
In 2011, the market has reached a level of stability wherein end-users have started to purchase homes rather than rent, and home finance is also becoming readily available. Cityscape has been somewhat downbeat in the past two years. However, we feel although the exhibition will be conservative in terms of scale and presentation, it will be a point of interest for investors and end-users to investigate opportunities of purchasing.
This year's exhibition will support an improving market and will demonstrate Dubai as a robust and long-term regional hub for business, leisure and lifestyle industries and will highlight sustainable development to support a growing population.
The crucial factor this year is for exhibitors to focus on delivering their promises and providing exceptional customer service. We expect developers to look at ready-now projects, with a handful of developers offering off-plan purchase opportunities, for projects that are near complete and are located within established areas of demand.
Rizwan Sajan, chairman, Danube Building Materials
This year's Cityscape Global will be much better compared with the event in 2010 because investor confidence is returning to the market. Developers are beginning to restart the construction of a number of stalled projects because they feel money is coming back to Dubai market due to the turbulence in some GCC countries such as Libya, Yemen and Bahrain over the past six to nine months.
We recently signed a contract with a local developer for the supply of building materials for nine towers which have been put on hold for a while after the financial crisis hit the market in 2008. Since there was no protest or unrest of any kind in the UAE, investors are ready to come here. That's the reason why investors think the UAE is the safest bet. When these investors come back to invest, Cityscape is definitely going to generate much more interest.
There used to be a lot of distressed sales but that trend has come to an end now. People are holding on to their properties expecting the prices to go up. I personally believe this Cityscape is going to be a turning point for the country's real-estate industry. I don't think any new projects will be launched especially in the UAE, but definitely we can expect to see some launches in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Laura Adam, sales and leasing manager, SPF Realty
Cityscape Global 2011 is going to be bigger than in the previous few years due to the increased activity in the market and, in particular, the reinstated confidence in the UAE property markets. Besides, Cityscape is celebrating ten years of its existence.
Looking at the list of exhibitors that have already registered for the event, it seems to be a more diverse list of companies within the industry, with more local exhibitors taking part this year. Cityscape is a great event for the real-estate industry.
Not only does it showcase and launch developments to industry experts, but it's also a great way to sell to the public and investors. For the clients, it's the only real opportunity when they can see such a diverse amount of property all under one roof.
For real-estate companies and agents, Cityscape is a good time to receive the latest market information, network with colleagues and see the competition.
Another great aspect of the event is to get updates on each development and to find out handover dates as a number of developers are present at the exhibition. I think this year's Cityscape will help to instill confidence in the market during difficult economic times as it shows that work is still being carried on in certain developments.
Bansrelal Goshichand, marketing manager, Mena at Jones Lang LaSalle
The realty sector is becoming increasingly global, with Jones Lang LaSalle expecting the value of cross-border real-estate capital flows to increase by around 40 per cent during 2011. In this context, Cityscape Global provides an opportunity to discuss global real estate conditions with other delegates who will often have a different perspective on the wide range of global and regional drivers impacting real-estate markets.
In the current global economic environment, the value of this interaction and learning experience will be heightened. We look forward to hearing from industry experts their interpretation of the impact of the volatile global economic environment on their real-estate investment and development strategies. The world is increasingly a world of cities, with over 50 per cent of the population now living in urban areas. The focus on future cities is therefore an important element of this year's event. This will provide the opportunity to discuss some of the crucial ‘softer' aspects of city building and help delegates understand how real estate is a driver of a cities' success, not a mere consequence of it.
Cityscape is also a reminder that the familiar blueprint of city development is now being stretched, tested and changed.
Paul Preston, chief executive officer, elysian
I expect this year's event to have far more of an audience than the last three years, due to a number of positive factors surrounding the UAE. Many investors are seeing Dubai as the ‘safe haven' of the Middle East, and I expect buyers to be flying in from various neighbouring countries, to have a look at the real-estate opportunities on offer.
The three-year residency visa that's being talked about in the marketplace will also generate a lot of interest over Cityscape week. We also have to remember that the cost of borrowing has now become considerably attractive for expatriates and the banks are making access to debt much more favourable to the market. We are optimistic that the event will bring serious investors through the doors.
Ramadan this year has been busy and I believe this momentum will increase leading up to and beyond Cityscape Global. The show over the last three years has mainly been attended by ‘window-shoppers' but this year will be different.
We have a fantastic country with strong economics and beautiful properties at 2007 prices — the serious investors are now taking full advantage of the prices as they see the opportunity for capital growth over the coming years as well as strong rental yields of 8 per cent along the way.
Natasha Gangaramani, director, Al Fara'a Properties
Stepping into its tenth year, Cityscape has only got bigger and better with each successive edition. The event today has become a core rallying platform for the global realty sector, and the fact that the market slowdown has not discouraged such a large forum to meet and exhibit reaffirms its relevance and credibility. It is an excellent stage, not only for investors but also for architects and developers looking for joint ventures and supplier alliances within and outside of the UAE. This year, I anticipate the forum to attract businesses from the Middle East and the Subcontinent looking for alliances with firms in the UAE that have demonstrated strength in the design, construction or development sectors. There is an interest from developers and consultants in various external markets who are seeking to partner and create the same value in these external markets. Bilateral trade and exchanges are the need of the hour as firms look to expand their portfolio in these tighter market conditions. Under the guidance of the wise leadership of our rulers, the UAE has become home to some of the best talent pools and projects in the world. It is a matter of pride that the UAE leads this innovation and acts as a seat of knowledge and trade for the neighbouring markets.