The World Cup in Qatar will give Dubai’s luxury market a boost – perhaps the last for a while

The rapidly approaching 2022 World Cup has been heralded as a potential boon for the near future Dubai’s Luxury property market – but it could be the last bounce before an impending slowdown, experts say.

The football tournament, which will be held for the first time in the Middle East, will take place in Qatar from November 20th to December 18th. But given the limited supply of accommodation, many fans will be settling in nearby cities like Dubai, potentially leading to a boost in luxury property sales in a white-hot market that is already a world leader in property price increases.

“Because of the nature of the event, it attracts a lot of high net worth individuals,” said Jeff Raju Kuruvilla, sales director at Positive Properties, a Dubai-based brokerage firm. “I’m already getting a lot of calls from World Cup attendees asking us about places to stay and investment opportunities… Once they’re exempt from the World Cup, I’ll show them the new projects that are being launched here in Dubai.”

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Around 1.5 million fans are expected at the tournament in Qatar. A lack of accommodation means the spillover is likely to remain in the United Arab Emirates – mainly in Dubai.

Qatar Airways and Flydubai will operate up to 54 approximately one-hour flights between Dubai and Qatar each day, allowing fans to fly to a game and return on the same day.

Even fans planning a stay in Qatar are expected to spend time in other destinations, with the number of visitors planning to spend at least two nights in Qatar and then at least two in another Gulf country compared to pre-pandemic travel 16-fold pattern, according to statistics from travel data company ForwardKeys.

“Dubai is by far the biggest beneficiary of this trend, recording 65% of return visits,” the firm said in an October report.

“People will come here, stay in hotels or Airbnbs or whatever, they will watch the games, come back and spend two or three extra days and that will make it easy for them to consider Dubai as a real estate investment . said Shabna Ibrahim, investment advisor at Dubai-based brokerage firm A1 Properties.

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World Cup-related tourism is expected to provide a huge boost to Dubai’s hospitality sector, including its short-term rental market, but agents are also anticipating an impact on luxury residential properties, which have boomed since the start of the World Cup pandemic, with prime real estate in some parts of the city, which almost double in price.

“We expect property sales to pick up during the World Cup,” said Honey Deylami, Executive Partner at Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty in Dubai. “We have seen historical transactions during periods of strong tourism, which has shown us that a fair number of visitors to Dubai typically invest in property after experiencing Dubai’s luxury, comfortable lifestyle, safety and security, tolerance and diversity the town.”

Mr Kuruwalla said he expected the tournament to give Dubai’s prime real estate sector a boost similar to Expo 2020, a world exhibition that ran from October 2021 to March 2022, boosted international tourism by 214% and attracted a total of 24 million visitors to the event , according to the government.

“Because of Covid, property prices in Dubai had dropped significantly, but as soon as the expo started they went up,” he said. “I see a similar demand at the World Cup in Qatar.”

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But with luxury real estate accounting for just 5% of Dubai’s real estate market, World Cup-related sales are unlikely to have a significant impact on the overall market, warned Haider Tuaima, director of real estate research at ValuStrat, an international consultancy group based in Dubai.

The tourism boosted by the six-month expo is “much bigger in scale than the World Cup,” he said. “As for Dubai, I think there will be an impact, but whether it’s significant or not? I doubt it.”

The impact is partially mitigated by the fact that over the past two years, after an initial slump in the early months of the pandemic, Dubai has already seen a rapid surge in both demand and prices for prime and prime real estate. “We have seen a clear trend that both end users and investors are opting for larger homes: villas, townhouses or larger apartments,” he said.

Property prices in the Jumeirah Islands have risen by an average of 96% since the third quarter of 2020, he added. In Palm Jumeirah, where most of the city’s villas are located, prices rose an average of 90%, and Downturn Dubai saw price increases averaging 87% in the prime sector, he said. Growth slowed slightly from 2021-2022, but the overall prime real estate sector rose 88.8% over the past 12 months September this yearKnight Frank’s leading global index.

Lockdowns in many countries made travel difficult for overseas buyers for much of 2021, meaning the initial surge in demand for prime property was largely driven by domestic buyers, Mr Tuaima said.

But international investors have returned to the market over the past year, driven in part by Dubai’s visa reforms, expanding them in November 2020 to include renewable five- or ten-year residency permits for investors, entrepreneurs and certain professionals, as well as anyone investing more than 2 million AED (US$544,500) in real estate.

“We’re seeing an influx of very high net worth buyers looking to call Dubai home as their primary residence,” Ms Deylami said. “The migration and investment of high net worth individuals from around the world to Dubai during and after the pandemic, along with a very limited supply of premium products such as luxury penthouses and villas, are the main factors driving increased sales prices and demand for luxury property in Dubai.”

Rental prices have also risen sharply since the pandemic began. According to real estate services and investment firm CBRE, average apartment rents rose 24.9% year-on-year in August. Although they remain about 20% below the last peak of 2014, Mr. Tuaima said, “the fact that rents are rising gives sales a further boost because instead of paying rent every month, it’s better to take out a mortgage.”

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The UAE has worked with the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in recent months. Uncertainty surrounding mortgage repayments has pushed some buyers toward off-plan properties that offer fixed-rate payment plans, he added.

Changes to residency visa rules have also made off-plan properties more attractive to foreign buyers.

“Before July of this year, the rule was that you had to have a finished property,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “Now the rule has changed.” Off-plan properties are now included in the visa system, along with properties purchased with loans from certain local banks.

Overall, rising interest rates are not expected to have a major impact on the prime market due to the dominance of cash buyers. “Statistically, only 19% of all sales are based on mortgages, so you’re talking about 81% cash transactions,” Mr. Tuaima said.

After two years of rapid growth, he expects real estate prices to stabilize in the coming year.

“Over the past six months, capital growth has slowed. It was about 5% per quarter. Now we’re talking about 3.6% or 3.5%,” he said. “There are some areas that may have already hit their price caps.”

There are already signs of a slowdown at the lower end of the price spectrum, which has seen very little price movement for the past 12 months, he added.

While the strength of the US dollar has benefited some buyers, the weakening of the euro has weakened the purchasing power of others. “We are working simultaneously to educate our customers on both sides of the fence about the changing market conditions, the euro depreciation as well as the global stock market slump,” Ms. Deylami said. “We are still very optimistic about the real estate market in Dubai.”

She expects the prime market to stabilize over the next year, with continued price growth in the luxury sector due to strong demand. “There is still a shortage of prime real estate in Dubai,” she said. “We have requests for finished luxury units on a daily basis and very limited availability, which is driving prices for ready available units much higher. I expect the same trend throughout 2023.”

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