Looking to grow your property portfolio? Five things to consider before deciding where to invest your money

Looking to grow your property portfolio? Five things to consider before deciding where to invest your money

When we look at growing our property portfolio, it’s easy to simply ‘follow the crowd’ or the latest online trends, buying in the current hotspots or where it has been widely reported there will be future growth.

But a wise investor will take a few additional steps before committing to a new property, which I’d like to share here based on my own knowledge and experience of the real estate sector.

Speak to several agents

It’s all too easy to skip this step, especially when you think you’ve found the perfect property. But why deny yourself insight from people with a strong interest in the local property market? Most realtors become experts in their areas and can offer in-depth knowledge that isn’t readily available elsewhere (such as online). They will also have first-hand experience of market trends and may well have key facts about new developments, work in the area or issues in a specific location. They’ll know all about the current prices, the rental brackets and the future sales potential of any asset, so use this to your advantage.

Eye the local market

Doing your due diligence is a given. Sizeable investments such as real estate require a firm understanding of what you are putting money into. When looking at a potential property, take your time in examining the broader market and, wherever possible, compare similar assets. If you’re thinking about that seven-bedroom villa on the Palm, it’s good practice to examine the price trends, but it’s also worth considering how long they take to sell, how many are currently on the market (and why) and cast your net further afield to see what your investment might bring if you were to buy in another area. In my experience, getting more ‘bang for your buck’ now will only help to secure more generous returns in the future.

Learn about law and taxation

International property investment can be fraught with tax and residency laws. While Dubai has a well-established regulatory framework and world-renowned tax and residency advantages, not everywhere is so forward-thinking.

For instance, some property purchases come with occupancy or residency rules and regulations, tax implications and short-term leasehold or freehold arrangements. Over and above these factors, do some research into local build quality, rental prices and the state of the market’s real estate sector.

Location

The old adage that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, has never been more pertinent than in the case of property investment. Make sure that you visit the property, tour the area and speak with the locals. Look at the wider economy, tourist figures and future government plans too. A good investment today could turn sour tomorrow if you buy somewhere with lax regulations, poorly thought-out laws or the potential for political turmoil.

Fix your finances

Check the payment schedule for the property you are interested in and take advantage of any scheme that allows you to spread your costs. Country by country, pre-purchase costs can vary wildly, and it’s worth ensuring that you have legal and accounting advice before diving into another asset for your portfolio. If you are investing in a rental property, secure a local manager and allow for ongoing fees and unexpected costs when you consider your budget. Things can (and do) go wrong, so take care.

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a property, especially when investing to enhance a growing portfolio. However, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Wherever and however you invest, I hope your experience is both stress-free and smooth.

What are uber-luxury real estate buyers looking for

What are uber-luxury real estate buyers looking for?

I’ve spent my life in and around the UAE’s real estate sector, both due to my family’s involvement in DAMAC Properties and, more recently, my uber-luxury venture, AHS Properties. I’ve witnessed numerous changes within the prime and super-prime sectors, but which – if any – trends have stood the test of time, and what are likely to be the next big trends?

Location

Among the primary considerations for any uber-luxury buyer are privacy and position. Understandably, buyers in this segment also want something with the ‘wow factor’, and with a wealth of unique vistas, high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) living in the UAE can choose from stunning beachfront or waterside residences, golf course villas, mountain backdrops or penthouse views of our unique city skyline.

For expats and entrepreneurs who choose to make the UAE their home, our nation has more to offer than stunning scenery alone. Several advantages come with this territory. The new golden visa scheme, for example, provides security for visa holders and their families, who can enjoy 10-year renewable residences (Golden Visa) with a host of other benefits. Visa flexibility is a must-have for those looking to relocate to a new country.

World-class travel links are also high on the priority list for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), as choosing a well-connected location makes it hassle free while travelling for business and visiting family. With that in mind, Dubai is ideally positioned as a travel hub, with the world’s busiest airport, Dubai International (DXB), on its doorstep. Amazingly, one-third of the world’s population lives within a four-hour flight of DXB, and two-thirds are reachable by an eight-hour flight. It’s easy to see why our Emirate is the location of choice for skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovators alike.

Customisable living

When investing in uber-luxury real estate, bespoke spaces are king. Buyers at this end of the market are looking for properties that truly encompass their lifestyle requirements, with one-of-a-kind features to make their properties unique and reflective of their personalities. Indoor pools, personal libraries, bowling alleys, or even full-sized golf courses are just a handful of ways that uber-luxury buyers have customised their spaces.

On top of this, it seems the global pandemic shifted the mindset of buyers towards wanting a greater degree of flexibility from their plot. No longer do these spaces fulfil a sole function as residences; they must also become offices, sports clubs, and wellness centres. A home that can not only provide the highest standard of household living but also deliver many of the amenities that you would usually seek elsewhere really does speak to purchasers at this level, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To protect themselves, their families, and their investments, ultra-luxury real estate investors have begun to place greater emphasis on security. Companies such as Oppidum are building secure underground residences (panic rooms) with an ultra-luxurious edge. Imagine a subterranean ‘bunker’ equipped with fully kitted-out lounges, bedrooms, and perhaps even a luxury spa or indoor garden space. Of course, the UAE is one of the safest places to live globally (perhaps another reason for expats to relocate here!), so the practical applications for such spaces are limited. Nevertheless, these installations are an impressive addition to HNWIs.

Sustainable spaces

Those with close-to-unlimited budgets can create uber-luxury homes that are constructed to the highest sustainability standards. In doing so, they can drive positive change within the broader real estate industry.

Innovative and sustainability-focused technologies are increasingly in demand among high-end investors in Dubai. The addition of solar panels, electric vehicle infrastructure and water recycling systems to a property increases its desirability among eco-conscious investors who want to secure not only the future of their investment but of the planet too.

While the finer details of these factors are always fluid, location, customisation, and sustainability are likely to remain constant within the uber-luxury segment. Fortunately, how these elements are achieved will vary infinitely between developers and investors, enabling a greater degree of flexibility and choice for the buyer.

After all, making the place your own will never go out of style.

The top five things I’ve learnt about luxury real estate

The top five things I’ve learnt about luxury real estate

Source: Cityscape Intelligence

My uber-luxury property venture, AHS Properties, has gone from strength to strength, and I’m thrilled that our portfolio has grown despite the seeming global economic issues caused by the pandemic.

Established in early 2021, AHS Properties’ portfolio now has a total asset value of over USD 115 million. My vision is to grow it to US$500 million by the end of 2022 – and we are on our way to achieving that figure.

An overarching point I’ve noticed is that luxury property is a booming sector, with strong opportunities for investors.

The sector has weathered the pandemic, and I am very optimistic about the future. Here are a few points I’ve noticed after my focus on the sector over the last few years.

  1. DESIGN, MATERIAL, AND QUALITY

Those investing in exceptional properties demand and expect a higher level of build quality, facilities, materials, and attention to detail. And rightly so. We see properties with a host of ‘extras’ such as imported flooring, designer pieces, and future-proof technology.

Gyms, pools, saunas, and cinema rooms turn a great property into a luxury property.

  1. SPACE AND PRIVACY

Properties with more space-  including gardens, pools and even private beaches – are attracting more interest than ever before, as the post-pandemic mindset is still mindful of spending more time at home – or creating a safe, private second home environment as an escape from the rigours of urban life. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that properties located next to water – especially those Palm Jumeirah villas – are attracting a premium over inland properties.

  1. HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

There’s great interest in properties with well-established gardens, pools, gyms, and access to health facilities. Again, I think as a result of the pandemic, people are more inclined to ensure their luxury property includes elements which will help them live more healthily and happily within their own safe space. We will also see this increasing, as the region eyes more branded residences, which include full-service spas, gyms, pools, and fitness facilities.

  1. LUXURY PROPERTY INVESTMENT IS A SOLID ASSET CLASS

Real estate remains a trustworthy alternative asset class, despite the turmoil of recent years. We are witnessing a surging interest in uber-luxury as people want to invest in bricks and mortar. There is an increase in the number of HNWIs eyeing the region for investment opportunities, fuelling the growth in high-end properties, branded residences, and unique dwellings.

  1. COVID-19 CONCERNS HAVE IMPACTED INVESTORS’ DECISIONS

Perhaps another overriding trend is driven by COVID-19 concerns. Many individuals have shifted their investment priorities, looking for places to invest like Dubai and the UAE, which offer a perfect investment environment, with tax breaks, easy visas, world-class infrastructure, and the chance to build a portfolio with excellent returns.

As we approach the final quarter of 2022, the uber-luxury market in the UAE and region looks set to continue its growth–driven by global economic and political turmoil. The UAE clearly offers a safe haven for investors looking for certainty in an uncertain world.

Effective CSR needs charismatic leaders to engage employees

CSR in 2022 is a business norm. Today, consumers and stakeholders expect that companies will act with honesty and integrity and aim to give something back to their communities and wider society.

Also, corporate social responsibility has become a critical factor in how employees choose where to work and where consumers choose to spend their money. Large corporates have an (often unwritten) mandate to better understand the impact they have on the world around them.

Danish toy company Lego always scores highly on global CSR tables; its focus on conducting its business fairly, ethically, and transparently has clearly won the hearts and minds of its public.

The company operates with a top-down approach to CSR activities, and I believe this is a key factor to ensure company-wide buy-in of CSR values.

More locally, the UAE CSR Fund is a federally-mandated organisation tasked with establishing the United Arab Emirates as a global leader in Corporate Social Responsibility.

DAMAC Foundation (HSDF) engages in charitable initiatives that provide a wide range of assistance that benefits the underserved and marginalised sectors of society. Recent initiatives include an AED5 million pledge to the ‘1 Billion Meals’ campaign, which was launched at the start of Ramadan 2022, and the ‘Fresh Slate’ initiative, which was developed in collaboration with Dubai Police to help detainees charged with petty offences get a second chance.

The pandemic certainly brought out the best in a lot of organisations, especially from a social responsibility perspective. Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society is perhaps just one good example of a company which has a strong track record of ‘giving back’. As well as making multiple local and international charity donations during the height of the pandemic, it helps fund local university places for underprivileged youth.

Global Investment portfolio company, Dubai Holding Assets Management (DHAM) L.L.C. holds an annual charity walk to raise funds for local charities and raise the profile of our city’s humanitarian ethos. In 2022, “WeWalk” supported the UAE Rare Disease Society, raising hundreds of thousands of dirhams and attracting more than 1,000 walkers.

The company sponsors schools; has installed water fountains across several of its destinations to reduce single-use plastics, and operates a partnership with the World Food Programme to assist in local food security – to name a few of its programmes.

Most importantly, it seems that CSR runs through the veins of Dubai Holding, and it’s no surprise that the company is overseen by none other than Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum himself.

Of course, leadership has to lead by example, but even more so when it comes to CSR. Employees look to management for the lead on ethical matters, on how to represent the company’s values in wider society, and how to ensure the company’s reputation is enhanced by CSR.

When management shares an enthusiasm for positive activities and behaviours, it filters down through the organisation.

And, of course, CSR doesn’t always have to be external – or publicised. Some of the most effective CSR programmes involve catering to staff well-being and mental health through such things as flexible working, creches, different types of leave, and rewards for behaviour that aligns with CSR activity.

Younger employees especially have a higher expectation of great working conditions and practices, and they look for tangible ways a company works to help protect the environment and look after their talent.

We have moved into an era where CSR is no longer something corporates pay lip service to; we must also walk the talk and lead by example.

Ensuring your CSR initiatives are known and acted upon across the organisation is a vital task, underlining how company success is often the sum of many disparate parts. But the benefits are clear:

Increased employee satisfaction

Savvy employees want to work for a company with demonstrable CSR activities. Embracing CSR means attracting employees who share your approach, and studies show they are more likely to stay working with you.

And working toward an ethical, inclusive workplace certainly creates a better working environment.

Improved public image

As well as creating a good feeling amongst your staff, consumers expect companies to act with integrity, honesty, and heightened responsibility towards the environment and the communities in which they operate. Simply put, consumers are drawn toward organisations driven by a noble sense of purpose and form stronger emotional attachments to brands with demonstrable CSR goals.

Increased customer loyalty

Studies have shown that people are willing to pay more for products and services from companies displaying a strong sense of purpose, such as the example of Tom’s Shoes, which invests a third of its profits in “grassroots good”, such as cash grants and partnerships with community organisations, to help drive sustainable change.

Increased creativity

We’ve all had those “wow” moments when we read about organisation’s who adopt clever ways to become more sustainable or help their local communities. Leaders who view their business through the lens of CSR are frequently inspiring, creative and charismatic. Re-imaging a better business in a better world leads to true innovation.

Through engaging in CSR practices and being conscious of the social, cultural, and environmental consequences of business practices, organizations gain great benefits, as well as the wider community.

Reputation is everything, and CSR should be a priority, pushed by C-level executives down through the organisation. By prioritising it, brands can build a stronger, more loyal customer base, but also contribute towards making a more positive impact in the world – and isn’t that something we all strive for?