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71,000 new homes to drive UAE property prices further down

February 11, 2020

Dubai, UAE,

Property prices in the UAE continue to soften despite showing signs of improvement in 2019, according to a latest report by Knight Frank. As many as 71,000 new homes are set to be delivered in 2020, which will put further pressure on prices and rents, the report says.

“Residential sales prices in Abu Dhabi fell on average by 7.5 percent in 2019, whilst prices in Dubai fell by 6.0 percent over the same period,” the report says. “Dubai’s residential market is showing very early signs of recovery as we begin to see a sustained increase in transaction volumes. Initial data releases show that residential transaction volumes in 2019 have increased by 26 percent compared to 2018.

“The delivery of upcoming supply in Abu Dhabi and much more so in Dubai is the most significant headwind facing the UAE’s residential market over the coming year.”

In 2020 over 8,500 units are expected to be delivered in Abu Dhabi, the most since 2013. In Dubai, almost 62,500 units are due for completion in 2020. Whilst we are unlikely to see this entire pipeline come to fruition, the quantum of stock set to be delivered is likely to be the highest since 2008.

“Whilst in the short to medium term this influx of supply will continue to put pressure on prices and rents, there are a range of measures which have been implemented and will contribute to the strong fundamental offering of the UAE’s property market,” the report says.

Initial estimates from the UAE Central Bank show that the UAE’s GDP increased by 2.3 percent in 2019, up from the 1.7 percent growth recorded in 2018. This stronger rate of GDP growth has been primarily driven by the hydrocarbon sector, which is expected to record growth of 4.9 percent in 2019, up from 2.8 percent in 2018.

The non-oil sector has seen relatively muted growth in comparison with growth in 2019 expected to register at 1.4 percent, up marginally from 1.3 percent in 2018.

Looking ahead, the UAE’s GDP is expected to pick up momentum and record a growth rate of 2.2 percent in 2020, before tapering slightly to 2.1% in 2021 according to data from Oxford Economics. Expo 2020, existing stimulus packages and expansionary budgets are set to underpin these stronger rates of growth.

Taimur Khan, Associate Partner at Knight Frank Middle East, stated: “Whilst performance in the UAE’s real estate sectors has continued to soften on average, we have begun to see performance in certain market segments and asset grades being to fragment. More so, the introduction of a range of regulations to increase the ease of doing business and balance out supply and demand will enhance the fundamentals offering of the UAE’s property market and in turn enhance confidence from developers and investors.”

Over the course of 2020, the trend of consolidation and a flight to quality is likely to continue across the UAE, driven by softer market conditions and regulatory changes, such as the 100 percent foreign ownership law and dual licencing.

In Abu Dhabi it expects rental rate declines to moderate, however the market is likely to remain favoured towards occupiers. “As this trend comes to fruition we expect to see longer term commitments from corporate occupiers, with average lease lengths likely to shift towards the five-year mark,” the report says.

“Over the next three years, we expect over 392,000 square metres of supply to be delivered in Abu Dhabi, a 10.6 percent increase compared to current total stock. However, as the majority of this stock is in non-core locations or is built-to suit for owner occupation, we do not anticipate that this additional supply will have a material impact on market performance.

“The short to medium term outlook for Dubai’s commercial market remains negative with rents expected to continue to decline across all segments. However, we are likely to see the office market begin to fragment – by area and even within asset grades.”

As at 2019, Dubai’s total GLA totalled 10.05 million square metres by 2025. We estimate that this will total 11.3 million square metres, an increase of 12.5 percent.

“In 2020, Knight Frank estimates delivery of over 280,000 square metres of commercial space in Dubai. The take up of such space is likely to be driven by relocations rather than new market entrants, which is expected to put further pressure on rental rates within locations where this additional supply is being delivered,” it said.

“Whilst there will be an impact on retailers margins as we see greater levels of penetration from e-commerce and as of more recently e-retailers, physical retail space in the UAE, particularly that which is focused around destination and entertainment focused developments will attract both retailers and consumer demand.

However, looking at the pipeline of upcoming developments in Abu Dhabi and more so in Dubai, we expect further pressure to be exerted on retail assets of all grades across the UAE.”

In Dubai, over the five years to 2025 retail stock is expected to increase by 56 percent to 5.91 million square metres, from 3.46 million square metres as at Q4 2019. Over 90 percent of Dubai’s retail offering is classed as regional or super-regional stock; almost 83 percent of the upcoming stock by total area is also classed as regional or super-regional stock.

In Abu Dhabi, Knight Frank estimates that by 2023 we are likely to see the delivery of over 680,000 square metres of retail space, a 36 percent increase from the current level of total stock.

Almost 85 percent of total upcoming stock by total area is classed as regional or super-regional stock. These regional or super-regional centres are in the main destination and entertainment focused offerings and therefore are likely to attract demand, at the expense of older malls which do not reposition their offering.

Despite a positive momentum in visitation numbers, performance almost universally declined in the UAE’s hospitality sector, with citywide RevPARs falling between 6.5 percent and 14.8 percent, with Abu Dhabi being the sole exception where RevPAR increased by 7.2 percent.

Looking ahead, whilst Expo 2020 will certainly help bolster the market, in the medium to long term both developers and operators are concerned about certain micro markets that not only have become extremely competitive in their own right, but also have a sizeable pipeline.

That said, recent government initiatives such as the easing of visa regulations and five year multi-use tourist visas alongside a growing number of varied leisure and cultural demand drivers will help ease this pressure.

Finally, as new and more diverse demand drivers come to fruition, development opportunities remain in certain sub-markets, but can only be fully exploited with a very well differentiated value proposition, and cash optimisation driving the build phase.