Saturday, November 26, 2005

Liquidity and supply issues drive Dubai prices higher


Waiting for a housing crash to buy a property is like hoping to win a raffle. The chances are it may never happen. And when it does you may not have the ticket to claim your raffle prize or the cash to put down on a deposit.

A word of caution to the many pundits who predict a housing crash in Dubai: one thing well known in the prediction business is that when so many people are predicting an event, it seldom happens, or it does so very much later than predicted.
Consider the UK housing market. How many people said the market was becoming overheated in 1999? And yet there was no sign of a downturn until the summer of 2004, and even now prices have barely moved from their peak levels, despite a series of interest rate rises.
The Dubai Marina factor
The same school of analysts now takes a long-look at the Dubai Marina apartment towers shooting up, and concludes that the end of the Dubai property boom is nigh, and that oversupply is clearly close. But this is not what we see in the marketplace.
It is presently very difficult to find a property to buy in Dubai, and even if you move fast the home that you like is likely to be snapped up from beneath your feet by somebody offering more money. This is an ongoing boom, though admittedly mainly for completed property.
The rental market in Dubai has soared so high this year, up 40% on some reckonings, that the Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has ordered a 15% rental rise cap until the end of 2006. This is hardly the stuff of a property market about to collapse.
Even the upcoming supply is contributing to the boom in prices and rentals by running later and later. For each month's more construction delay means higher rentals and prices in the completed housing market.
What is the base price?
With the huge liquidity in the region is it not more likely that house prices will go higher in the immediate future, before reaching a peak? It could well be that today's prices are therefore the new base price to which prices will fall in a 'housing crash', or the base price level may actually be higher than we see right now.
Meanwhile, those potential buyers who choose to carry on renting have to pay the very high current rental prices; and while the 15% rent cap protects existing tenants, it probably will not help new tenants avoiding a rent rise. Besides which, do not higher rental prices in themselves have an impact on property values?
Surely higher rents make properties worth more, not less? Around the world rental yields are often presently around 50% lower than in Dubai, and why should property investors expect to earn more in a booming city like Dubai? Yet rents have risen by more than house prices this year, can this go on much longer?
No, the immediate pressure on Dubai house prices is all upwards. No doubt supply issues will kick in later on, but this may not be for two or even three more years, assuming that oil prices do eventually come down. But will this happen? Oil supply issues suggest a different market dynamic may be in place.
If oil is now permanently higher in price then Dubai property will settle at a permanently higher level of value as Dubai will become one of the richest cities in the world, and in rich cities property is not as cheap as it currently is in Dubai.

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