By Rupert Wright www.thenational.ae
News of the death of the property business in the UAE has been so exaggerated that one almost expected to see tumbleweed blowing down the aisles of the Cityscape exhibition in Abu Dhabi this week.
But in fact there was quite a smattering of men in suits clustered around models. Some of the models thought this was a good thing. “It’s been a quiet show so far,” said one. “But we expect it to pick up this afternoon.”
There was no shortage of models of buildings either. These beautifully crafted, colour-co-ordinated constructions, some at least eight metres square, give a vision of how Abu Dhabi might look. They include miniature models of major projects announced in the heady days of 2007 and 2008.
More than 16,000 homes will come on to the market this year alone, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consultancy.
The head of one property company, who did not wish to be identified, said there was no “lack of demand”.
In his opinion, the problem was more two key issues: the lack of a legal framework, and the absence of financing.
“Where are the local banks?” he asked. “How can you persuade a foreign investor to come here if local financial institutions will not put up their money?”
Down the hall, the most conspicuous bank was Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. On its colourful stand Haytham Mohammed Soliman, an Islamic home finance officer, said there was money available for expatriates buying in Abu Dhabi, and for locals throughout the Emirates.
“By Monday lunchtime we have had 50 clients, but only five or six approvals,” he said. “We will finance 70 per cent of the purchase price, at a very good profit rate.”
The main gripe among prospective buyers was the prices.
“They need to come down,” said Adel al Tamimi, an Emirati who lives in Abu Dhabi, who was at the show looking for investment properties.
A property mogul agreed, although he also did not want to be identified.
“Abu Dhabi should not be so much more expensive than its neighbour. There is now the difference between the two of housing plus a Toyota Corolla. Anyone young is going to take the Toyota and commute”, he said.
Timothy Morton, who lives in Dubai and had driven to the event in an unidentified car, said he was at the exhibition to look for investments.
“It’s more sedate than in previous years. There are still fancy graphics, but there is less of a buying frenzy. It’s more of an information event.”