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Known for its ultramodern architecture—including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa—and luxury lifestyle, Dubai has become the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a global destination and the business hub of the Middle East. All of this serves to make Dubai and its surrounding areas destinations for compelling real estate investments for buyers from around the world. In this exclusive interview, Dounia Fadi, CEO of Dubai’s MD Properties, sheds light on the challenges and opportunities in her market.

Real Estate magazine: First, how large is your firm, and what regions does it serve?

Dounia Fadi: MD Properties is a young real estate group with 20 highly experienced team members located in the UAE and Qatar; we’re headquartered in Dubai. Not only does MD Properties have a rapidly growing business that caters to our regional client needs across the full spectrum of real estate assets, but we also maintain a global footprint, servicing clients through our associate offices and our network of associated REALTORS® in several key markets, including Europe and Asia Pacific.

RE: What is your housing market like?

DF: The UAE housing market, having an eventful history, has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years. Dubai, specifically, has won the hearts and minds of those who aspire for a safe, clean, progressive and well-balanced lifestyle. In recent times, Dubai has made its mark as a preferred global destination to live and work. Overall, the Dubai housing market is a healthy, balanced market; pricing and control are dynamic, relative to many variants, swinging between a buyer’s and seller’s market. The market has a robust infrastructure to support it for the long term.

RE: What is the average sales price and days on market?

DF: That all depends on the area, development, views and the like. You can find a price differential of up to 20 percent within the same building for different units depending on the floor, view, access, parking spot, etc. Some areas and developments sell within a week; others take up to two months or more.

RE: You mentioned your market’s eventful history. Please elaborate.

DF: From the dramatic rise of per-square-foot pricing our market experienced from 2004 to 2008, to the market crash due to the global financial crisis, followed by an upcycle, then a Russian ruble crash, an oil glut pushing oil prices down, and so forth, many factors have impacted real estate pricing and supply and demand in the UAE.

RE: What are the various types of properties available in your market, and which is most popular?

DF: Our market has residential, commercial, industrial and hospitality offerings. Out of all these, residential properties are the most popular.

RE: How prevalent is new construction/development in your market, and how is it affecting your business?

DF: New developments are launched regularly in our market, making the UAE and Dubai specifically a very exciting place to do business. The launch or completion of new developments has a positive impact on our business. There’s always a new buzz in the market, and that keeps us driven.

RE: What type of buyers do you work with?

DF: Our clients come from all over the world. We’ve closed deals with locals and GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) nationals, in addition to clients from Europe, India, China, Canada, Australia, Africa, etc. This huge diversity is perhaps unique to the UAE—the melting pot of so many nationalities, cultures, traditions and beliefs.

RE: What role does the American real estate market play in your business?

DF: We have seen a surge of American buyers inquiring about various listings in the last two months alone (at press time). It seems like Americans are taking great interest in Dubai real estate specifically. Having said that, the U.S. real estate market doesn’t have much of an impact on our local real estate sector.

RE: What are some of the most important trends in your market?

DF: Our client base has a growing interest in solid rental returns, rather than a need for immediate capital gains. Most investors, akin to other global real estate markets, invest here hunting for strong levels of rental income. Dubai does that well.

RE: What are your biggest challenges/opportunities for growth?

DF: Our biggest challenge is the prevailing economic situation worldwide. That, topped by political disturbances and international policy shifts, impacts the local real estate market. Irrespective of this, we see opportunity in the current environment. There are some very good deals to be had at the moment.

RE: What role does geopolitics currently play in your real estate market?

DF: Geopolitics plays a role across all asset classes and most markets to varying degrees depending on the events at hand. Take, for example, the annexation of Crimea by the Russians and the imposition and continued sanctions by the global community. Because of this, the Russian economy fell into a deeper recession than other commodity-based economies, weakening the ruble relative to the USD further than what otherwise would have been expected. Consequently, we saw a real fall in Russian demand for properties in Dubai. In more recent times, Russia’s pact with OPEC has stabilized the oil market, improving their fortunes. This, coupled with President Trump being elected and his want for better relations with Russia, has caused the ruble to outperform global currencies in the last part of 2016. We’re watching that space.

RE: What are some of your most successful strategies for marketing your business?

DF: That’s a secret ingredient to our business, and we guard that secret well. I can tell you that the cornerstone of our strategy is transparency, honesty and clarity toward all our clients and associates.

RE: How does being part of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® help advance your business?

DF: Being a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® is a great privilege; it reinforces and reaffirms our commitment to being the best in our industry. Having global partners means having global reach, which allows us to serve our customers better. It helps us send our message and vision beyond the Middle East region. We’re proud of our core values and are always ready to work harder, making sacrifices to get the best for our clients. We believe in profitability, but not at the expense of those who trust us to find them their dream home and/or investment.

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