Dubai Plans to Crack Down on Home Flipping That Fed Bubble

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

As Dubai’s economy and property market revive, regulators and companies are trying to avoid a repeat of a real estate bubble that burst in 2008 and caused values to fall by as much as 65 percent. Close

As Dubai’s economy and property market revive, regulators and companies are trying to... Read More

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Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

As Dubai’s economy and property market revive, regulators and companies are trying to avoid a repeat of a real estate bubble that burst in 2008 and caused values to fall by as much as 65 percent.

Dubai plans new rules to control speculation on properties sold before they’re built after home prices climbed by more than 30 percent last year, the head of the emirate’s Land Department said.

The real estate authority plans to complete a review of what are known as off-plan transactions in the first quarter and may introduce new regulations in the second or third quarter, Land Department General Director Sultan Bin Mejren said in an interview. Home prices this year may rise 35 percent to 40 percent, he said.

“Transactions on off-plan properties are a little dangerous,” he said on Jan. 6. “We are now studying them and looking at ways to ensure that they don’t hurt the market.”

As Dubai’s economy and property market revive, regulators and companies are trying to avoid a repeat of a real estate bubble that burst in 2008 and caused values to fall by as much as 65 percent. The buying and selling of off-plan properties for a quick profit, known as flipping, was seen as a major cause of the crash.

Off-plan sales made a comeback last year after drying up following the market’s collapse. That’s helping builders finance projects while sparking concern that speculation is returning. Emaar Properties PJSC (EMAAR), Dubai’s biggest developer, banned the resale of incomplete properties before 40 percent of the home’s total value is paid. The move was made to minimize the effect of speculation, the company said in an e-mail.

Speculation Fodder

In Dubai, buyers usually put down a deposit of about 10 percent on off-plan homes and make additional payments as construction proceeds, with a final sum due when the property is delivered. At the height of the property bubble, contracts often changed hands before any construction took place.

The Land Department is also planning regulations to limit rent hikes when tenants change, Bin Mejren said. While there are caps on increases for existing occupiers, Dubai currently has no controls on increases for new tenants.

“We are studying laws for residential and commercial properties and each will have its own guidelines,” he said. “We expect to have them prepared in either June or the third quarter. There has to be some regulation for new contracts in order to have stable rental increases.”

Rent Controls

The Land Department last week said it’s updating its rental price index, which determines caps on increases depending on the type and location of the property. The changes come as Dubai stands “on the cusp of a new boom in real estate” after it won the bid to host the World Expo 2020 exhibition in November, the department said.

Dubai’s economy may have had the fastest expansion in six years in 2013 after output grew 4.9 percent in the first half. Prices for mid-range apartments in the city rose 43 percent in 2013 after climbing 18 percent in 2012, according to Cluttons LLC data on Bloomberg.

The Dubai Financial Market Real Estate and Construction Index more than doubled last year. Today it climbed 2.7 percent, the most since Dec. 18. Deyaar Development PJSC, the shiekhhdom’s second-largest publicly traded property company, rose 10 percent to the highest since November 2008 on growing investor confidence in the market’s recovery.

Cooling Measures

Regulators last year moved to cool the market after home prices rose at the fastest pace in the world in the second quarter. The Land Department raised the transaction fee to 4 percent from 2 percent and the United Arab Emirates Central Bank imposed restrictions on the value of mortgages made available to foreign buyers. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of all property sales in the emirate are mortgage based, Bin Mejren said.

Dubai also established a center to settle rent disputes that will more than double the number of cases that can be reviewed. Rents for mid-range two-bedroom apartments rose 38 percent last year compared with a 10 percent gain in 2012, according the Cluttons data.

“Don’t look at buying property as though you’re buying shares on the stock market,” Bin Mejren said. “If you buy a property here, hold on to it, because by 2020 the city will be entirely different from what it’s today.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Blackman at ablackman@bloomberg.net; Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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