CEO MENA region, Colliers International
The company started in the GCC in 1996 in Abu Dhabi, and expanded into Dubai in 2000. In 2001, we had six employees and two offices. We now have offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo, and the UAE, and cover about 19 countries. We employ about 150 people, 70% of which are millennials. Going through the financial downturn, we realized that if we continued with our current model, we were not going to last. We changed our business into a consultancy, as people are always looking for consultancy and advisory services. We have to look at what those opportunities are, which we have done successfully. In a bear market, there are always opportunities, and in a bull market, there are even more. The retail sector is under massive pressure, but there are opportunities in that massive pressure. E-commerce is growing, along with data analysis and AI. There are opportunities to reposition shopping centers and opportunities for retailers to do things differently. A shopping center is now a meeting place, an entertainment place, and much more. The company’s global experience allows it to draw on what is happening worldwide. We have completed over 8 million sqm of retail, leasing, development, and consultancy work in the Middle East alone. Colliers employees globally often come to us and ask us for advice based on our vast experience.
Executive Chairman & Founder, Asteco Property Management
When we started in 1985, our market was purely expat rentals. In 2001, non-GCC nationals were allowed to buy in Dubai, leading to an influx of people from Europe and Asia buying property. In 2010, the worldwide economy’s impact on business and property prices was significant. Many people were unable to complete their property purchases, whilst others were able to buy at attractive prices. The property cycle turned and a value increase brought capital gain and more market confidence. People were buying as investments, as opposed to holiday or homes. Now, with the increases in the cost of living, the people buying are end-users. In addition, we are seeing more local sales for properties ready for occupancy. The off-plan stock tends to be sold to overseas buyers. Rents have gone down because supply exceeds demand. Investment transactions for complete buildings are yielding 8% and in demand. In general, our priorities now are focusing on residents and developing a franchise model. We now have a resident population we can work with and help, whether they are owners, residents, or tenants. Our building services division is growing, which is where we help people plan their asset enhancement, a core line of our business. We also want to incorporate more technology, in line with our vision, while remembering that people are as important as technology. In the Middle East, if you treat people with respect and politeness, and you maintain contact, business will come.
CEO, Steve Morgan
All the projects we have been involved in have turned out to be a success. We recently finished the development of 440 villas, all of which have been sold. While Dubai’s market has an oversupply, there is also huge latent demand. In Dubai, there are many long-term expats who have not entered the housing market. There is a reasonably large population of first-, second-, and third-generation expats whom would be interested in buying properties if they could obtain long-term visas. By pushing certain visa policies, the government can stimulate demand. In general, one has nothing to worry about if one builds a property right for the market. For example, though low-income housing is not regarded as an attractive sector, it is extremely needed; if harnessed properly, it can be profitable, too. Some developed markets have done great in affordable housing because it can appeal to institutional investors as a long-term way to secure income. Moreover, it serves the public. Dubai’s dynamics of affordable housing are different because there is no large local population here. There still is a need for affordable housing as the city develops, because we have a transient working population here that serves and runs the city. It should not be difficult for a nurse, for example, to put down roots here and buy real estate. As Dubai grows and develops, it needs a real community not here on a transient basis.