Housing costs continue to fall in Dubai, according to S&P

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has said that it expects house prices and rents in Dubai to continue to fall throughout 2017 because of the continued fallout from low oil prices and currency woes.

In a note to investors yesterday S&P forecasted that property prices and rents in the emirate would fall by between 5 and 10 per cent this year.

S&P said that house prices in Dubai fell by between 8 and 11 per cent in 2016 while rents declined 6 per cent.

“For 2017, we see no signs of market improvement for the UAE real estate sector, despite housing affordability improving from the current price environment,” S&P said in a statement. “The strength of the dollar is making the UAE increasingly expensive for tourists and low oil prices in 2016 have diminished purchasing power and weakened investor sentiment.”

The ratings agency also pointed to the fall in the value of the UK pound as a major concern for the UAE property market. The currency has declined by 17 per cent against the US dollar in the past 12 months as the UK in June voted to leave the European Union.

Data from the Dubai Land Department showed that UK nationals were the fourth largest investors in residential real estate in the first half of 2016.

Despite the market softness, S&P said it did not expect to lower the ratings on any UAE companies in the sector over the coming year because of the low gearing and long lease structures of the companies it covered – Aldar Properties, Damac Real Estate Development, DIFC Investments, Dubai Investments Park, Emaar Malls Group, Emaar Properties and Majid Al Futtaim Holding.

“We do not foresee major negative movements in our real estate sector ratings in the next 12 to 18 months as we think developers will be able to absorb the fall in house prices because of low debt burdens and strong balance sheets,” S&P said.

Since the third quarter when property brokers were offering a relatively bullish consensus on the outlook, opinions have diverged as to whether the Dubai property market will pick up again in 2017 after two years of falling prices.

Phidar forecasts further falls in prices this year because of the strong dollar, an expected increase in interest rates and slow economic growth. Cluttons has said it does not expect any increase in prices until the end of 2017. However, optimists say that Dubai government infrastructure spending ahead of Expo 2020 is likely to boost job numbers and economic growth this year, pushing house prices up.

At the end of last year, property broker Core Savills said that it had already noted an increase in sale prices in some of Dubai’s lower to mid-market submarkets.

In November, property broker JLL and website Dubizzle said that Dubai house prices will start to rise in 2017. And consultancy Knight Frank is projecting “a gradual recovery” in 2017 as the market rebounds and investors regain confidence.

Earlier this week, Asteco forecast that housing rents in Dubai could continue to come under continued pressure in 2017 as developers across the city plan to complete another 31,500 apartments and 12,500 villas and town houses this year, including City Walk by Meraas, Damac’s Akoya, Dubai Wharf by Dubai Properties and Emaar’s Mira.

The broker said that house prices in Dubai remained relatively flat during the final quarter of 2016, something the broker said signalled “the bottoming out of the [sales] market”.


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