By Matthew Bate
Everyone wants to see how the market will unfold but the current climate makes it extremely difficult to predict with any real certainty. Instead, now is the time to focus on the changing client needs, which are ultimately crucial to the speed of recovery.
Key differences to the way clients are interacting with agents, include:
A stronger desire to connect
In 2020 people had to embrace distance, reduce socialisation and limit contact. Digital solutions were already growing, and COVID accelerated their adoption. Retail businesses, in particular, reaped massive rewards in the rush to buy online, but when it comes to buying and selling homes, digital can’t replace human interaction: personal connection is key. Consumers are thinking more carefully about who they buy from, and they want experienced, empathetic agents who take time to understand their needs. From a practical perspective, virtual tours and innovative online marketing tools might be here to stay, but we can still expect a strong shift back to the basics of one-to-one communication and building trust.
Redefining the ideal lifestyle
Recent lifestyle changes are affecting what clients want from a home. After months of lockdown, ideal attributes include more space, open plan living, home office areas, and communities with green spaces and open visual corridors, such as parkland, golf course views, or beach access. People value being within walking distance, or a short drive, to shops, schools and other social amenities. Many families are looking to buy or rent larger homes to accommodate relatives from abroad as they embrace the extended family structure. As a result, more established residential communities, as well as the luxury segment, are doing well.
Changing investor demand
The UAE has received global praise for how it has dealt with the many challenges in 2020, and various government support initiatives have helped to soften the economic and social impact. In the real estate sector, we saw the reduction of interest rates, a reduction in the Loan-To-Value ratios for loan facilities, 100% foreign ownership laws, golden visas and more. As well, attractive exchange rates, favourable banking systems, low taxes and a statutory framework to protect foreign investment will strengthen Dubai’s reputation as a safe haven. This year, more foreign investors will choose Dubai as a preferred investment hub, as well as a place to call home. Interest will come from traditional markets, such as Europe, Asia, and North America, alongside the new Israeli market which has opened up.
Irrespective of nationality, investors want an agent who is a true market expert, able to provide transparent and accurate intelligence that will assist in driving sustainable investment strategies. As the Dubai real estate sector matures, it becomes more complicated to navigate, creating a need for investment advisors that can execute tailored investment plans, across a diverse portfolio of ready and off-plan properties.
Creating valuable partnerships with sellers
Sellers have been increasingly forgotten in recent years, especially amongst some of the larger agencies who are driven by volume. After the rollercoaster ride of 2020, sellers are looking for a brokerage partner who appreciates that selling a property is a major life event, and understands the significance it has for their livelihoods. Like in many other industries, companies that can provide a more responsive, personalised service are attracting client interest. More exclusive listings with bespoke realtors are likely; that said, agents should also consider shared transactions between brokers in order to maximise the pool of buyers and obtain the best price for the seller. There is a financial sacrifice to the agency, however, it results in the right transaction done the right way.
About the Author
Matthew Bate is the Managing Director of The Urban Nest which specialises in sales, leasing, investment strategy, and portfolio management across Dubai’s premium residential communities.