The first homeowners at Aldar's Al Bandar development at Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi have been given their keys in a significant milestone for the emirate's largest developer. The handover last week of three towers propels Abu Dhabi's nascent freehold property industry from initial marketing and construction work into the delivery phase, and provides some of the first premium homes in a market that has suffered from undersupply.
Al Bandar is an island development set around a marina that features more than 500 units and includes apartments and duplexes, loft-style residences and larger family apartments, all with balconies and waterside views. The overall Al Raha Beach development is located on a stretch of coastline between Abu Dhabi Island and its international airport, and is designed to have 11 "precincts" when fully completed.
Mohammed al Zaabi, the director of estates at Aldar, said the design of Al Bandar promised that "sea views will not be obstructed by any future development in the area, providing true waterfront living". Al Bandar also features a marina with 131 berths ranging in size from 9 metres to 24 metres, and will have swimming pools and a gymnasium. The long-anticipated handover of Al Bandar is expected to generate new interest in the emirate's property market.
According to Better Homes, the country's largest property agency, the development is the most sought-after among expatriates, commanding an average Dh220,000 (US$59,895) a year to lease a two-bedroom apartment. Sale prices range from Dh1,350 to Dh1,400 per square foot, down from an estimated Dh1,800 at the market's peak in 2008. Better Homes estimates the undersupply of housing in the UAE capital runs into tens of thousands of units.
"There is a lack of quality stock in Abu Dhabi, and everyone has been in anticipation about this project coming in, so it couldn't have come any sooner," said Ryan Mahoney, the managing director of Better Homes. Abu Dhabi began allowing foreigners to own freehold and leasehold property in early 2007, spurring a boom in projects at Al Raha Beach, Al Reem Island and at select inland locations such as Al Reef.
While the property developer Manazel delivered the first leasehold units earlier this year at Al Reef, those came with 99-year leases. Aldar's Al Bandar delivery is the first for a freehold property, whose ownership contains no time restrictions. Aldar recently named the first retailers that have signed up to operate at Al Bandar, including Spinneys, the supermarket chain, as well as companies planing to run a pharmacy, hair salon, nail bar, property agent, health clinic and pilates fitness studio.