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Middle East property research society planned

Historically the quality of research in the region has been poor, but it is improving significantly, says an expert.

A Middle East property industry research body aimed at helping developers and governments make better decisions on the market is likely to be operating in the first half of this year. The Property Research Society, which is sponsored by Aldar Properties, has attracted interest from more than 100 industry players, including bankers, developers, researchers and brokers. Charlie Acworth, the director of research and head of commercial leasing at Aldar, said the slowdown was a good time to develop such a body, as those involved in the sector had time to better understand and analyse market information. "One of the benefits of the credit crunch is that we're now better able to manage information. Unfortunately, the market hasn't been transparent about some of the information that has been made public," he said. Mr Acworth said he hoped the society would encourage market research firms to be more conscientious about what they produced. "There's no question in my mind that, historically, the quality of research in the region has been poor, but it is improving significantly," he said. "I read two reports in the last month that were better than anything that was out there a year ago." The society will be modelled on the Society of Property Researchers in the UK and will aim to improve transparency by providing a forum for members to gather and share data and resource tools. "It's about making sure different people come together and understand the same thing," said Mr Acworth. "We'll hopefully have a body which would then go to the government and say, 'this is what you need to do and we'll support you in doing that'." At the height of the property boom, developers paid little attention to undertaking thorough market studies, according to Adel al Zarooni, the managing director of Burooj Properties. He said accurate information, particularly when it came to property prices, was necessary to help restore confidence. "In the past, developers were rushing to announce projects without studying the market," he said. "Everyone was in a race and launched products at ridiculous prices. We need accurate market and price studies. Information that is inaccurate will not help bring confidence to the market." Sorouh Real Estate is also backing the society. Gurjit Singh, the company's chief property officer, said it would help the market emerge from the slowdown and make it stronger in the long term. "Decisions will be made on a more informed basis," he said. "In the past, the momentum was probably too much for comprehensive research to be undertaken." He added that it was crucial for banks to be involved with the group. "There will be a necessity for developers to understand how banks are faring in terms of their performing and non-performing loans and it will also be important as to how financial institutions work with developers to create financing and mortgaging products that are tailored to the market." agiuffrida@thenational.ae

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