Stands were far from overcrowded today at the Sharjah property exhibition, Acres Middle East 2008, which lured only a small number of Emirati and Arab investors in the wake of the market slowdown. Most did not come to buy. "I am one of many small investors who lost a lot of money," said an Egyptian teacher and owner of a construction company. "I am not buying, of course, but I need to feel the market.
"I bought in Burj Dubai Downtown at Dh5000 (US$1,361) per square foot, and now my property can be found at Dh2000. Emaar is only extending the payment plan by six months but it will need two years for the market to go up." Another Arab visitor who was checking out one of Hydra Property's models called himself a "burnt investor". "In this market the end-user has little rights. My developer is asking me to pay up to 20 per cent of the property before he gives me the purchasing contract. So what happens if I don't like the contract?" he asked.
"They changed Law 13 in Dubai which was a good law. Before, you could pull back and lose 30 per cent of what you paid. Now with the law change in November, you lose up to 30 per cent of the value of the property." Another investor said that he only came to the show to speak to a developer there who had previously sold him and another buyer the same property. "My developer is extremely disorganised," this investor said. The developer gave the investor another unit but he felt the substitute was inferior. The Sharjah property market is open for freehold only to Arab buyers.
"Sales may not be as high as last year but nearly 5,000 visitors came during the first day," according to a spokesman for Emirates Vision, the organiser of Acres Middle East. Last year, about 6,000 attended the exhibition. "Honestly, I thought the number would be less than this." Organisers knew it would be difficult to lure buyers given the credit crunch so they increased their budgets for marketing and advertising this year by nearly 60 per cent.
"We spent a lot of money over two months: 100 ads in the newspapers, six to eight TV spots a day, 300 lamp posts in Sharjah, more than 60,000 brochures," the spokesman said. "We spent several million dirhams." @Email:email@example.com