Some homebuyers in the largest project on Reem Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will have to wait until late February before they are handed their keys as regulatory delays have pushed back delivery dates by at least six months.
The Profile Group, which bought two buildings in Marina Square and sold them on, told buyers this week that units in those two buildings would be delivered on February 28.
Marina Square comprises 3,440 apartments in a cluster of buildings on the western side of the island. The developer Tamouh Investments initially said the homes would be delivered in July this year. Last month, the delivery date was pushed back to the end of this month.
"The master developer has advised that the building is now virtually complete and nearing its final phase of inspections by the local authorities and agencies," said the Profile Group, a property investor and broker.
A Tamouh spokeswoman said the overall Marina Square project was being delivered in stages, starting at the end of this month and extending to the end of February. Tala Tower, a building in Marina Square that caught fire during construction in October last year, will not be delivered until even later.
Tamouh and Sorouh Real Estate, the developer behind the Sun and Sky Towers on the other side of Reem Island, both claim that their buildings are complete and ready for residents to move in but that the process of certifying them as ready for occupancy has pushed back delivery dates.
Handover delays will be grim news for owners of the properties, some of whom are renting alternative accommodation while they wait. Property brokers consider the start of these handovers as a crucial milestone before sales can pick up in Abu Dhabi. Sales have plummeted and prices have declined by more than half in some areas. Off-plan sales - sales of buildings that are not yet complete - have completely dried up.
With buyers now exclusively interested in finished homes, brokers say the addition of thousands of units could jump-start activity the sector.
Municipal authorities in the capital have declined to explain the delays in certifying buildings on the island.
Traditionally, the process includes ensuring all equipment is working correctly and fire safety provisions are in place.
The authorities also plan to announce a series of property laws that will govern sales of homesand the maintenance of buildings with multiple owners.
Last month, Tamouh said construction was finished and it was ready to deliver. But it added: "We had to spend extra time and effort to comply with the additional requirements of various authorities."
Development has slowed significantly on Reem Island in the past two years.
Sorouh - one of the three master developers of the project - says construction is proceeding on just 10 of 50 plots on its parcel of land.
The property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle said in a report last month that 60 per cent of the projects announced in 2008 would be abandoned because they were no longer feasible.