x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hopeful house-hunters waited for hours to inspect Emaar's latest tranche of luxury villas – despite knowing neither which properties nor what prices were on offer.

Villas at the Arabian Ranches on Emirates Road in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Villas at the Arabian Ranches on Emirates Road in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Khalil Oudah arrived at the Emaar sales centre in Abu Dhabi at 7am yesterday – three hours before the developer’s latest batch of villas went on sale.

“Last time, I came a bit late, and they were all gone,” he said. He was not about to make the same mistake again.

Mr Oudah was one of about 60 people queuing outside the Emaar office on Corniche Road yesterday for the chance to buy one the developer’s new Lila villas in the Dubai Arabian Ranches development scheduled for completion in 2017. A similar event was held in Dubai.

Like others in the queue who were invited to the event after registering online earlier last week, he didn’t know what properties would be available or for what price. This is just the latest sign that the UAE’s property market is reheating, as investors’ risk appetites strengthen.

“Most people who are speculating on house prices in 2017 would rather put their money into property. It’s a hedge against inflation, which is set to increase next year,” said Junaid Ahmed, a partner at Ideal Homes Realty who attended the sale.

“It’s my first time buying for the last five or six years”, said Sulaiman Hamdo, who was also queueing. “I had a few properties in 2008, but sold them at a loss because I needed the cash.”

Prices varied from Dh1,000 to 1,150 per square foot, lower than the current market average for existing Arabian Ranches villas in Hattan, Dubai, which currently sell at Dh1,750 a sq ft, and close to the going rate for a mid-range apartment in Abu Dhabi’s Al Reem of Dh1,170 a sq ft.

But the prices of these new villas include discounts both for the uncertainty involved in making a purchase three years in advance, and to compensate for investors’ funds’ alternative uses in the meantime.

Sara Sayegh, whose family bought a three-bedroom villa in the sale, said: “It’s an investment. I’m hoping housing prices will go up.”

Not everyone found themselves a new home. Mr Oudah left just after 9.45am. “I was looking for investment purposes – but they’re too expensive. People who were waiting with me at 7am are now leaving.”

Emaar declined to comment.