x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Frustrated Tala Tower buyers try to sell

Sorouh Real Estate says it may not be able to deliver the Reem Island project as planned because of an inspection related to a fire last October.

Abu Dhabi Government authorities are inspecting Tala Tower after a fire broke out on the site last October.
Abu Dhabi Government authorities are inspecting Tala Tower after a fire broke out on the site last October.

Buyers of homes in the Tala Tower on Reem Island have started advertising their apartments for sale with steep discounts, after it was revealed that the building may not be handed over on time this year. Sorouh Real Estate, which bought the 49-storey building and sold the apartments individually, informed buyers in a letter last Wednesday that Abu Dhabi Government authorities were still "inspecting the building as part of their safety procedures" after a fire in the car park last October.

Sorouh said in its letter that it "remains confident that Tala Tower will be ready for handover to customers from mid-2010", but sources familiar with the situation said that no substantive construction had taken place at the tower since the fire. Tamouh Investments, the master developer and builder of the Marina Square project that includes Tala Tower, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The building was supposed to be handed over at the start of this year, but the delay caused by the fire triggered a clause in the contracts with Sorouh that would give the company another six months to turn the homes over to the buyers. Simon Cunningham, the chief of sales and marketing, said yesterday that "Sorouh is committed to updating its customers as and when it receives the information".

Adel Hamaizia, the business development manager of the estate agency Re/Max Abu Dhabi, said buyers of apartments in the tower were trying to unload the properties with prices as low as Dh700 to Dh800 per square foot, while the prevailing rate for homes on Reem Island was more than Dh1,000 per sq ft. "There's a lot of uncertainty," he said. "Prices at the tower have been under the market for the last few months."

It is still unclear what the Abu Dhabi authorities are inspecting at the Tala Tower. Lt Col Mohammed al Naimi, of the Emergency and Public Safety Department, told The National in October that the fire was caused by substances that "shouldn't be there" but did not elaborate. He declined to comment yesterday. The smoky blaze trapped two dozen workers atop one of the nearby buildings. Some of them were rescued by helicopters. Fire fighting crews were delayed by rush-hour traffic outside the entrance to Reem Island and the smoke from the fire drifted in a massive cloud over the city throughout the afternoon.

At the time, Joe Ong, the chief executive of Tamouh, said that there had been no structural damage to the buildings and that work would continue as planned. Sami Latouf, a buyer in the building, said that many of the buyers were "very upset" about the uncertainty over when they could take control of their homes. He posted his three-bedroom apartment for sale in October for about Dh2.8 million (US$762,000), or Dh1,400 per sq ft, but he has not yet sold the apartment.

"It was supposed to be delivered in December 2009," he said. "It got postponed until June 2010. But I doubt I'll be handed the keys until 2012 judging by the development speed." Buyers said that for each month that the hand-over was delayed, they had to make mortgage payments without the possibility of rental income. Few apartments are trading on Reem Island in general because of the lack of clarity about handover dates and high prices, said Raed Hamze, the manager of property sales at The Real Estate Specialists.

"At the moment we don't have any transactions on Reem Island, while we are seeing transfers every week on villa projects like Al Reef," he said. "We have lots of calls about sellers at Tala Tower, but nobody is buying. Prices are still high." bhope@thenational.ae