x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Visa rules, growth spur a revival

Better Homes chief executive Ryan Mahoney points to visas and tourism as keys to a property market recovery

Ryan Mahoney, the chief executive of Better Homes, one of the UAE's biggest property companies, has a ground-level view of the market, with a strong sense of what is working - and what's not.

What do you think needs to be done to spur the property market?

There are few key things that need to be addressed, but many of them are already being done. The first thing . is a direct correlation to the growth of the population and the availability of supply in the market. The population needs to continue to grow.

Are there things that can be done to continue that growth?

I think it directly connects to the visa regulations. Obviously, they have to take into consideration national security. But purely from a property perspective the ease of getting visas and becoming a resident in Dubai is critical. Looking at ways that people well-established in business can get longer-term visas is [another option]. The increased ease of doing business - a lot has been done, but a lot more needs to be done. We look at our commercial department, there's a growth of new business coming to Dubai. It's so much easier to set up a business in Dubai . and it's much cheaper due to the oversupply of office space. But still it's not as easy as it is, say, in Singapore and some countries. So that needs to be simplified. From a visa perspective there's opportunities to grow population through special categories. For example, the retiree market. The ability to get special permits so they can live in Dubai beyond a certain age is critical.

So these things are not necessarily property industry related?

The property market is connected to growing new businesses and growing the population . and tourism. Dubai has done so well in the tourism industry, so I think it would be great to get some of those projects back on the table and reenforce that growth. That would lead to growth in the population.

What is the key to growing confidence?

Two things. Fundamentally, population growth will produce yields for these properties and people will start to see that. The other thing of course is the legal infrastructure, the regulatory infrastructure. They need to continue to improve regulation and they're doing that . Rera [Real Estate Regulatory Authority] is doing that.

Any other factors?

Homeowners associations [are vital]. I really believe people's ability to collect service fees is critical to the long-term success and maintenance of those properties. I think Dubai has great homeowner laws and legislation. But so far it has not been implemented.

* Kevin Brass