x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Property service fee surveys to begin

Data would allow property investors to compare their rates to those of similar developments.

DUBAI // Property experts are preparing the first major benchmark surveys of service fees so that investors who have long complained of excessive rates can compare prices.

The government-backed Middle East Facility Management Association (Mefma) plans this month to start collecting data from its 75 corporate members as well as developers and property owners. The process will span the Gulf region and take one to two years.

Separately, the global property consultancy Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) aims to produce a survey of the UAE by early next year.

The challenge is convincing companies that their information will not be leaked to competitors. Benchmark studies are widely available in developed markets, though the hesitation to disclose persists.

"Sharing that knowledge might tip your hand. Or it might give some sort of undue advantage," said Teena Shouse, the United States-based chairman of Global FM, an international facility management association, during a visit to Dubai this week.

Service fees fund the upkeep of a building, from utilities to security to cleaning.

Mefma and JLL both benefit from having wide networks to tap.

Mefma also expects to proceed with support from the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera), which could bolster its clout while requesting data. Rera created the industry body in 2010.

JLL may start with commercial properties - its speciality - then expand to residential towers.

Both surveys will analyse not only cost but also quality, providing a sliding scale for basic to premium service.

The goal would be to counter pressure to simply slash costs and possibly quality, especially as competition in the growing facility management industry intensifies.

"If you are paying top-dollar rent ... you're probably happy to pay a higher service charge because you would expect higher services," said Graham Howat, the JLL head of property and asset management.

"There are different parameters in the cost per square foot. We can make it as simple as possible but then the index will not be as accurate," said Mefma board member Ali Al Suwaidi. "It will take time."

chuang@thenational.ae