Bank staff to fuel autumn Dubai real estate shortage

The Dubai International Financial Centre continues to staff up operations as the oil boom grows and the need to recycle petrodollars becomes more critical. Last week Deutsche Bank said it was relocating another 185 bankers to Dubai. Other international banks are also on an expansion track and local banks will not be far behind as their profits surge this year.

United Arab Emirates: 11 hours, 30 minutes ago
Bankers used to paying high rents are moving into Dubai
Bankers used to paying high rents are moving into Dubai
It is remarkable to think that the DIFC only came to life five short years ago in 2003, and that its debut was marred by controversy over a sacked regulator and then a local stock market crash in 2006.

Yet the number of financial firms in the DIFC passed 100 over a year ago, and the staff numbers are surging too. Support firms are mushrooming as well, with London commercial lawyers Herbert Smith for instance up from 10 to more than 50 staff in the first year of operation.

You do have to credit Dubai with astutely spotting another market opportunity: an international financial hub regulated to global standards with its law in English. Getting the big international banks involved at an early stage made success just a matter of time.

New buyers

Now consider the impact on the Dubai residential real estate market. These new professionals are largely expatriates from other financial centres and used to paying high rents for accommodation.

That is why they do not flinch at the high office rents in the DIFC where all space under construction is committed, and finding offices within the surrounding district challenging and expensive. It is the same story for residential property.

Bankers relocating to Dubai are pleasantly surprised by the cost of local rents, unlike long-standing residents who find them appallingly high. They are also likely to have access to low-cost, dollar-based housing finance to buy in Dubai.

Indeed, many bankers and DIFC support services staff are savvy enough to read the market correctly. Rental inflation has been high in Dubai and shows no sign of slowing down, so buying as a hedge against inflation of rent makes sense and is also probably a good capital investment as rental yields are high by global standards.

Past precedent

There are also good past precedents to consider. Bankers moving to Hong Kong in the early 1990s, for example, had the opportunity to buy property into an ongoing boom, and many kicked themselves later for not having bought when they had the chance.

Therefore, perhaps as the hot weather of summer subsides this year we are going to see a wave of new buyers in the residential market from Dubai’s growing financial sector. They will be hoping for a rising market to carry their investment forward and their own buying could make this a self-fulfilling proposition.

For the smart money will not only be moving to Dubai but buying property in the city while prices remain below comparable financial centres whose immediate outlook is not too bright.


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