A man of property

CEO Middle East talks to Masood Al Awar, the first man to sell freehold property in Dubai

Masood Al Awar is running a little behind for our interview at the Shangri La hotel in Dubai. Ever the professional, he phones ahead to apologise, saying he will be precisely seven - not six or eight – minutes late, and requests that I order him a glass of his favourite pineapple juice.

Sure enough, Al Awar merges in the lobby of the hotel at around 11:07. Having used the extra few minutes to take a further scan of his biography, it’s clear that his punctuality is just one of the assets that has helped him stay one step ahead of the pack during a frenetic period for the UAE real estate market.

As proof of this, Al Awar holds the title of being the first real estate agent to sell freehold property in Dubai and he was also instrumental in arranging the first visa for an overseas property owner.

“It was the Dubai Marina project - that was the first ever ownership of a planned freehold. When I started it was a 99-year lease and it turned into a freehold within six months,” he recalls.

Al Awar made the ground-breaking sale while he was at Emaar Properties, the developer of the Burj Khalifa - the world’s largest building - where he worked for seven years.

After earning his stripes at the Dubai master developer, Al Awar worked for Abu Dhabi’s Sorouh Real Estate for two years before deciding it was time to go it alone. He then helped set up Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing at the beginning of 2009.

In between selling that first property and setting up shop on his own, the UAE market went on a rollercoaster ride, with prices shooting up nearly as fast as floors were added to the Burj Khalifa and then slumping nearly 60 percent as they went into freefall in the wake of the Lehmans Brothers crash and the global financial tsunami that swept across the world’s stock markets.

With around half of projects mothballed or fast tracked from the design desk to the wastepaper basket, Al Awar again saw a unique opportunity and decided to take a fresh look at the downturn.

Snapping up distressed assets – or strategic property acquisitions as Al Awar prefers to call them – he set up a fund worth around $250 million and began sifting through the roll call of properties on offer.

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