Interview: Ammar Abulohom

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Nine years ago, Ammar Abulohom says, he felt like a celebrity. As one of the executives in charge of selling plots on Nakheel’s Dubai Waterfront, the Emirati estate agent was at the forefront of the city’s then booming property market.

The Waterfront, announced in 2006, was at the time one of the most ambitious real estate projects on the planet, including everything from artificial islands, world-class amenities, to a harbour the size of Hong Kong.

Of course, we all know what happened afterwards. The Dubai real estate market tanked in 2008, with properties quickly shedding up to 60 percent of their value, while the Waterfront itself sank when master developer Nakheel was forced to restructure approximately $11bn in debt.

While he may not feel like much of a celebrity these days, as CEO of boutique real estate broker Dar Al Aqar, Abulohom again is well-placed to capitalise on the recent resurgence in the emirate’s property market.

“We are seeing now clearly that people are coming back to Dubai and looking for opportunities, whether that’s a job or for investment, and that’s creating demand for real estate,” he tells Arabian Business. “That drives the prices higher.”

According to analysis by real estate consultant Jones Lang LaSalle, average prices in Dubai rose by more than 20 percent during 2013, and could reach their 2008 peak before the end of this year. Dar Al Aqar, whose chairman is also a former Nakheel executive, probably knows the ups and downs of Dubai property better than most.

“There is a very positive sentiment in the market in Dubai, overall, in real estate and in the economy. The anticipation before the Expo announcement brought in good interest, good demand, and we’ve seen after the announcement good growth in the market overall,” Abulohom says.

He believes that the market has learned its lessons from last time round, and that a more measured approach from developers, investors and regulators will prove for a leaner, more mature growth curve.

“What we used to see was 90 percent finances, and this was open, you could take as many units [as you wanted], beyond the capacity of the individuals applying,” he recalls.

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