The perception of real estate in much of the Middle East has recently changed. As one of the sectors worst hit by the economic slowdown, not a day seems to go past without news of further layoffs and new projects being postponed.
The outlook appears grim, as former real estate agents are purportedly resorting to becoming illegal taxi drivers and property prices, it has been claimed, have dropped in some areas by as much as 50 percent.
But is this the reality? Whilst cities such as Dubai are certainly suffering a drop in real estate prices, have all other parts of the GCC region been affected to the same degree? CEO Middle East looks at why there are still some good opportunities to be found in the region for property investment and where they can be found.
Perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of real estate news to come out of the region in recent weeks, is Saudi Arabia's recent decision to ban the sale of off-plan properties, without the permission of a special committee. Arguably a step towards setting up more stringent regulations for the Kingdom's real estate sector, this could perhaps lead to greater confidence for real estate investors seeking greater stability in the market.
The committee, which imposed the ban, has also been discussing guidelines regarding conditions developers must meet, such as providing proof of their technical qualifications and financial capabilities. Measures to define the rights of consumers and protect them from exploitation by real estate developers, and brokers, are also said to be being drawn up.
Though Saudi Arabia, as a market, is largely end-user driven, Salwa Malhas, executive vice president of Al Mazaya Holding, recently said that she hoped these policies would help restore consumer confidence.
The strictures could result in Saudi Arabia becoming an increasingly safe option for buyers in the long term, and are certainly a step in the right direction for future development. With real estate leaders predicting that the market will remain strong in 2009, Saudi could increasingly become an area to watch in the upcoming months.
Another country to increasingly watch, both in real estate and elsewhere, is Qatar. Fuelled by its liquefied natural gas, the country is the only one in the region that has been predicted to experience growth in the double digits this year. With the Qatar Investment Authority spreading its wealth around different parts of the world, it could be smart for the world to invest in Qatar.