What is the real 'Trump effect'?

Should we believe the self-styled media mogul when he says his luxury project could result in a 50 percent rise in prices in some parts of Dubai, asks Anil Bhoyrul
By Anil Bhoyrul
Sat 24 May 2014 10:48 AM

I’ve only ever met Donald Trump once. It was seven years ago, and I accidentally stumbled into a board meeting he was having on a construction site in Abu Dhabi with potential investors.

Bizarrely, rather than boot me out, he told me a long-winded story involving him and Tom Cruise. And then booted me out. I have to admit, I rather liked the guy — his bravado, his charm and his arrogance. I guess you could call it the “Trump effect.”

Our deputy editor Courtney Trenwith did a much better job than me last week, sitting down for a proper interview with The Donald, which will be published in full next week.

Once again, the “Trump effect” has resurfaced. This time around, according to the self-styled real estate mogul, the result could be a 50 percent rise in property prices in some parts of Dubai.

Yes, you read that right.  The billionaire was in town to promote the highly impressive Akoya by Damac, a master development close to Arabian Ranches. Part of this will include a spectacular Trump International golf course and a set of 100 luxury villas, called the Trump Estate.

Trump told us that the golf course he built in Aberdeen, Scotland, was the catalyst for a similar effect on its surrounding areas and that he believed this would be repeated in Dubai. “You saw the Trump effect, I mean it’s over 50 percent,” he said.

He expects prices of not only his development but surrounding properties to benefit from his name. “I think you’re going to have a huge Trump factor here. I think it’s going to have a tremendous positive effect. I think it’ll have a spill over beyond this development; I think it’s going to benefit other developments as well.”

That’s one way of looking at it. The other is  to look at actual data and trends in the property market. Just a week ago, Emaar reported that revenues from villa sales dropped by 17 percent in the first quarter. Back in October last year, JLL first warned that 2014 prices were heading for a correction — and in an excellent piece published last month in this magazine, Better Homes boss Ryan Mahoney very eloquently explained why the good times may not last. He warned that rental yields are falling, making property purchases less attractive for investors. In other words, prices could be stablising — even falling in some parts.

And anyone in the real estate industry who knows what’s happening will admit this: the gap between listed prices and actual purchase prices is getting worryingly big.

But what about the “Trump effect”?  If you invested in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Dubai in 2008, the effect was that you lost a fair bit of cash. This $2.9bn project was going to be a stunning 62-storey tower on the Palm Jumeirah and at one point was the most expensive property in Dubai — going for AED11,000 per square foot.

“We really want to make this the tremendous success that we know it’s going to be. I love doing one [project], making it really great and then we do the next one,” Trump told us then. Six years on, he told us: “We were smart and we got a little bit lucky that we never started that job.”

Smart for him maybe — but for many investors  the “Trump effect” was disastrous. There is a pattern here.  Back in 1989 Trump went on a spending spree after acquiring the Taj Mahal Casino.

Unable to meet loan payments he took out more loans and two years later his business went bankrupt.  The “Trump effect” was banks and bond holders losing out hundreds of millions of dollars.

Like I said at the start of this column, I do like Trump. I  admire his hustle and bustle, and I genuinely believe the new Damac project is world class. Damac deserve every praise for pulling it off.

But the “Trump effect” causing prices to rise 50 percent? What a load of codswallop.

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