Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sheikh Youssef Al Shelash Discusses Trends and Upcoming Developments in the Middle East

The population of Saudi Arabia is currently more than 36 million. As the chairman of Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company and Saudi Home Loans, Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash is committed to bringing modern, comfortable living spaces to the region while helping residents finance their homes.

“The main cities of Saudi Arabia are looking more alive,” stated Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash. As one of the founders of Saudi Home Loans, which helped establish the home loan mortgage market in the Middle East, Al Shelash has vast experience in this sector.

Al Shelash credits the opening up of the markets in regard to lessening restrictions, including allowing men and women to intermix, for ushering in recent changes. He pointed out, “More people live in apartments, and walls around homes are being demolished, adding a different flair to the region. There are more landscapes and apartment blocks.”

The value of awarded contracts in Saudi Arabia during Q1, Q2, and Q3 2022 increased 67% year over year for a total of $31.87 billion, according to a report from the U.S. Saudi Business Council. It’s expected to outperform the region’s 2021 growth. “The improved macroeconomic environment spurred by the Kingdom’s oil revenues coupled with ongoing non-oil sector initiatives have helped propel project awards,” stated Albara’a Alwazir, the U.S. Saudi Business Council’s director of economic research. “The construction sector continues to perform at a fast pace as a number of supporting developments have aided in its surge.”

Near Saudi’s capital and largest city, Riyadh, Dar Al Arkan is busy building communities. The Shams Ar Riyadh is a sprawling 5 million-square-meter mixed-use project, which includes co-branded properties, notably Upside Living Villas with interiors by Versace Home. “Dar Al Arkan has developed many communities, but because the Shams Ar Riyadh is close to Riyadh, Dar Al Arkan has the opportunity to develop the most luxurious villas,” said Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash. “It was able to create more premium products in the proximity to the city center, which was one of the many plans the real estate development company makes.”

For those looking to escape the bigger cities, the company created a residential community in Buraydah Hills, Qassim, which is one of the central areas of Saudi, approximately a two-hour car ride from Riyadh. “It is a small development, mainly bought by the people who moved away from Riyadh,” stated Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash. “It was like buying a piece of land back home, although they had already moved to the city.”

Future Forecast: Residential Property Prices in Dubai

Last year was a record year for residential property prices in Dubai. The city experienced over a 60% increase in total units sold, according to Betterhomes, a real estate consultancy agency. However, in 2023 residential property price growth is expected to slow significantly.

As noted by Betterhomes, after prices rose 21% in 2021 and 11% in 2022, they are only expected to increase by approximately 5% in 2023. And cash purchases make up about 70% of transactions in Dubai. “We are obviously less exposed to interest rates here though the prevalence of cash purchases,” stated Richard Waind, Betterhomes’ group managing director. “Higher interest rates have not removed the underlying demand, but they are certainly having an impact on people’s willingness and ability to pay more for properties.”

While villas experienced a 3% rise in purchases in 2022, apartment sales swelled 73% in 2022. Apartment living only recently became acceptable, and it’s becoming a big business and attracting people from around the world. The total expat population of the United Arab Emirates in 2022 was 8.92 million, while Dubai’s population in December 2022 was 3.54 million, noted the Global Media Insight report.

Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash: The Newfound Appeal of Apartments

“We have seen a shift from stand-alone houses to apartments because real estate is becoming so expensive,” explained Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash. “You wouldn’t see any Saudi national living in an apartment 15 years ago, but now they are. Moving into apartments has become an acceptable way of living, which is how it has become a big trend.”

No matter where you want to live in the world, the cost is a significant consideration when choosing a home, especially during times of economic uncertainty. The cost of the utilities, including HVAC and electricity, in an apartment tends to be less than those required to keep a villa running comfortably.

In recent years, nationals from over 200 countries have established residency in the United Arab Emirates. Who is buying property in Dubai? According to Betterhomes’ findings, regarding nonresident buys, Russians comprised 15%, while Britons accounted for 12%, followed by Indians at 11%, Italians at 7%, and French at 4%. Buyers from Pakistan, Lebanon, China, the United States of America, Canada, and Kyrgyzstan rounded out the top 10.

“Dubai has been visionary in building up the area since 2002. Because it is like Manhattan, except it is very secure and there are no taxes, it has become a place where all of these nationalities are converging and looking for their first home, or second home, or a weekend/vacation place,” noted Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash.

For those looking to live in luxury apartments, Al Shelash and Dar Al Arkan have them covered. The premier real estate development agency has three luxury towers in what is often called the City of Gold. “Dar Al Arkan is working in Dubai to provide products to the people who are investing in and want to live there,” said Al Shelash. “So far, the real estate development company has only taken plots in key locations, either on the water or in the center of the downtown. Thus far, the company has also only presented co-branded products, which is another major trend, in Dubai. It [delivers] the limited edition of the real estate market in Dubai.”

Dar Al Arkan Develops Luxury in Dubai

In the spring of 2022, Al Shelash attended the topping-out ceremony for Dar Al Arkan’s Urban Oasis by Missoni residential tower. This was the real estate development company’s first project in the United Arab Emirates.

The stunning 34-story building sits on the Dubai Water Canal and is worth $217 billion. It includes a swimming pool, a play area for children, plenty of parking, and 24/7 concierge and security services. The immaculate property is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and is approximately 80% sold with owners and investors from 45 nationalities. The penthouse apartments feature exquisite Missoni decor and fixtures and are only accessible via a private elevator.

Dar Al Arkan is also responsible for bringing the world’s only W hotel brand residences to Dubai. Its W Residences — Dubai Downtown boasts 384 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments in the 49-story tower. The luxurious vertical structure includes a VIP clubhouse, private cinema, and an infinity pool. “This is like owning a W hotel, without the hassle of checking in or out or losing your privacy because it doesn’t have any of those hotel elements,” noted Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash.

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