Real estate markets in many parts of the Middle East, particularly the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) and Qatar, were characterised as “emerging” during the first decade of the century. The opening up of real estate ownership to non-GCC nationals triggered a development boom on an unprecedented scale, financed largely by off-plan property sales.
The economic downturn had a severe impact on the region’s real estate development sector, with many projects now either moth-balled or cancelled altogether. After a difficult three years, the real estate industry is showing signs of recovery but with a very different focus of attention.
Off-plan investment activity is currently non-existent. Investors’ attention has instead turned to newly completed projects, particularly those of a high quality in the right location with high tenant demand. Property prices are relatively low, whilst occupancy rates are high in such projects. In addition, sale and lease-back transactions have been prevalent over the last 12 months, as developers and owners seek to release much needed capital. Large institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds are active in acquisitions, but we have also seen an increased level of interest in establishing real estate funds and REITS to enable collective investment schemes to maximise current investment opportunities. In 2010, for example, we acted in the first Sharia’h compliant REIT to be established in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
Elsewhere in the Middle East, new development activity is being seen in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where there is an immediate and growing need for affordable housing for the indigenous population. Al Tamimi & Company is involved in real estate projects in both countries, acting on behalf of master developers of significant new real estate communities.
We act for public and private master developers, land departments and municipalities, investors, financial institutions and landlords and tenants and provide our clients with advice from a group of lawyers with an exceptional mix of western and regional qualifications, contentious and non-contentious experience and bi-lingual capability. We advise on general commercial property transactions, property dispute resolution, strata and mixed use schemes, hospitality development and asset management, real estate development, property funds and REITS, legislative drafting, and drafting and negotiating agreements to lease, leases, tenancy contracts and licences to occupy for residential, commercial, industrial and retail property. The breadth and depth of our experience enables us to assist with all aspects of real estate legal practice across the Middle East.