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Expert Insight

Custom-made in UAE: Cian Farah, Aurora Real Estate

Cian Farah, CEO, Aurora Real Estate

Cian Farah, CEO, Aurora Real Estate

Demand in the UAE real estate sector is increasingly shifting towards end-users rather than being driven by the investment community, which has dominated the sector for so long. As a real estate development company operating in the UAE since 2005, Aurora Real Estate Development has witnessed this shift gradually taking place and foresees the growth in this segment to continue in the future.

I believe that this shift has had an extremely positive impact on the market and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Previously, investors dominated the market, with hardly any end-users. This resulted in the property market effectively turning into a stock market where buyers had little regard for efficiently designed spaces, finishes, and energy saving proposals. Yields were strong due to the large percentage of the population that was renting, however, the strong yield coupled with the excessive speculation eventually resulted in a large downturn.

Historically, the UAE has seen expats renting property for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the down payment required to purchase property was simply out of reach. Secondly, the mortgage market was not as established as it is today, and the interest rates were very high.

Thirdly, expats previously saw the UAE as a short-term placement rather than a long-term base. However, the market has now matured, and as a result those expats that remain have been increasingly attracted to purchase property rather than renting, due to more attractive and affordable payment plans, lower mortgage rates, improvement in the regulation, and the perception that the UAE will be their home for life.

The global economic downturn resulted in the UAE being hit particularly hard, especially in the real estate sector, which has thankfully experienced a gradual recovery. A slowdown in the economy typically sees a divide emerge between those companies with a strong reputation in the market and those who have lost their customers trust. As the market matures, it becomes increasingly important for companies to maintain a strong reputation as the landscape becomes more competitive and the opportunities less prevalent.

In the property market, buyers are also scrutinising contracts and finishes more so than before and seeking an increased personalised service and customisation associated with their property, in addition to a greater focus on affordability. Anything that makes a market more difficult to operate in is ultimately a good thing, as it drives efficiency and best practice. This is why Aurora Real Estate Development has been so successful in this market and continues to grow exponentially.

Aurora is a boutique private investor and property developer in the UAE with a robust culture and ethos of quality, transparency, and attention to detail. The company was established to address a need in the market for efficiently designed contemporary spaces in the residential property market. To date, Aurora has delivered 46,451sqm of primarily residential developments over five projects and currently holds more than 65,032sqm of new developments in the pipeline. As part of the larger ECC Group of Companies, Aurora is able to offer a higher level of control on quality and more integration in the construction process, minimising disputes and maximising efficiency, speed and deliverability.

In addition, Aurora offers a personalised tailored service and delivers creative new concepts at an affordable price. The company has gradually progressed in the market due to a business model that focuses on the buyer’s needs and requirements, creativity, and deliverability.

Hyati Residence: a case study

The shift in attention towards end-user needs is perhaps best demonstrated in Aurora’s 24,619sqm Hyati Residence project, located at Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai. The newly completed Hyati Residence I & II consist of 20 townhouses, covering two plots (2,371sqm and 2,449sqm respectively), with each four-bedroom townhouse, consisting of a built-up area of 288sqm and spread over G+2 floors.

The success of this particular project was the result of a clear vision to develop a project with the end-user in mind. It was important for the project to stand out as a milestone in the company’s journey and therefore an extensive amount of time and effort was spent on the space layout and the selection of materials, to ensure efficiently designed spaces were achieved with high-quality finishes, even if these had to be sourced internationally.

For example, all the internal lights have been sourced through Fagerhult whose products are designed in Sweden. The veneers for the kitchen cabinets, the bathroom vanities and the wardrobes were transported from Spain, all the floor tiles in the units and corridors were imported from Turkey, and tiles for the reception and lift lobbies from Italy.

Further, standout features in Hyati Residence include a creative steel and wood staircase design, low-level LED lighting in the bathrooms, the lap pools in the townhouses, large water features in the central area of the apartments, and a double height reception with a polished concrete wall behind the reception desk. These design features and many others rarely seen in the UAE ensure Hyati Residence stands out from the crowd and meets the needs of buyers.

Hyati Residence was also created to address the end-users need for quality housing at an affordable price. To that end, Aurora has already sold 17 out of 20 Hyati townhouse units and has received a fantastic response from its buyers who have now moved into their homes. Looking ahead to the long-term future of real estate development in the UAE and throughout the region, Aurora sees great potential for new business in this sector.

The UAE and Dubai, in particular, remains a highly desirable destination and the population appears to continue growing in the future. All residents require accommodation, and with the ever-increasing expectations of buyers, the responsibility lies with the developer to supply the new housing demand.

Looking to the future: 2018 and beyond

Over a number of years, Aurora has been witnessing the UAE property development industry cultivate a keen interest in adopting new technologies in order to deliver creative concepts to the end-user market and enhance the efficiency of the design and construction process. The extent to which new technologies will impact the sector in the coming years should not be underestimated by property developers. It is important for property developers to embrace the Building Information Modelling (BIM) transformation.

This will enable designers to collaborate easily and deliver more efficient designs, while minimising clashes on site. It will also help facilities management companies better monitor buildings once completed and ensure the building remains in good condition. Developers must also explore sustainability measures, which will improve the energy requirements of the building, in turn reducing costs and increasing the demand for the building. This is a market trend that will continue to grow at pace – especially in a country such as the UAE where ambitious projects are the norm.

The benefits of these tech-driven advancements from a developer’s perspective are diverse, including increased productivity, decreased construction costs, reduced wastage, enhanced safety, and improved sustainability, to name a few. From the end-user stand-point, technology has the capability to add value across every aspect of the final product. Aurora strongly believes that by adopting such technologies, companies in the region are able to eliminate many of the problems that have been troubling the sector for many years.

As part of our philosophy, Aurora is embracing this technological revolution, and will continue to be meticulous in its aim to enrich the emirate by providing personalised projects of exceptional value, while exceeding the unique requirements of its clients and stakeholders.

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