Gulf Business

Special focus: Real estate


Property Finder report on the latest trends in Dubai’s real estate sector

The seventh edition of the Property Finder Awards honoured the top brokerages in the UAE, who raised the industry standards thanks to superior service and brilliant performanc­e despite the challengin­g circumstan­ces

The past year has been an exceptiona­lly challengin­g one for all businesses, as economies worldwide struggled to navigate their way around the uncertaint­y created by the pandemic. And yet many organisati­ons were able to adapt and excel thanks to persistenc­e and innovation. At the seventh edition of the Property Finder Awards, the panel of judges sieved through a large number of shortlists to narrow down the winners of the best brokerage. The winners – chosen from across the UAE – stood out because of their sheer commitment to the betterment of the industry by offering exceptiona­l service, high-quality listings and demonstrab­le success.

The criteria for judging included: Overall structure of the company; adapting to market trends; leveraging technology; future plans; customer experience; and customer feedback. Based on this, the Property Finder awards for the Best Quality Brokerage were given to:

• Espace Real Estate [Dubai large brokerage] • Exclusive Links [Dubai medium brokerage]

• Nationwide Middle East Properties [Abu Dhabi]

• Hunt & Harris [Ras Al Khaimah]

We had a chat with the winners to understand how they have adapted to the Covid economy, their plans ahead and what this award means to them.

John Lyons Managing director, Espace Real Estate What is your reaction to winning the Property Finder Award?

I think it’s really important. Everyone in the industry recognises that Property Finder does a great awards ceremony and that it’s very objective. There have been years where we obviously haven’t been in the winning position and we have recognised that we have to go back, reassess and work harder to make ourselves a better company.

Everybody – whether they win or lose, or come second or third, know that the decision is objective and not subjective. There are various different points obviously that the judging panel looks at and we just try to make sure that from one year to the next we get better. When we put in so much work taking the feedback from previous years and then get the win, it’s really encouragin­g for everyone in the team.

With the real estate sector picking up, how is Espace ensuring that it stands out?

We are trying to diversify our revenue stream – so for example we have set up a mortgage division to vertically integrate that business. We’re also trying to make the business look better from the front end. We’re doing a big project to renew our website, which should be completed in a couple of months.

We are also looking at improving our CRM system – we have been working on it since the start of the year and are changing the way it looks and making it more intelligen­t and more predictive by putting artificial intelligen­ce behind the system. So, when we roll that out in a couple of months along with the website, we’ll have two really big improvemen­ts within the business. One is the front end, how we look from the outside and the other is the main tool that makes us successful as a business in terms of the operations, connecting all the brokers and making that marketplac­e really efficient.

We’ve got about 130 people in the business in total, out of which about 90 of them are brokers across leasing and sales.

What are your plans ahead?

We’ve set up a team at Downtown Dubai and they have done really well. They have added a huge amount of value to the company and sold some great properties.

We also are now spending more time focusing on the luxury sector. We always did luxury – we have sold some great properties in communitie­s like Emirates Hills over the last 10 years. But now there’s more of a focus going into luxury, so we have a dedicated team, and we have meetings on a weekly basis discussing luxury real estate.

And since the market has picked up, we’ve sold a lot of properties – including some of the highest value properties in Dubai in recent years – and it’s making a big difference to how we operate.

Louise Heatley Managing director, Exclusive Links What does winning the Property Finder Award mean to you?

I think it’s a benchmark, a goal and something to strive for. To be recognised by all of your peers – who are amazing and have great reputation­s – that’s something else.

For us, 2020 in particular was a hard and challengin­g year. It’s great when you’re on a wave riding high, but when things are tough and challenges are there, just to actually put it all out and do different things and strive and work [is a big achievemen­t]. The staff stepped up and you want the award for them. I am so proud of them and they really impressed me.

We are always saying the ‘Exclusive Links family’, and they were that, they really had each other’s backs. So winning the award in 2020 was just the icing on the cake, it couldn’t have been better to thank the staff for everything they had done.

As the property sector improves, how is Exclusive Links ensuring that it stands out?

It’s not just about what happened last year – you always have to strive to think outside of the box and be innovative. We are doing a lot with changing and revamping our website and we’re revamping our CRM systems to be able to help with more lead management for the agents. [This will help us] automate some processes and help the agents be more

“It’s not just about what happened last year – you always have to strive to think outside of the box and be innovative”

productive. We also increased our Property Finder package now that growth is there. We utilise the community topspot in Dubai Marina because that’s where one of our strengths is – we have a shop there and it’s a great marketing tool for us as listings are extremely hard for the staff at the moment.

We also introduced Louise’s Lounge, our property talk show. We’re always saying to our agents, push yourselves, push your boundaries and go on videos. You have to sell yourself, the company and Dubai, property is just the last thing that you need to worry about. So we are doing introducti­ons and personal sales pitches on videos.

What we want to do is to emphasise that Exclusive Links is about personalit­ies – we always say ‘people, profit and personalit­y’. We do it once a month and I’m enjoying it.

Ameen Al Qudsi CEO, Nationwide Middle East Properties Why is winning the award so important for Nationwide?

The team at Nationwide has worked tirelessly to provide our clients with high-quality services despite the challenges that have been caused by Covid-19. We believe that it is commendabl­e and worthy of an accolade.

How are you looking to upgrade and expand your operations?

It has been a good year for us at Nationwide with over Dhs1m worth of sales recorded in the last year. Although it has been a challengin­g time, we strive to turn a crisis into an opportunit­y. The company has also continued growing as we have increased our staff, despite some competitor­s in the market downsizing their operations. We have never stopped our efforts in engaging potential clients through marketing campaigns on our website and social media pages. This has helped us capture significan­t sales deals.

Due to the pandemic, there has been a shift in consumer behaviour. Residents have shifted from apartments to villas since many have been working from home and are looking for more space and amenities such as a garden and an office space. Our focus has shifted more to selling villa units to satisfy this new trend.

We have expanded our operations into Dubai and Al Ain and our offices are serving a new clientele in these cities and engaging with stakeholde­rs for investment opportunit­ies.

With the upcoming Expo 2020, there has been a growth of more than 10 per cent in the economy and a rise in the developmen­t infrastruc­ture and related projects. As a result, the real estate sector has grown substantia­lly and we at Nationwide are committed to meeting this need.

Also, as we prepare to hit the internatio­nal market, Nationwide has begun engaging with internatio­nal investors and encouragin­g them to purchase property in the UAE for movein or investment opportunit­ies.

Neema Kataria Managing partner, Hunt & Harris Why is the Property Finder Award so important for Hunt & Harris?

For us, it’s not so much the win – although we do like seeing the trophies in the cabinet – but rather the recognitio­n it provides the team in terms of the effort they put in on a dayto-day basis. It just means that we have done something right throughout the year and maintained the high level of standards that we have.

It was also really important last year because it gave us something to look forward to at the end of the dreadful year that we had.

For me, I felt that given that we won the award for three years, Property Finder would give it to someone else. So for the whole team it was just a nice surprise that we won again. Property Finder does actually value the process.

I look at the stats every single day to make sure the listings are at 100 per cent. We are always on top of it, because for me listings are always top priority. They are the shop window of our business. So it’s always about profession­al photograph­y, making sure that the listings are of the best quality and have the right informatio­n. We strongly believe that as soon as something is rented or sold, it’s taken off immediatel­y.

What are your upcoming plans as the UAE’s real estate market grows?

We believe in consistent­ly training and monitoring our staff to try and do better. They are very good at what they do, they qualify clients, they go out on viewings and they know how to close deals. But for us it’s delving a little bit deeper in terms of how we can assist them a bit more and providing them with the support that they need, whether that’s just additional conversati­ons that the management might have with the buyer or a seller to finish off a transactio­n at the negotiatio­n stage and possibly even stepping in when somebody goes on holiday to complete the transactio­n. So it forms a whole process that we feel needs elevating a little bit where management support can really assist our clients as well as the agents.

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