UAE real estate market evolves and matures as properties adapt to shifting consumer demands


DUBAI — Newly announced regulatory measures, local availability of the vaccine, and the upcoming Expo 2020 festivities are all opportunities to revive the UAE’s real estate market during 2021, according to JLL’s latest UAE Real Estate Market Performance report.

With signs of recovery already under way, the report highlights that a large emphasis of the year will be re-envisioning spaces as tenant and end-users find community amenities more appealing.

Dana Salbak, head of research at JLL MENA, said: “As roles of different properties are shifting, property managers will need to offer residents an optimal way of living and working with a blended and multi-purposed dynamic. The successes and failures of the multi-purpose concepts will provide an opportunity and insight into how the modern day tenant has evolved, allowing the future of real estate to take a step forward in creating properties that are adaptable to an individuals’ needs.”

During the first quarter of 2021, the office market remained two-tiered with demand for well-managed, single owned, quality space being sought after. Dubai’s office market saw a total of 30,000 sq m of Gross Leasable Area (GLA) delivered, primarily in Tecom A&B, increasing the total stock to 8.9 million sq m. Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi, no new office deliveries kept the total stock stable at approximately 3.8 million sq m, with future supply of 69,000 sq m scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021.

Within the residential sector, villa sale prices increased by 3.5% and 2% in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively, when compared to the same period last year. As work from home has become a central aspect of post-pandemic life, JLL observed that strong demand for good quality villas and townhouses have been driven by end-users capitalizing on favorable payment plans, lower prices and opportunities to upgrade space.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has irreversibly changed the way the retail industry operates. With the closure of various retail projects and movement restrictions implemented across the country, footfall and sales have witnessed a drop. However, the sector remains resilient with market conditions improving during the first quarter of 2021, according to the report.

Some retail segments such as F&B, have adapted through digital solutions as well as relocating to more street and community locations. Meanwhile, other segments such as fashion, luxury and entertainment within established malls lagged in performance due to change in consumer spending habits and subdued tourism.

“There are several ways in which retail destinations can be adapted to drive consumers back while still adhering to social distancing measures, with several approaches already underway,” said Salbak. “As the sector prepares for a prosperous future following its pandemic recovery, we will see more innovation and culture brought to the forefront as retailers relocate to more street and community locations.”

Within the hospitality sector, Dubai saw a very limited number of keys being added to the market, maintaining the total stock at 134,900 keys. Similarly in Abu Dhabi, delivery of around 545 keys brought the total hotel stock to approximately 30,600 keys.

As hotels targeted staycationers throughout the first quarter of the year, Dubai saw hotel occupancy levels drop to 60% in the year to (YT) February 2021, compared to 81% in the YT February 2020. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi saw occupancy levels reach 61% as of YT February 2021 and Average Daily Rates (ADR) recorded a 21% decline Y-o-Y to $90.

“Despite noting performance declines globally, the UAE market has faired much better than others, owing to its efficient screening processing and the fact that it is one of the few countries open for tourism,” Salbak said.