Beirut is in the global top 10 when it comes to upscale expatriate rental costs and in the top third for the cost of offices, according to survey results cited last month by Byblos Bank’s “Lebanon This Week” (LTW). EuroCost International, a French consulting firm that surveys expatriate living costs in some 170 locations worldwide and has been doing this survey for five years, declared Beirut to be the eighth most-pricey place to rent an apartment of all the cities listed in its annual survey of house rental costs for 2012, as reported by the LTW. Better-known real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield ranked Lebanon’s capital as the 24th priciest office market of 63 monitored cities — both surveys showed Beirut as the Middle East’s most expensive locale. Cushman & Wakefield bases its assessment of Beirut on office prices in the Beirut central district. EuroCost said it zooms in only on high-end units in areas frequented by expatriates.
Need for Alignment
According to an international body of chartered surveyors, real estate valuations are among the core investment assessment tools and the time is ripe for global standards. This message was well received last month at MIPIM, a leading global real estate event held in Cannes, with 20,000 attendees. Investors and real estate professionals at the event showed very strong interest in the growing role of chartered surveyors, reported the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The organization is promoting the alignment of standards that will minimize the risk for investors in land, property and construction in volatile global environments. The real estate industry has a lot of catching up to do in standardizing of valuations and in the management of rapidly increasing data, says RICS, which operates globally. It has a head office for the Middle East and Africa in Dubai and is regionally represented in Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar besides the United Arab Emirates.
Cheap Dubai rents? Nice while they lasted
Tenants aching under Lebanon’s rising rents can take some small solace in knowing that for Lebanese expatriates working in Dubai, the recent period of property bargains is coming to an end. This trend of increasing prices in the once-again booming emirate was confirmed last month by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) in an update to its rental index. Unsurprisingly, top dollars are demanded in the Downtown Dubai and Dubai International Financial Center areas. According to REEA, a two-bedroom flat in Downtown Dubai could be rented for $30,000 to $38,000 annually, an increase of 16 percent from the previous rental index published in the second half in the 2012. Small units in International City, a development on the eastside of the urban area, are shown to be among the most affordable in the latest RERA index, at AED 20,000 to 25,000 ($5,400 to $6,800) for a studio per year, but have increased one third in price when compared with six months ago, reported the Emirates 24/7 news site. In the fancier and better-connected areas of Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers, apartment prices in premium addresses have increased by 8 to 10 percent and by 3 to 5 percent in second-tier towers in the past six months, said a report by real estate agency Hamptons MENA, citing figures by the Dubai Land Department.
To build a people’s kingdom
Affordable housing developments and home finance took center stage in the Cityscape Jeddah real estate show in Saudi Arabia’s main commercial city last month. Top projects exhibited at the show included a pair of residential communities by Ewaan Global Residential Company, a Saudi developer established at the end of 2007. The conjoined Al Fareeda and newly announced Al Mayaar projects, respectively covering 1 million and 330,000 square-meter territories, are located north of Jeddah and the Al Fareeda project will cost at least SAR 1.2 billion ($320 million), a figure quoted by Ewaan. No investment value was provided for an even larger suburban project in Jeddah, the 2.5 million sqm, 8,000-unit residential and mixed-use Al Raeda development by Rayadah Investment Company, a firm under the umbrella of the Saudi Public Pension Agency.