Can you tell me a bit more about yourself and the company, when you arrived in Dubai and how you started the business?
I arrived in Dubai in January 2006 and began to work for one of the larger real estate companies at that time, where I honed my skills for a couple of years. My brother, who had also worked in real estate for about ten years, came over to join me in 2008 and together we thought we could create a client driven and results oriented real estate agency built on the core principles you would expect of a traditional British estate agency – honesty, integrity and getting the basics right first time.
How many people do you employ?
We currently employ 80 members of staff across six different divisions.
How long have you been in the market?
Allsopp & Allsopp has been open four years this month. We opened on 7 September 2008, just prior to the global recession. I personally have worked in real estate for ten years in total – seven of which were in Dubai and three in the UK.
Why did you choose Dubai for real estate?
I had seen a TV programme about real estate in Dubai at the end of 2005, I liked the idea of living in a thriving city, with tax free earnings and an amazing quality of life.
What one deal will you always remember?
My first investment in Dubai was the most memorable. I purchased a Palm Jebel Ali Garden Home and it was subsequently sold within 48 hours for a significant return due to the demand at the time.
Where do you live and what do you like about the area?
I live in a villa in a development called Cordoba Residences in Knowledge Village. I like the area because it has a European feel to it and the location is ideal as it is a few minutes drive to Dubai Marina and also our head office in Emaar Gold & Diamond Park.
What type of services do you propose on top of the typical real estate services e.g. relocation services, interior design etc?
We offer full service property solutions from residential sales and leasing to property management, commercial, sales progression and International property sales. We also offer a first-of-its-kind in Dubai: an online property maintenance portal whereby a client can go online and order paint jobs, cleaning, pest control, air conditioning servicing, plus much more.
2008 saw a massive downturn in the real estate market, you made it! How did you make it through the financial turmoil?
Unfortunately, without the luxury of hindsight, we opened the business right before the global recession which you would think was the worst possible time to do so. We entered the market with no preconceived ideas of how things should be and as a business we adapted our approach to become more client focused than ever. Where many businesses have either cut overheads or downsized, Allsopp & Allsopp has seen significant year-on-year compound growth, which has lead us to being one of the prominent real estate agencies in Dubai. I am particularly proud looking back that we started with a four man team in a commercial villa and have risen to being an 80 man team with two offices totalling 7,500 sq ft.
What key areas have you seen significant changes in since you have worked in real estate in Dubai?
One of the most important changes in the market I have seen is the type of client we are now dealing with. We no longer rely on investors and deal instead mainly with families who are looking to relocate, upgrade or downgrade. When dealing with end users it is more about the client buying with their heart instead of their head. They do not over-analyse rental yield, maintenance fees or whether the unit is able to be saleable after a few weeks. When you find a family their new home it also brings you a great deal of pride when you hand them the keys!
Where in Dubai do you think prices are going to rise?
As with any commodity everything is heavily leveraged on supply and demand. Dubai does not hold many distressed sellers now that most investor’s pre-recession payment plans are settled – there are not so many people that need that ‘quick sale’. And with the continued worldwide positive news about the Dubai property market outperforming other cities there will continue to be a slow but steady increase – some at a more significant rate than others. My opinion is the Emirates Living part of Dubai (Springs, Lakes, Meadows) will continue to see demand due to its conveniently placed location, schooling and local amenities.
Where in Dubai do you think prices are going to decrease?
The property industry’s oldest cliché is: location, location, location! And this is even truer when it comes to property prices. There will always be a continued demand for projects which are located near local amenities and motorway networks. However, projects which are 20-30 minutes from Dubai, with little infrastructure, will suffer in demand – which in turn will have an impact on price.
Which community do you think will provide the best value for money for investors this year?
The best value for money in my opinion is the Green Community with villas ranging from AED600-800 per square foot. The whole quality feel of the development and the continuing improvement of the infrastructure mean the project offers a great overall deal.
25-30,000 new properties are expected to come on to the market in 2012. Do you think this will have an effect on price?
It depends where properties will be handed over. For example, if there are 2,000 properties handing over in Dubai Land, it has no direct impact on properties in Downtown Dubai.
What are the most important factors to you when selling a property?
Having a person who is really motivated to sell, plus a property that is priced correctly when compared to others. Plus, having professional photos of the property.
What is your favourite restaurant in Dubai?
Sloanes in Grosvenor House.
Where do you spend your weekends?
If I am not on the golf course or playing football, then I will be socialising.
Where do you first take your guests when they visit Dubai?
I recently flew my mum over from the UK for the first time since I have been in Dubai. She is scared of planes, heights and elevators, so up until now Dubai was not ideal for her! I took her to the places I think everyone takes their friends and family when they arrive: Wild Wadi, Burj Al Arab and the malls.
What is your favourite project in Dubai?
JBR – it’s the only place in Dubai where the streets are buzzing with people in the evening.
If money were no object, where would you live in Dubai?
Which of the unfinished or proposed projects would you most like to see completed?
There are a lot to choose from! If I had to choose one it would be the underwater hotel.
When you leave Dubai, where will you go?
Miami or New York.
Who is your business icon?
Richard Branson. The main thing I have learnt from him is failure is not an option. I take this mentality to work with me every day.
If you could do anything to improve the real estate market in Dubai, what would it be?
Introduce a mandatory conveyance process similar to what you would expect in the UK.
What achievement are you most proud of in your life?
I climbed Kilimanjaro a few months ago which was one of the toughest experiences of my life but something I’m very proud of.
What is the most relevant piece of advice that you have picked up along the way?
Always do what you say you are going to do.
What are your projections for the year ahead?
The signs are positive for the coming year. There is a lot of positive press locally and worldwide and this, coupled with the fact that some of the world’s largest banking institutions are prepared to offer favourable rates, tells me there is a lot of confidence in Dubai and the direction it is heading.