Dubai's Leap Year: How 2012 put emirate's property market back in global spotlight

Villa prices jump by almost 20 per cent, apartments up 7 per cent

For Dubai’s real estate market, Year 2012 was a “year of optimism.”

Villa and apartment prices jumped by almost 20 per cent and 7 per cent year-on-year. Investors, institutional and individuals, who had adopted a" wait-and-watch" policy, started shopping in the emirate due to its "safe haven" status. In industry reports, high net worth individuals voted Dubai as the most favorable investment destination in the Middle East.

But the last quarter of 2012 put Dubai back in global spotlight as mega projects were announced.

On November 24, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of “Mohammed Bin Rashid City,” a multi-billion-dollar project (total cost still not known) that will feature the largest mall in the world; a park that is 30 per cent bigger than Hyde Park in London and over 100 hotel facilities to meet the needs of visitors coming from world over.

Three days later, Dubai announced development of a Dh10-billion leisure and entertainment destination, work on which will commence from next year.

Post-Arab Spring, Dubai became the favoured investment destination of the region. To ensure that they don’t miss on the return of global and regional investors private developers began unveiling their new development plans.

Getting an instant global fame was Link Global Group. The company announced plans to construct $1-billion Taj Arabia project, a replica of the Taj Mahal, India.

Another major announcement was from Sobha Group. The developer revealed plans to build Sobha City in Meydan City, a project consisting of 280 villas, 13 high-rises, garden apartments, a shopping mall, hotels, retail complex and international schools.

Here we sum up the major property announcements made during the year (2012).


Dubai Land Department said it is drawing up an “investment map” for its massive real estate sector to attract more capital and help investors take the right decisions. The map will include a package of special investment opportunities in the real estate sector and a list of projects with varied uses and specifications.


The first public auction of foreclosed properties was held with four properties - two villas and two apartments - going under the hammer.


  • ICD-Brookfield, a $1-billion Dubai-based real estate fund, joined the Tanmia initiative, which aims to finish “incomplete” projects in the emirate. ICD-Brookfield, a joint venture between Investment Corporation of Dubai and Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, was formed in October 2011.
  • Nakheel launched its first project Palma Residences, Palm Jumeirah, its first project post-restructuring. Located off Palm Jumeirah’s eastern side of the trunk, the project will have 104 townhouses and will be a separate gated community with a Mediterranean-style design. The townhouses were priced between Dh6 million and Dh8 million.
  • Dubai Land Department announced that Indians had topped the list of first-time property buyers in Dubai for 2011, having bought properties worth Dh2.1 billion.


  • Nakheel, the developer of the Palm and The World, reported a turnaround. In the first quarter, the Company generated a net profit of Dh362 million compared to a loss of Dh36 million in Q1, 2011.
  • Emaar Properties launched its first project: Panorama at The Views. The project was sold out in hours of the launch.


  • An Indian developer, Pacific Ventures, became the first one to officially acquire two projects in Jumeirah Village Triangle under Tanmia initiative. Tanmia, launched in September 2011, is aimed at getting semi-government/private investors on board to get projects completed with the Dubai Land Department currently auditing over 100 projects.
  • Emaar Properties joined the Tanmia initiative. Under the agreement, the DLD will propose investment opportunities to Emaar, which would in turn will review the projects and take proper decisions in accordance with its strategy.
  • Nakheel announced awarded construction contracts worth Dh600 million for the Dragon Mart Phase 2, which will add 177,000 square metres to the existing mall, brining the total size to 335,000 square metres. The mall in size will equivalent to 47 international football pitches.


Plans were unveiled to penalize real estate brokers and not the brokerage firms, as was previously the norm. Agents misleading investors, co-operating with unlicensed brokers or making unsolicited phone calls to their clients to promote/advertise a project, would face monetary fines.


Dubai Land Department asked developers to review the draft Code of Corporate Governance for Developers. It will become mandatory for every developer, master and sub-developer, to follow the Code for Corporate Governance from 2013.


  • Dubai Properties Group, a member of Dubai Holding, said it will restart work on the Mudon project, Dubailand, and plans to complete 348 villas and townhouses in the next 18 months. The decision was based on increasing demand for “quality” villas in prime locations across the emirate.

  • Handover of apartments in the Princess Tower and Elite Residence, the world’s tallest and third tallest residential towers in Dubai Marina, commenced. Tameer President Federico Tauber said the market is really entering into a new “positive cycle.”

  • Emaar Properties launched The Address The BVLD serviced residences. For three days, people queued up in front of the developer’s office to buy units “off plan” and within hours the project was sold out.


  • Link Global Group announced plan to construct $1 billion Taj Arabia project. It will comprise a 300-room five-star hotel, which will be a replica of the Taj Mahal, along with seven Mughal architecture-themed buildings consisting of retail and residential elements in FalconCity of Wonders. The project is expected to be completed by 2014, company director Arun Mehra said.

  • Dubai endorsed the extension of the Business Bay Canal Project, including modifications of roads and bridges required for extending the water canal from Sheikh Zayed Road up to the Arabian Gulf. The project, with an estimated cost of Dh1.5 billion, will be completed in two years.
  • Meydan Group launched two major new projects, Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Meydan Tower. Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid establishes a new community spanning a total 5.09 square metres across the Nad Al Sheba landscape, while Meydan Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road is the group’s first foray outside Meydan City.

  • Sobha Group announced Sobha City, a project spread across 8 million square feet of land in Meydan City. It will have 280 villas, 13 high-rises, garden apartments, a shopping mall, hotels, retail complex and international schools. Construction of infrastructure and villas by commence early 2013, Ajay Rajendran, Vice-Chairman, Sobha Group, said.
  • Meraas Holding said it will commence work on the Outlet Village, a new project that will sell high-end luxury brands at discounted prices, in 2013. It will cover an area of over 20,000 square meters and house 160 top-tier outlet stores.
  • Dubai Land Department launched Simsari, the official multiple listing service, aiming to end the era of “ghost” and “repetitive” listings.


  • Dubai announced establishment of “Mohammad Bin Rashid City.” Comprising four key components, the new city will focus on family tourism, retail, arts and entrepreneurship.

The first component focuses on family tourism, and will include a park equipped to receive 35 million visitors and a family centre for leisure and entertainment set up in collaboration with Universal Studios. There will be over 100 hotel facilities to meet the needs of visitors. The second component, focusing on retail, will feature the largest shopping mall in the world, “Mall of the World.” The third component will include the largest area for arts galleries in Mena. The fourth component will see the development of a unique area that will provide an integrated environment for entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

The new city will be located between Emirates Road, Al Khail Road and Shaikh Zayed Road, and will include Mohammad bin Rashid Gardens Project.  The project will be developed by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties and will be marked as the biggest joint venture in real estate industry regionally.

  • Dubai issued directives to launch the fourth expansion phase of Madinat Jumeirah, which is expected to cost Dh2.5 billion. The new phase will include a luxury five-star hotel, a villas complex, restaurants and a commercial centre with retail stores as well as a pedestrian precinct. The project is expected to be completed by 2015-end.
  • Dubai approves the development of a Dh10-billion destination that focuses on delivering a multi-faceted leisure and entertainment experience to residents and tourists of Dubai. Meraas Holding has been mandated to develop this project that will be located at Jebel Ali. The project will feature five distinct theme parks based on movies, animals and fun characters that shall appeal to all demographics. Dubai Adventure Studios, the first phase of the development plans for which were announced by Meraas in December 2011, will anchor the new destination.
  • Emaar Properties said it will commence expansion of the Dubai Mall by building a new high-street boulevard style retail destination and launch new luxury homes and serviced residences in Downtown Dubai district.


  • Emaar Properties and Dubai Holding launched Dubai Hills, a gated community with luxury residences, the first residential project as part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid City. The homes will be built around a new 18-hole championship golf course and will include plots of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet.

  • The 355-metre JW Marriott Marquis Hotel was officially recognised by the Guinness World Record as the world’s tallest hotel.  It has started to receive guests but a grand opening is scheduled to take place in February 2013.

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