Real estate agencies concur that the market has gotten tougher since the 24-hour lockdown was imposed in the UAE

Since the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for property investors in Dubai to give prospective clients the traditional tour of the home, they have been increasingly relying on technology to do virtual home viewings and 360-degree virtual tours, especially for ready properties.

“Whether it’s video calls with clients, video tours or electronic signing of agreements, […] technology is how our agents are staying connected with our clients,” said Lewis Allsopp, CEO of Allsopp & Allsopp. “Buyers and sellers have been extremely receptive to our use of technology.”

Property-listing portals like Property Finder and Bayut now offer video tours to investors as a part of their listings.

“Our photographers are doing video tours for new properties,” said Dan McGeachy, Sales Director, Aqua Properties. “This is a great way to show properties these days. When it comes to viewings, we encourage clients to enter the property themselves and have a look around while agents wait outside to discuss the feedback at a safe distance from each other. We also hold valuations remotely on Zoom and other online meeting apps.”

Tregoning Property, another Dubai-based real estate firm, devised a unique method to do home viewings even before the 24-hour lockdown; investors were allowed to view the property unaccompanied after acquiring the keys from a coded key box outside the apartments.

“Customers were able to visit properties as we shared a map pin on WhatsApp and told them how to access the property,” said Harry Tregoning, Managing Partner, Tregoning Property. “Viewings could also be accompanied, with social distancing enforced and protective equipment such as masks and gloves.”

The company is currently working to offer its clients 3D viewings as well. “It will give new clients a clear view of the property, and they can decide whether a physical viewing is worth it. It will be efficient for us too, as it should eradicate some viewings by less committed clients. Ultimately, everyone wants to visit the property to get a feel of it and to see it in natural daylight before committing.”

For clients who are interested in moving into a property that has been disinfected, the agency has teamed up with Candoo, a local maintenance company, to sanitise the unit from COVID-19 and other potential infections. This service is being offered free of charge until the end of May.

Real estate agencies concur that the market has gotten tougher since the 24-hour lockdown was imposed in the UAE and only essential services have been open. “This means most landlords’ offices are now closed, so getting contracts signed and Ejari processed is difficult. Contracts need to be signed by both parties, so the restrictions on movement will limit this,” Tregoning said.

Although viewings and activity in general have dropped in Dubai, a few sales and rental transactions are still taking place.

“Some end-user buyers have a need to buy and move into a house as they have sold their home, have pre-approval from the bank or are being evicted by landlords,” Allsopp said. “Tenants may need to find a property to live in because their tenancy contract has ended and a new buyer or new tenants are moving into the property they currently reside in.”

Brokerages also report several tenants wanting to downsize their accommodation owing to salary reductions or economic uncertainty.

“Rentals are still happening,” said Emma Jayne Main, Leasing and Property Management Director, Aqua Properties. “When it comes to sales, we have transactions being closed, but this is now a buyer’s market, ideal for investors, end-users and first-time buyers. The increase of the loan-to-value ratio by the UAE central bank means that first-time buyers now only need 20 percent, rather than 25 percent, deposit [plus fees] to get onto the property ladder.”

It is common knowledge that real estate agents work on an only-commission basis, with no basic salary. Therefore, with the market taking a beating owing to the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s a tough time for the majority of agents.

“We can’t hide from the fact that times are tough at the moment and it’s very hard for a real estate agent to make any money,” Allsopp remarked. “But prior planning should help a great deal. Of course, we have to see how long things go on, as there is only so long that anyone can sustain themselves without an income.”

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Collected and published by Arms &McGregor International Realty editorial team.