The Dubai Land Department (DLD) has developed a host of smart applications and tools to facilitate real estate dealings, aiming to become one of the smartest property registration systems in the world. Its efforts are certainly paying off. The World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2016 — Measuring Regulatory Quality & Efficiency report ranks the UAE 31st out of 189 countries for doing business overall, and the government’s aggressive adoption of smart applications has been key in its high ranking. The UAE was second in issuing construction permits, four in electricity application and 10th in registering property. According to the report, it takes only 1.5 days on average to register a property in Dubai.

“The DLD has a comprehensive vision that aims to transform Dubai to a top global real estate destination,” said Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, Director General of the DLD, in addressing delegates at the recent International Property Registration Association’s Smart Registration for a Smart City conference, which the DLD coorganised in Dubai.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Bin Mejren confirmed Dubai currently has some 717 real estate projects, with Dh67 billion worth of property and land transactions recorded from January to February.

“We’ll probably be registering Dh100 million worth of transactions, or 100 properties daily, in 2016, which would mean we could reach something like Dh300 billion by the end of the year,” says Bin Mejren. “It was Dh260 billion last year.” Smart applications will be crucial in achieving the DLD’s targets.

“It takes 20 minutes to register a property today, thanks to smart applications,” says Bin Mejren.

One of the main applications developed by the DLD is Mashrooi (My Project), a handy smartphone app that tracks the progress and even provides images of a project. “You can see all the projects in Dubai, the master and subdevelopers, trust [escrow] accounts and progress reports on your phone,” explains Bin Mejren.

The DLD has also introduced the Rental Dispute Centre (RDC), which allows users to track cases, gives valuable information on real estate laws and provides access to the rental index calculator. Bin Mejren advises tenants to use the RDC when they suspect any unlawful practice by their landlords. “We fast track rental disputes,” he says. “It takes one month maximum to resolve.”

Other apps developed by DLD are mTrakheesi for broker registration, and the Status Tracking and Enquiries application, which tracks the construction progress of projects and finds approved brokers and developers.

Investment Map
The DLD has also developed the Investment Map, which Bin Mejren says would take over as the primary application for real estate transactions from eMart. “EMart is mainly for auctions now, while the Investment Map is for listings.” The DLD launched a prototype of the application a few years ago, improving it along the way.

“We are working hard to expand [the reach of] Dubai’s real estate [market] across continents, and we will soon be launching the second phase of the Investment Map, which is characterised by intelligence and transparency, and supported by features such as purchasing and selling, which are not available in any of the other sites,” Duaa Dablan, Senior Deputy Director of the Real Estate Investment Management and Promotion Centre, told delegates at the property registration conference.

Using the Google platform, the interactive map shows handy details such as a 3D view of the property, its size and location as well as nearby landmarks.

“You could be in India and you can conduct an online sale with the owner who is in London for a property in Dubai,” says Sultan Al Akraf, Senior Director of the Real Estate Registration Department at the DLD, on the sidelines of the conference. “There is an application to upload the documents.”

Buyers and sellers can use an agent via the system, while a seller could directly advertise a property. “With the Investment Map, there is no need for an agent. You could save the agent’s commission,” says Al Akraf. “Having said that, agents can also register property in the system. The brokers still have a role to play as experts. Looking at the property online is totally different from when someone sees it in reality. [The broker] can tell you what advantages or disadvantage they see.”

The DLD also revealed that it is in discussion with local property portals to tackle issues such as duplicate listings.

Using the map
All sellers and buyers using the map would have to register. “It makes it more secure,” says Al Akraf. “We know who is searching for what. It also helps us gather data.” He describes two ways of selling: direct and private. In a direct sale the owner registers the property with the DLD, which will ask for the relevant documents. Once approved the viewings can start.

“When [a property] has been registered in the system, a buyer can just buy it off the map, as it will be an electronic money transaction. We will then send the title deed to [the buyer],” says Al Akraf.

In a private sale, the seller does not want to show the property in public. The DLD will still require all relevant information from the seller before issuing a special code that will be used by prospective buyers to access information about the property.

“We want to make transactions smart without too much documentation,” says Al Akraf. “Everything must be recorded in the system, but [there is] no need to print paper anymore.”

New DLD centres
While it is pushing for new smart applications, the DLD has also launched the first Real Estate Services Trustees Centre (Al Taboo Centre) in Al Twar in February, offering all DLD services. The centre is open six days a week, 12 hours a day. Four more centres are under development, including one in Al Barsha.

“You can register your property online, or do it in one of the registration trustee offices,” says Al Akraf. “[Property registration takes] around 20-30 minutes. Our future plan is to do it within 10-15 minutes, by reengineering the technology process. Those who have an Emirates ID will be able to do the transaction even faster in 5-10 minutes by the second quarter of 2016.”

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