Real Estate

Russian demand for Dubai property is slowing — but China’s is picking up, DAMAC chairman says

Dubai’s property boom in the years following the Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the fastest in the world, fueled by investor-friendly reforms and a surge in expat demand, particularly from Russia in the wake of the start of Moscow’s full-scale war with Ukraine.

Some of Dubai’s luxury developments cater specifically to Russian buyers, with real estate agencies fully staffed by Russian speakers, and in certain parts of the Gulf emirate a visitor will hear more Russian spoken than Arabic or English. But that wave is slowing down, DAMAC Chairman Hussain Sajwani says.

The new growth in demand is coming from China.

“Russia has slowed down. But other countries are coming in strong, especially Chinese coming back,” Sajwani told CNBC’s Dan Murphy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. He mentioned India and Europe as well.

“Dubai is, you know, surrounded by more than 100 countries with all kinds of issues and challenges. And people want to migrate and come to Dubai, for living or for investments,” he said.

While China’s economy faces challenges at home, Dubai is benefitting from those who can spend outside of the country. Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest developer, last year reported Chinese investments making up 7% of total sales in the first six months of 2023, roughly double the year prior.

A property crisis, slowing domestic economy, and lifting of travel restrictions after years of harsh lockdown policies are spurring wealthy Chinese to find foreign safe havens for their capital. Dubai’s residential rental yields and relaxed tax laws, as well as the UAE’s refusal to partake in Western sanctions campaigns, make it an attractive place for that, Sajwani said.

Dubai has also managed to remain stable and brush off initial market nervousness following the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, he added, saying that regional conflict has not hurt the emirate’s property sector.

“So far UAE leadership have maintained a very good political policy, being … to certain extent neutral, not getting involved in issues, in wars of that type. And economically, because we’re one of the unique countries in the region, for lifestyle, security, safety, political stability, very good laws, regulations, as you know, the long-term golden visas and all that,” he said, referring to a 10-year expat visa first introduced n 2019.

“So a lot of people coming and residing in Dubai anyway.”