Riyadh apartment prices soar as villas feel the heat

A residential compound in the south of Riyadh. Apartment prices rose sharply in the city last year while villa prices remain under pressure. (Reuters)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Riyadh apartment prices soar as villas feel the heat

DUBAI: Apartment prices in Riyadh leapt by up to 36 percent last year and are set to rise again this year, according to a survey of the Saudi Arabian residential property market by international real estate consultants Knight Frank.
“Demand for residential property is expected to be underpinned by a growing population, the lack of existing good quality stock and a long-term trend toward smaller average household size. These factors should inevitably fuel the demand for residential units in Riyadh,” the report said.
However, the positive outlook in the capital masks a softer market in Jeddah and Eastern Province, as well as declining prices for villa properties across the Kingdom, the report found. The price of villas in the capital fell by 5 percent last year. In Jeddah and Eastern Province, prices fell by 24 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
“A common trend witnessed in sales prices across key cities is that apartment prices have been less affected than villa prices as a result of a shift in demand from villas to apartments due to affordability constraints,” said Raya Majdalani, research manager at Knight Frank.
The Kingdom’s residential market took a big hit in 2016 when the impact of the fall in oil prices was at its most intense, but recovered to some extent last year as crude prices strengthened and government measures helped ease financial pressure on Saudi households.
“While we see current dynamics prevailing in the short term, we remain broadly positive as a result of government initiatives aimed at addressing key challenges restraining the residential sector,” Majdalani said.
Recent initiatives include the release of regulations for the introduction of a 2.5 percent tax on undeveloped land plots, approval of regulations for the use and listing of real estate investment trusts, the introduction of a new mortgage law to boost home ownership, the development of the Sakani home-building program by the Ministry of Housing, the launch of the Wafi online program to grant off-plan sales, and the creation of a real estate refinance company by the Public Investment Fund.
In Riyadh, the volume of residential transactions increased by 15 percent, but their value was down 3 percent on average. In Jeddah, volume was flat but value dropped 21 percent, while in Eastern Province volume fell slightly (2 percent down) and value slipped by 9 percent.
Apartments in the north of Riyadh, near the Northern Ring Road, were the most expensive, while Al-Aziziya and Al-Shifa were the lowest valued, Knight Frank said.


On former battlefield, Kuwaiti investor plans date palm groves, ostrich and deer reserve

Updated 21 May 2018
0

On former battlefield, Kuwaiti investor plans date palm groves, ostrich and deer reserve

SOUTHERN BADIA, Iraq: On a former battlefield of the 1991 Gulf War, deep in Iraq’s southern desert, a Kuwaiti investor is looking to grow 100,000 date palms and build a nature reserve complete with ostriches and deer.
Few Kuwaiti firms have returned to do business in Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of its smaller neighbor and its UN-led liberation a year later.
But businessman Abdul-Aziz Al-Babtain is pouring $58 million into a date farm project in southern Badia, some 150 km from the port city of Basra, officials said.
“We hope to have 100,000 (trees) in the next five to six years,” said Diyah Sharadeh, Babtain’s representative in Iraq, adding that the dates would first be sold in Iraq and later exported.
So far 5,000 date trees have been planted.
Iraq once produced three-quarters of the world’s output of dates but now accounts for 5 percent after decades of conflict, despite being home to around 350 types of date tree.
Babtain had begun the farm in the 1980s, a sign at his office shows.
But Iraq seized it after the 1990 invasion, and due to its proximity to the Kuwaiti border it turned the area into a military zone, digging trenches for heavy guns.
These were then bombed in air strikes as part of Kuwait’s liberation campaign, but authorities never cleaned up the trenches, leaving bullets and parts of tank turrets rusting away just outside the field.
In a bid to turn a new leaf, Iraq returned the farm to Babtain and granted his business tax exemptions.
“This will be the first private (date) investment project in Iraq,” said Ali Ghasseb, head of the Basra Investment Commission. “It was a farm, then became a battlefield and is now again a farm.”
The farm has created some 50 jobs in this desolate area and will need up to 500 workers once the trees begin producing.
In a second step, Babtain plans to set up a natural reserve for which ostriches and deer will be imported, Sharadeh said.
THAW
Ties between Kuwait and Iraq remained strained, but they have improved since the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, with the Gulf state hosting in February a donor conference to rebuild Iraq.
But Kuwaiti firms have been reluctant to return, demanding guarantees that their business will not be taken away again. There is only one other Kuwaiti investor in Basra, involved in a shopping mall, Ghasseb said.
But trade has picked up in recent years as foreign firms use Kuwait’s port to ship goods to Iraq due to its better security. Up to 200 vehicles cross the border at the Safwan post every day, an Iraqi officer said.
Kuwaiti visitors are also trickling back to the Shiite Muslim holy cities of Najaf and Kerbela. A third of Kuwaitis are Shiites.
In the other direction there is little private traffic as Kuwait rarely grants visitor visas for Iraqis for security reasons.
“I come twice a year. There are no problems for Kuwaitis now,” said a Kuwaiti who gave his name as Mohamed after crossing the border to make a pilgrimage to Nawaf.