Dubai Real Estate Institute’s virtual conference on ‘UAE-KSA Real Estate’ sets post COVID agenda for the Middle East’s two leading economies
With the world emerging from extended lockdowns that lasted several months, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the focus has shifted to setting the agenda for the post-virus new normal. Naturally, with vast sections of the population sheltering in place and unable to carry on with their everyday lives, the global economy came to a grinding halt. Although every nation around the world has quite specific challenges, in navigating the post-pandemic reopening, regional initiatives are also emerging as a key strategy, for economies to make as close to a ‘v-shaped recovery’, as possible.
In a virtual event held on the 23rd and 24th of August, the Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) hosted a conference titled ‘Real Estate post-COVID-19 – Challenges and Solutions(1)’, which was held in cooperation with a number of real estate stakeholders from the KSA. The conference featured industry experts from the UAE as well as the KSA, and represented a collaborative effort between two of the Middle East’s most prosperous economies.
The virtual conference is one in a series of steps that Middle Eastern administrations are taking, to boost cooperation and synergies within the region – including a historic agreement to normalize contact between the UAE and Israel. While the relationship between the UAE and the KSA has always been warm and mutually productive, aligning post-COVID initiatives at a regional level is clearly a win-win for both nations. In fact, exactly this case was made by the World Bank, in a recent economic update for the region(2). Besides the overall economic sense it makes for nations in the region to cooperate, the DREI organized virtual conference drew attention to the advantages that can be gained, by implementing this approach, in the real estate sector.
A conference that laid out the roadmap for collaboration
Hend Obaid Al Marri, CEO of DREI, led the UAE contingent for the virtual conference, and Mohammed Ali Al Bur, CEO of Smart Decision Training Center (SDTC), was his Saudi counterpart. The conference was structured around seven main ‘topics’, around which the exchange of ideas was conduction, over two days. These areas of focus were:
- Economic: The conference focused on challenges and opportunities that government intervention in the regional economy could address. The conversation focused on issues that need to be overcome, as well as the impact that specific financial incentives would have on the real estate sector.
- Financial: This topic focused on the available channels for real estate financing, how private financing agencies could be further empowered through targeted regulations and on brainstorming ideas for new finance mechanisms.
- Marketing: A wider, more big-picture look, at strategies that could be employed to inspire demand were looked at, as part of this topic. Effective post-COVID marketing will need to reconcile the financial and safety priorities, of prospective buyers. The conference looked at means to bolster both considerations.
- Education: DREI, as well as the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers, the Real Estate General Authority, and the Saudi Real Estate Institute, shared the experience they have acquired over the years, to drive the creation of a qualified real estate workforce.
- Technology and IT: A crucial aspect of the post-pandemic recovery, the discussion on technology covered areas as diverse as digitization, the feasibility of remote learning, and providing real estate services remotely.
- Legislative: The role of the Real Estate General Authority in the KSA, and the Dubai Land Department will play a critical role, in the regulation of operations and activities in the real estate sector. The discussion around this topic centered around the assessment, creation and implementation of fair, transparent and market empowering legislation.
- Investment: Perhaps most critical to revival, as well as long term growth, ‘Investment’ is a multi-faceted topic, when it comes to real estate. Expert from both the UAE and KSA shared their past successes in stimulating the influx of capital into real estate, as well as how the legacy approach needed to be modified, for the post-virus world.
Positive outcomes and the way forward
As part of a general consensus, participants in the virtual conference came to the conclusion that the regional real estate sector was full of potential, with the capacity to significantly revive the economy as well. Experts agreed that the industry needed to evolve from the legacy models of marketing, technology adopting, finance mechanisms, regulatory approach, and more. Emphasis was laid on reviving sentiment and investor confidence, through demonstrable competence in tackling the post-pandemic scenario. For its part, the DREI is widening the conversation around regional cooperation to include stakeholders beyond the region’s two largest economies. In fact, the success of the virtual conference led to the announcement of a similar event on the 18th and 19th of October, in which DREI hosted the Bahrain Businessmen’s Association (BBMA)(3).
Moving ahead, a cohesive approach across the entire Middle East could unlock significant potential for collaboration and mutual growth, while facilitating the sharing of experience, market intelligence and technologies.