Sunday , May 9 2021

Wanted: Hebrew speakers for the most splendid city in the Arab world

(Bloomberg) – As soon as Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized diplomatic relations last year, Miri Vasilevsky-Pinto saw the opportunity.

Judging that Israelis would start looking for bargains in the difficult UAE real estate market, the Tel Aviv-based businesswoman began setting up a company that would cater to exactly that customer base. Less than three months later, Vasilevsky-Pinto, who has lived in Israel and Qatar, has seen several sales.

“The market right now in Dubai is extraordinary” because of its low prices and favorable payment terms, he said in an interview. His next project, he said, is to start offering tours to the emirate for future investors.

The history of Vasilevsky-Pinto offers a thread of comfort for a real estate market in the UAE that needs delivery, as it is a surplus of new constructions and the exodus of thousands of expatriates caused by the coronavirus keeps prices almost the highest since the end of 2012. has one of the most iconic cities in the Arab world, it can also give the UAE a new advantage over its Gulf competitors, although it is still disputed in a region where most nations do not they recognize the Jewish majority state.

The new business that is found is not limited to real estate. The two nations have agreed to collaborate in agrotechnology and the fight against Covid-19, and have even partnered to develop weapons. Israel predicts that bilateral trade could reach $ 6.5 billion as cooperation matures. The United Arab Emirates has also set up a $ 10 billion investment fund aimed at strategic sectors in Israel.

Nor is trade in a unique way. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce expects annual exports to Israel to exceed $ 4 billion alone, making it one of the emirate’s largest trading partners.

But it is in the Dubai real estate sector (estimated to exceed $ 130 billion by 2023) that change can be welcomed. According to UBS Group AG, Dubai’s residential prices have fallen by almost 40% from their 2014 levels in inflation-adjusted terms. And S&P Global Ratings warned this month that the 8.4% exit from the population after the Covid-19 outbreak is likely to keep the profitability of Dubai real estate companies under pressure.

Still, with some 130,000 Israelis visiting the UAE since relations normalized in September, rising interest rates have been palpable, real estate companies say. Israelis will try to buy or rent before Dubai’s World Expo 2020, to be held in October, said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president of Damac Properties PJSC, among the emirate’s top developers.

Read: Dubai developers suffer while Aldar stands firm in Abu Dhabi

To meet the demand, Damac and its rival Emaar Properties PJSC have even started looking to hire Hebrew speakers, posting job offers online for candidates with the necessary language skills. Unimaginable a few years ago, ads have also appeared on Israeli websites selling Dubai properties.

“I had no idea there were things like this in the Middle East, outside of Tel Aviv,” said Shay Cohen, an Israeli who visited the UAE twice before buying a $ 250,000 two-bedroom apartment. in the Dubai Square neighborhood. “I was in shock” when I found out.

The growing presence of Israeli investors may help reverse recent trends. While the slowdown has led Dubai prices to what UBS called a “new cyclical low,” simple financing and a lack of supply have pushed up prices in Tel Aviv. UBS rates Dubai properties just above “undervalued” in its annual real estate bubble index. He rates Tel Aviv as “overrated”.

“Israelis like exotic places and pursue performance, and yields in Dubai or the emirates are generally much higher than they get anywhere in Israel,” said Daniel Goldstein, director of the Tel Aviv office. of Beauchamp Estates, a multinational real estate company.

All this will be a comfort for Vasilevsky-Pinto.

“It’s okay, but you know we’re in this phase where it’s a whole new market and until recently it was a complete taboo, so right now it’s about breaking down barriers,” he said.

© 2021 Bloomberg LP

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