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Is The Pearl-Qatar the best real estate investment in the Gulf?

Qatar: Sunday, April 24 - 2005 @ 10:42

Since its launch almost a year ago villas, apartments and land plots have been selling well on The Pearl-Qatar.

This beautifully conceived residential land reclamation scheme on the edge of Doha has sold-out each phase on release, and there has been a modest rise in prices for each successive phase. But with investors in Qatar currently focused on the super-inflated stock market – up 98% this year – there have not been queues around the offices of the developer like in Dubai, let alone a hectic re-sale market.

Perhaps it is just that The Pearl-Qatar is two years’ behind the first freehold property launches in Dubai. Also as there are so few other freehold properties available for purchase in Doha, it makes it difficult to establish a benchmark for market comparisons.

Yet at present rental levels in Doha – which are still rising very strongly thanks to the oil and gas boom – real estate on The Pearl-Qatar offers a handsome yield of at least 10% after all costs. Perhaps it is worth remembering that Dubai’s Emaar Properties and Nakheel launched their first developments with a similar projected yield, and many buyers have gone on to double or treble their investments.

The Pearl-Qatar’s Development Director Nicholas A. Bashkiroff says that the UDC is a different kind of developer – as a private sector company without a large government shareholding – and is taking a different approach to sales.

‘When we say something is sold, it really is sold. As a private company we have a duty to be transparent and don’t want to build a false market. Also we don’t want to sell everything we have for a bargain price off-plan, so that speculators later make the profits and not us. Most of our buyers are end-users.

‘That said we have sold pretty much everything that we have released so far, and are ahead of schedule. We also have our construction programme running on time.’

The $2.5 billion Pearl-Qatar project is a string of offshore islands with two circular feature harbours which mirror the famous Doha harbour’s natural shape. There will be 8,000 residential units in total, ranging from 20-storey towers to individual villas with substantial plot sizes. The first phase is due for delivering in late 2006 or early 2007, and by 2010 some 35,000 people will be living on The Pearl-Qatar.

‘UDC will be acting as the municipality and regulating and collecting service charges on the apartments as well as issuing electricity and water bills. In fact, it will all be on one monthly bill,’ says Mr. Bashkiroff. ‘We want to avoid any issues with the service charges.’

In this the UDC is greatly assisted by the new laws on the ownership of real estate in Qatar. These clear and modern laws meet the toughest requirements of international investors, who are not being asked to buy on trust. Buyers also get guaranteed residency visas via the UDC so long as they meet the standard requirements.

On pricing it has to be said that $275,000 for a 120 square metre, one bedroom flat rising to less than $500,000 for a spacious four-bed apartment is very reasonable by international standards.

And when you consider the $150 billion Qatar plans to invest in its infrastructure over the next five years, surely this is the biggest real estate bargain in the Gulf. You are buying prime property in the heart of the capital city of a country whose GDP per capita will overtake Switzerland’s within a year or two. Would you not buy in Zurich at these prices?

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Sunday, April 24- 2005 @ 10:42 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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