Mirco Alexander Maurer, Managing Director, Engel & Völkers, Qatar
25 Feb 03:06 AMSector : Real Estate Country : Qatar
Real Estate Reaches New Heights
Engel & Völkers opened in Qatar in 2008, and in 2013, celebrated its fifth anniversary. What are the highlights?
Back in 2008 Engel & Völkers was only known by a few people here in Qatar. Now we are one of the strongest Real Estate Brokers in the country despite 2009-2012 being difficult years where some of our competitors either closed or downsized their teams substantially. For a while we had booths in Landmark Mall and Villagio Mall, which helped a lot to make the brand known in the market as ‘the main luxury broker for properties and yachts worldwide’. Actually we might go back to a mall shortly, as the clients here in the Middle East are mainly spending their time there and we will showcase our high-end properties in cities like Munich, Cannes, Dubai, New York and London.
Concerning what we’ve done so far: We had towers launched at The Pearl-Qatar where we sold numerous units. We have towers in West Bay fully rented out, sold residential and commercial properties to Qatar nationals, found for our clients properties through our 550 offices worldwide and our current highlight in Qatar are the Shoumoukh Towers, which will be one of the best commercial properties once it opens its doors.
Furthermore we rented out hundreds of villas and apartments to individuals. Engel & Völkers has grown from its start in Qatar in 2008, and we have more than 30 people working for us today.
How would you characterize the market over this year compared to 2013? And are you hopeful for the year ahead?
I’m very positive throughout all sectors and especially towards 2015. We have successfully rented out more than double as many residential properties in 2013 and 2014, as in 2012. In the commercial business we had the best results since the opening of the company seven years ago. Still, the market is dominated by government and semi-government companies who rented again some of the office towers in Doha and Lusail, as well as many residential buildings and compounds which were completed during the year. This keeps the prices high and it is for most individuals difficult to find nice accommodation. We will see this trend continuing in 2015, and therefore I assume that the rental rates for residential will increase further and commercial properties will seem stay on the current level. Due to these high rents and the confidence in Qatar's further growth, we will see more people taking mortgages and purchasing properties.
Expatriates continue to favor renting rather than purchasing. What are the reasons behind this and do you expect this trend to change?
Of course there is not only one reason only which holds people back from owning a property. First of all, the majority of expatriates in the country have a low income. Even expats in better positions have housing allowances of between $1,647-$2,746 per month, while for a mortgage at current high prices for properties are around $4,119-$5,493 per month. Another main reason why people don’t purchase here is the time frame they are planning to stay in the country. Again, a majority of the expats are here due to the construction boom. These expats, no matter in what position they are, mostly leave the country after completion of their project. This is a further reason why many expatriates like to have a fully furnished apartment or villa, as they see them themselves only here for the short to medium term. So we see this trend continuing. We see some more sales happening, but mainly due to the high income of some expatriates, who are looking for a good investment, an apartment with high rent income in a tax-free country like Qatar definitely is.
As the Qatar construction boom continues, there seems to have been an increase in foreign demand for rentals in 2014. What is your assessment for the rental market in apartments, villas and offices?
Absolutely. The demand is high and we see this with rising prices on apartments and villas. The number of requests for office spaces is increasing as well, but still we have a high supply as well, therefore I expect that it will balance out and office rents will stay at the current level in good areas and might even drop more in areas outside of the C- and D-Ring roads or West Bay.
What are the main projects you are managing?
We have a wide range of services. We do the Property Management on more than 400 properties for one of the largest oil and gas in the market. With Shoumoukh Towers we have one of the most prestigious commercial buildings exclusively to offer for rent and sale in Qatar. On the residential business side we work on approximately 500 units locally and of course Engel & Völkers has worldwide a portfolio of more than 30,000 properties for rent/sale. We focus more on this now and in 2015, as there are so many Qatari investors which are investing abroad.
What's your clientele breakdown in terms of foreigners and locals? Individuals and companies? And do you mainly deal with sales or rentals?
The clients of Engel & Völkers in Qatar are about 50 percent local and 50 percent foreigners. Half of our clients are individuals who own a property or like to rent/purchase an apartment/villa. The other half are companies, especially due to our commercial division where we offer retail, office and industrial leasing, as well as valuation/research services and Property Management.
What are Engel & Völkers' main goals for 2015?
Engel & Völkers is a very strong brand and growing phenomenally. We have in total more than 600 licensees, 5,500 staff, and are represented in 38 countries. Engel & Völkers brokered Real Estate in excess of QR30bn (US$8,2bn) in 2014. In Qatar we are well set-up and on a growth path since opening in 2008. Due to the trend of investing in Real Estate, we will offer more properties out of our international portfolio (from London, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and many more) in the local market in Qatar, including finance possibilities in a foreign country. Qatari investors are very good clients and we are glad to offer them investment properties as well as holiday homes and yachts worldwide. Furthermore we will increase our residential and commercial leasing team in Doha, as the number of companies and people coming to Qatar is increasing. You can be sure that you’ll see further growth of Engel & Völkers in Qatar.