Ian Plumley, the general manager of property sales at the 1,300-acre mixed-use development, said prices had recovered and that demand was strong for villas and townhomes. Festival City consists of a shopping centre of two million square feet, surrounded by offices, residential buildings and a golf course.
“We’re at about Dh1,300 a square foot,” Plumley said. “I think we’re probably at late 2007 with villas and townhouses...I’m talking about when we had a sensible market on the rise.”
The company recently put 24 new townhomes on the market and has since sold half of them. Next year, Al Futtaim is planning to sell some existing residential property that it had been leasing directly to tenants, Plumley said. All of it is part of a pickup in activity after the company decided to slow down in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“Slowly, we want to take the master plan and develop it over the next 10 or 15 years,” he said. “We’re just now signing off on the next five years, which will bring us about 500 or 600 units more.”
“Every developer would have loved to develop at the pace that 2007 and 2008 was creating,” he added. “However, it was completely unsustainable. We all know that now.”
Jones Lang LaSalle estimated in a report on the second quarter of 2012 that villa sale prices had risen 21 per cent year-on-year in Dubai, while apartment sale prices were flat. About 3,000 units were added to the market in the second quarter, most of which were apartments, the consulting firm said.
These days, Plumley said families were increasingly looking to buy larger properties and settle permanently in Dubai, a contrast with the speculative fervour of the bubble. The Arab Spring has also had a positive effect, he said.
“The Arab Spring has had a huge impact on the region, and from a real estate perspective a huge impact on Dubai, and we are certainly benefiting from that,” he said. “Just looking at our inquiries, most of our inquiries are from [people from the] GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], the Levant area or Asia, not western Europeans, not Americans.”