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What should be considered when making a decision to invest in real estate or a business in the UAE?

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have firmly established themselves as one of the leading global business centers, attracting the attention of international investors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

In particular, Dubai, in accordance with its Industrial Strategy Dubai 2030, continues to create a favorable environment that provides startups and businesses with incentives and infrastructure to thrive. It represents a synergistic landscape of multiple sectors that complement each other's growth and, in turn, create a thriving economy that serves as an example for countries worldwide.

This complex situation is further leveraged by private investment companies, which are increasingly playing a significant role in navigating and capitalizing on the unique market dynamics of the region. Private investment firms can help identify profitable opportunities and investment strategies for clients and enterprises, contributing to the growth of individual businesses and strengthening the economy as a whole.

Over the past few years, two of the most successful sectors in the UAE, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, have been real estate and entrepreneurship, which are closely intertwined and act as vital catalysts for the country's sustainable economic prosperity.

Real estate projects contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship, and a growing business, in turn, stimulates demand for commercial and residential properties. When entering the UAE market, investors are faced with the relevant question: should they invest in real estate or in a business?

Market Requirements and Trends

The ambitious 10-year economic roadmap of the UAE includes the Dubai Economic Program (D33), the goal of which is to double the size of the economy over the next decade and become one of the world's top three economic cities. Today, there are no signs of slowdown in the region, despite global uncertainty.

As the population grows, naturally, there is an increase in demand and a greater reliance on the real estate industry for providing homes, both for rent and for purchase. The real estate market in Dubai has seen significant growth in recent months, and the current trend of rising high prices is evident in both the rental and purchase sectors.

For property owners, the value of their assets is noteworthy—possibly the highest they have ever seen. Those who have not yet invested may consider the opportunity to acquire real estate after the sharp increase. Typically, the earlier you invest, the better, as full growth potential is realized.

As more and more people settle in Dubai, the city is attracting greater wealth, and businesses are being established at an extremely rapid pace. Whether it's foreign businesses, franchises, or startups, in response to the growing demand for skilled talent, more jobs are being created—something no other city has seen in such a short period of time. Whether it's Europe, India, Hong Kong, or Russia, the prosperity has allowed businesses to thrive and create more jobs, while residents enjoy a happy and balanced life.

Regulatory Environment and Ease of Doing Business

Today, real estate makes one of the largest contributions to the country's GDP. Millions of people from all over the world reside here, and the population increases annually, primarily due to very smart governance and prudent country management.

In addition to various economic factors affecting other regions of the world, the Persian Gulf countries bring peace, a high standard of living, and vast opportunities for the future. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Jeddah are considered the next Los Angeles, Paris, London, and New York.

In some countries, it may take months for an investor to purchase real estate, while in Dubai, investors can buy property within 24–48 hours. Real estate investors also have the right to obtain a 10-year golden visa for the country.

There is a reason why wealth is flowing into Dubai from around the world—it's the ease of doing business. Over the past two years, the UAE has implemented extensive reforms to promote and incentivize investors.

Tourist visas are typically issued upon arrival or can be easily applied for in advance. Depending on the industry, setting up a company is a relatively straightforward process that also guarantees the business owner a residence visa. Furthermore, there are numerous consulting companies that can streamline these processes and help establish a new business quickly.

Investment Risk and Return on Investment (ROI)

Dubai is a relatively small country in terms of land, and there is a significant difference in costs and prices in various emirate regions. For instance, on the Palm Jumeirah Island, there has been a sharp increase in villa prices, over 100 percent in the last 18 months, allowing owners to realize significant profits or rental income.

Looking at other developed areas that have attracted foreign investments, such as District 1, Emirates Hills, and Dubai Hills, investors have witnessed substantial returns, while new areas like South Dubai present significant future investment opportunities.

However, it's challenging to predict since Dubai is a developing economy, inevitably bringing a certain level of uncertainty compared to traditional markets like the UK, where real estate is traditionally stable and secure in the long term.

Nevertheless, Dubai is growing at a rapid pace and becoming increasingly mature—almost faster than its age. Some industry professionals may think we've reached the market peak, while others will say that this upward trend will continue for the next several years.

There is no typical ROI for businesses as each company or industry is unique, but opportunities undoubtedly exist. Dubai is home to millions of people of all age groups, nationalities, and income levels, providing an excellent opportunity to promote a new product or service.

It's essential to get everything right: ensure they have a unique product that people need and understand the country's socioeconomic landscape, legislative reforms, and population outlook to make investment decisions.

Management and careful planning are crucial—UAE has already developed strategies to mitigate external economic factors' risks. For example, the local currency, Dirhams (DHS), is currently pegged to the US dollar (USD), and as the latter continues to face significant challenges with even more ahead, the UAE continually adapts to ever-changing economic landscapes, establishing positive connections and trade deals with other countries and currencies.

It's important to note that scalability will always be a factor— the government supports business and continues to encourage new ventures and entrepreneurs.

So, who is the winner?

Real estate and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Without a high demand for real estate, many business opportunities would not exist. If this wealth did not flow into the country, there would be no high demand for jobs.

However, when it comes to the question of where to invest, the answer depends on the investor's risk appetite, current investment portfolio, market prospects, and industry experience. Today, it may be wiser to invest in entrepreneurship, as Dubai is a fast-growing economy with unlimited opportunities and a diverse, affluent market for sales. Nevertheless, real estate will continue to provide significant opportunities for future growth, but perhaps not at the same level as in the past two years.

However, with a strategic approach, both sectors offer promising opportunities for experienced investors looking to buy property in the UAE. Thorough due diligence and careful market analysis are crucial starting points. A first-time investor can rely on the experience of direct investments.