Cover story: Property Finder's Scott Bond on why Dubai is a pioneer in real estate
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Cover story: Property Finder’s Scott Bond on why Dubai is a pioneer in real estate

Cover story: Property Finder’s Scott Bond on why Dubai is a pioneer in real estate

The country manager of Dubai’s real estate platform envisions the emirate to lead the way in digital advancements, inclusivity and investments. Here’s why

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Scott Bond Property FInder UAE Country Manager

For an executive to share his vision for a company two months in (the company and the city), may be nothing short of a tall ask.

But for Scott Bond – the newly hired country manager for Dubai-based real estate portal Property Finder – it seemed refreshingly easy. His vision, however, is crisp, measurable and future-ready.

It’s understandable why. Bond comes with a resounding sales background, having been a sales leader for the better part of two decades. “My whole career has been [spent] leading sales teams. In 2016, I joined the US-based real estate portal Zillow Group as a general manager leading the in-house sales team and was subsequently asked to take on a bigger role, managing two regions henceforth. Two years in, I was asked to build a sales team for a programme ‘Zillow Offers’ from the ground up. In a couple of years, we had a 400- person crew, operating from six offices across the country. We were buying and selling homes across 25 markets,” reminisces Bond.

The decision to move halfway across the world to join Property Finder in becoming a pure-play, customer-centric firm was largely a reflective one. “The reason I chose this job was because I saw [in Property Finder] a company that felt like Zillow, a company that was on the cusp of massive growth. And with the journey I’ve been through, I felt like I could add a bit of value to it,” states Bond.

On the horizon
From traditionally conducted transactions to proptech tools, strategic initiatives and sustainable choices, the real estate sector has come a long way, effectively changing the way properties are constructed, managed and sold. And with Dubai as a cynosure of digital technologies and urban development, evolution is expected to be the only constant across the emirate’s real estate space.

“There is so much opportunity to expand here in Dubai and the UAE, especially when you consider the population growth potential over the next 10 years. Dubai offers so many unique communities – from sustainable spaces to waterfront communities to remote ones. More so, we’re going to continue to see this evolution of communities that fit lifestyles, a phenomenon that is going to attract even more people into the market.”

Country manager - Property Finder

In 2021, the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan was launched – the seventh of its kind developed for the emirate since 1960 – offering a plethora of lifestyle and investment opportunities to citizens, residents and visitors over the next 20 years. The emirate’s population grew from 40,000 in 1960 to a whopping 3.3 million by the end of 2020, while its urban and built area increased 170-fold from 3.2 sq km in the same period. Moving forward, the number of Dubai residents is expected to increase to 5.8 million by 2040, while the daytime population is set to surge from 4.5 million in 2020 to 7.8 million in 2040.

Given its growth potential, Bond says the emirate, and the country as a whole, fits the bill for long-term investments too.

“We are seeing a return on investment of 5-10 per cent. We may see a slight correction in the future but as a whole, if you’re in it for the long haul, then it is an absolutely amazing place to be putting your assets into.” However, with technological advancements driving the growth of nearly all industries, future developments across the real estate landscape are also contingent on various initiatives, which would enrich the consumer journey and subsequently propel investments.

Though in its infancy, real estate crowdfunding is encouraging people from across several stripes to pour money, bringing into the fold those who cannot afford full property ownership as well as those that are looking to plow funds into multiple properties.

“Dubai is such a digital-forward market. And that is one of the things that’s been really exciting. As property prices continue to rise, it creates opportunities for partial ownership for people who perhaps couldn’t have realised full home ownership. That encourages us to think how we can provide tools for people to be able to buy or transact in a way that wasn’t possible before,” adds Bond.

However, amidst all evolving trends and solutions, information remains key, the importance of which cannot be understated. Buyers are more educated and aware of their priorities and are making informed decisions based on data.

Dubai

Bond adds, “We want to continue to invest to enrich the consumer journey for those wanting to buy a home. We want more transparency and information for them to be able to understand key elements such as buying power, purchase prices, community trends, growth potential, developers, types of projects, etc. Buying a house is probably the largest purchase for most people, and we want to ensure that customers experience the ease of the transaction, not the anxiety of it.”

Earlier this year, Property Finder acquired proptech firm, Homevalue, to improve its analytical capabilities. Homevalue, which built an artificial intelligence-led solution for the entire value chain of residential real estate, from developers and lenders to consultants, brokers, investors and asset management companies, complemented Property Finder’s existing in-house data solutions arm, Data Finder.

People first
However, the ultimate success for any company or brand is choosing resources that share a singular vision. As would be with any executive harbouring a long-term vision, it boils down to hiring the right people for Bond.

“Everything for me starts with talent. If you have the right people in the right places, with the correct momentum and mission, we will grow at the rates we want.

“I see this as a three-pronged approach, but one that starts with talent. Then, it’s about having a consumer-first mindset on how we ultimately help customers buy or rent a home. Another huge element is making sure that we provide value and high-quality products for our brokers who are ultimately our paying customers. Of course, it is also about constant adaptation – the market is always changing. What customers want today is definitely not what they wanted half a decade earlier. More so, consumers want the processes to move faster than ever. They want information and transparency.”

Consumers also lay at the nucleus of Bond’s advice to entrepreneurs seeking to enter the property/proptech space.

“My one advice to entrepreneurs would be to listen to the consumer, because they would always lead you to the next trend, to where the opportunity is. The trends that we are seeing are not new issues manifesting, but those that are now starting to get solved.”

Beckoning the future
In 2021, Dubai recorded the highest value of real estate sales transactions in 12 years, with Dhs151.07bn worth of properties sold throughout the year. The number of real estate sales transactions that took place last year – equalling 61,241 – were also the highest since 2013, according to Property Finder’s data.

Dubai hosted the six-month long expo event that also appeared to have an impact on the emirate’s real estate market. Since its start on October 1 until the end of last year, a total of 17,942 real estate sales transactions worth Dhs46.75bn were recorded across the emirate.

With the ongoing momentum, Bond feels that this year will triumph last year’s exploits in the property space. “If we look at the growth chart right now, from mortgage origination and volumes to the rental and transaction spaces during the first four months of the year, we are seeing that 2022 will be another record year. Every element is looking to eclipse 2021 at this current pace. Dubai is a consumer-, resident- and business-friendly city and as a result, it will continue to receive attention from investors.”

Two months into his journey, functioning in the midst of an inviting ecosystem and helming a team that pulls in the same direction, what does Bond aspire to achieve? “My aim is to create a platform where everybody begins and ends their real estate journey – a place where people would go to, to ultimately find a home.”

But it all begins with the right people. “The best talent ultimately creates the best company, and that will help create the most enriching consumer journey,” adds Bond.

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