Qatar Real Estate Forum 2023: Building for the future
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Qatar Real Estate Forum 2023: Building for the future

Qatar Real Estate Forum 2023: Building for the future

The event in Qatar brought together key figures and leading industry names from across the GCC who shared their perspectives on growing and managing their countries’ built industries

Qatar Real Estate Forum. Image: Supplied

Qatar’s real estate market is the country’s second-fastest growing industry after the hydrocarbons with investments exceeding QAR82bn. The Qatari government has put in place a legislative and executive framework to manage the development of this industry. To discuss the future of the country’s real estate market with all stakeholders, the government organised the ‘Qatar Real Estate Forum’ which ran from June 4 to 5.

The event was inaugurated by Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. The event was conducted by the Ministry of Municipality and supported by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance and Qatar Tourism.

The forum underscored the government’s message as panel discussions and fireside chats looked at ‘Regulations and Legislation for an Optimal Quality of Life and a Sustainable Real Estate Industry.’

The event also brought together key figures and leading industry names from across the GCC. Ministers and officers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain shared their perspectives on growing and managing their countries’ real estate industries.

What does the future hold?

The first session spotlighted ‘Future trends in the real estate sector’ and brought in a regional perspective as Qatar’s Minister of Municipality Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Subaie spoke to his peers from Kuwait and Oman. Mutlaq Naief Omar Abu Raqaba Al-Otaibi, Minister of Electricity, Water, Renewable Energy and Minister of State of Housing Affairs, Kuwait and Hamad Ali Sulaiman Al Nazwani, undersecretary of Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning for Housing, Oman spoke at length about their respective experiences in developing a market that met international standards and acted as a draw for foreign investors.

Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Subaie, Minister of the Municipality, highlighted the role that laws, and legislations play in streamlining the market as well as the ministry’s efforts to create a transparent business environment.

The session titled ‘Exploring the future of real estate’ had Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, CEO of Qatari Diar Real Estate Company address the latest built environment trends – beyond smart cities and creating need-based solutions for the industry. He provided his perspective on what the future looks like for Qatar after the completion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

One of the highlights was the panel that looked at ‘Real estate sector governance’. This session was relevant for existing and future investors of the country’s real estate market after the recent establishment of the Office of Public Authority for Regulating the Real Estate Sector.

The panellists hailed from across the GCC – Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, CEO of the Real Estate General Authority, Saudi Arabia; Essam Abdullah Khalaf, chairman of the Board of the directors, Real Estate Regulatory Authority, Bahrain; Marwan Ahmed Bin Ghalita, CEO of the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, Dubai Land Department, UAE; Dani Kabbani, managing partner, Eversheds Sutherland and Saeed Abdulla Saeed Al-Suwaidi, assistant undersecretary for Real Estate Registration and Authentication Affairs and chairman of the Committee for Non-Qatari Ownership and Use of Real Estate, Qatar.

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

The session brought to bear the international expertise of the panellists on topics such as the issuance of legislation in line with the requirements of the real estate sector, the importance of the regulatory and legislative relationship between private sector developers in the real estate industry with government authorities, and the role of governance in enhancing the investment climate. The speakers had an extensive discussion on the application of laws and managing the relationship between real estate companies and government authorities through laws and legislation.

Meanwhile, the session ‘Digital innovation for a sustainable real estate industry’ looked at the growing role of technology in the built sector, from the product to investment to customer service. The panelists included – Khalifa Al Zeraim Al Suwaidi, CEO and board member, Emirates Real Estate Solutions, UAE;
Maria Ahmed Al-Dubaikhi, strategic partnerships manager in the National Housing Company, Saudi Arabia, Naif AlSharif Al Zeid, secretary general of Wafi; Saudi Arabia; Tayseer Al-Mufarrej, general manager of strategic communications and spokesperson of the Real Estate General Authority, Saudi Arabia; Ziyad Al-Shammari, strategic general manager, Real Estate General Authority, Saudi Arabia; Faris A Al-Bassam, international cooperation director of the Real Estate General Authority, Saudi Arabia; and Amer Saeed Al-Ghafri, director of the Real Estate Registration Department, Ministry of Justice, Qatar.

Qatar’s World Cup legacy

Multiple panels had candid discussions on the legacy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and its implications for the real estate industry.

The panel titled ‘The post-World Cup real estate sector” featured Omar Al-Jaber, shared services director at Qatar Tourism Authority; Nasser Hassan Al-Ansari, chairman of the Board of Directors, Just Real State Company; Ahmed Mohammad Tayeb, chief investment officer, Qatari Diar Real Estate Company; Jassim Mohammed, Personnel Housing and Government Buildings Affairs, Qatar; and Mohammed Al-Asmakh, director of Operations at Katara Hospitality Company.

The panel was unanimous in its summary of the country benefitting from the successful completion of the sporting event. Al-Ansari said, “The groundwork for Qatar as an international market has been laid but the further development of the sector now has to be done by private developers.” “The government has executed and implemented all the infrastructure, and it has enacted laws that are necessary to revitalise the real estate sector. The private sector should not depend on the government for further support but rather come up with innovative products that attract foreign investors. “

Mohammed spoke about the ongoing work in managing the developments commissioned by the government. “The idea was that we will provide the rental units for the World Cup and would later take hold of them after the tournament to use and distribute them among government employees. The inventory is being managed but there can be other ways to do it as well.” “There is a great legacy since the beginning; we can assure the investor that he will not come for a short period but will get involved in the real estate sector in Qatar.”

Al-Ansari underscored the complete nature of the country’s real estate market. “Qatar’s real estate market has many features that are preferred by international investors such as state-of-the-art healthcare, universities, schools, education and tourism attractions which needs to be marketed beyond the country’s borders.”

According to Tayeb, Qatari Diar’s Lusail Project has, “played a great role in responding to the needs of the World Cup.” He said Lusail City offered investment opportunities to the private sector before and after the World Cup, citing dedicated areas for education, healthcare and recreation areas like Al Maha Island and the Lusail Winter Wonderland. He emphasised the market’s resilience which despite a global downturn had maintained its growth. “Our situation is better than other countries because the World Cup increased the number of tourists coming to the country.” “Qatar is focusing on several touristic projects in order to develop this sector, and the state rented more than 45,000 housing units for five years. This is a support for the real estate investor after the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Al-Jaber explained that Qatar Tourism had announced its calendar for the first and second quarter of the year, to ensure the annual line-up of events complemented the real estate sector’s needs to bring in international tourists. He said the tourism authority was promoting the country’s offerings through various channels in 18 countries.

Al-Asmakh said Katara Hospitality had proved itself during the football tournament. He said the country had “the best hotels” to meet the needs of the local market as well as foreign buyers. He added the hospitality sector had fulfilled its role and would continue to do so to attract more tourists to the country.

The panel ‘The real estate investor’s journey – reality versus hope’ brought together Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, chairman and managing director of Qetaifan Projects; Ibrahim Jassim Al-Othman, UDC president, CEO & Member of The Board, Qatar; Abdulla Al-Mehshadi, CEO of Al Waab City, Qatar; Fahad Mansour Al-Hashem, Real Estate Managing Director, Saudi Arabia; and Tariq Al-Tamimi, secretary of the committee on Real Estate Sector Development Strategy, Ministry of Municipality, Qatar

The panellists candidly discussed the market needs that could dominate the country’s real estate industry. The discussion addressed issues such as service charge and their perception by domestic constituents versus the foreign buyer, financing challenges and the legislative support needed to create a smooth pipeline for international buyers. It also focused on the real estate market’s current built capacity and its further development based along the lines of international markets such as those in China, Singapore and Europe.

The panel looked at initiatives in countries like Saudi Arabia which was also developing its real estate sector and creating an attractive environment for foreign investors for the built industry.

The panel was followed by a fireside chat with Omar Hussain Alfardan, president and CEO of Alfardan Group, Qatar which looked at the ‘Funding policies and processes’. The real estate developer gave an insight into his personal journey as well as the legacy of his family’s business, his pivot to real estate, the Alfardan’s group’s footprint beyond the GCC with the group now developing projects in Turkey, and his recommendations for developing his home country’s real estate sector.

Alfardan spoke about the group’s Marsa Arabia Resort which was developed under the management of The St. Regis brand before the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He called it a personal success with the resort receiving rave reviews from international tourists during the football world cup. “What we have today is enough for the sector as we built for the World Cup. We now have to move from building to developing this sector and investing in its management.” “We also need to move beyond looking at banks as the sole source of funds.”

He raised pertinent questions about the development of Qatar’s regulatory framework to manage the built infrastructure. From property managers to integrated facilities management solutions, Qatar can look at the examples in China, the UK or even Singapore to move to the next stage of growth for its real estate sector. He ended with a suggestion for those looking to invest in the property market, saying, “Real estate should never be looked at it in a speculative way. It is an investment instrument for the long-term and hence you should look at a seven-year cycle from plan to exit. It is one of the safest investment sectors and you can actually double your investment.”

The final session of the day and the forum spoke about ‘Future cities for a better life quality.’

The panelists included Ibrahim Al-Jaidah, group chief executive officer of Arab Engineering Bureau; Ali Abdullah Ali Abdullah, former chair of the Urban Planning and Development Authority, Qatar; Rashad Bukhash, president of the Architectural Heritage Association, UAE; and Abdulmohsin M Aljammaz, advisor to the deputy minister of Residential Supply Stimulus and Real Estate Development, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Jaidah explained some of the key trends that are dominating discussion in the built industry. “We need to look at humanising cities versus the construction in the 1970s which was built for vehicles. Cities are about multi-purpose usage and we need to learn to utilise conventional architecture in a modern way.” He also spoke about “green buildings that serve the environment from saving water to energy”.

Aljammaz looked at the ongoing trend of building “smart cities.” He said, “Smart cities are those that use technology for the betterment of its citizens”. He added that these cities are not just about technology and bringing in private players rather they are a joint responsibility between the government and the private sector. “The aim is to improve the overall experience for residents. But there is a gap at the operational level. How do we operate conventional buildings in the age of technology? We need to use the private sector for innovation and to use legislation to support these.” He underscored the point that smart cities should be judged on their livability.

Abdullah spoke about smart cities and their impact on social culture. He said the development and usage of city infrastructure actually moves from societies to governments.

Bukash put forward his perspective of the framework that should encompass a smart and green city. He lobbied for basic architectural designs to be in sync with nature. “Modernity needs to include sustainable standards and going back to traditions might offer solutions.” He also addressed the demolish and re-build trend and suggested that international cities had shown that buildings could be conserved for decades hence conservation should be a strategy for the real estate sector.

He believed the tide was turning against such actions. Each panellist also weighed in on the criteria for sustainable structures for the future.

A market for everyone

The forum hosted workshops at the venue which offered attendees the opportunity to hear from experts on mortgage systems and real estate funding, real estate investment (stages, challenges, and solutions) in Qatar, real estate appraisal, real estate development project management, and facilities management programmes.

The first edition of the Qatar Real Estate Forum concluded on June 5. The event saw over 1500 attendees across the two-day event. The forum’s agenda to break silos of information and benefit Qatar’s real estate sector saw a lively exchange of ideas and information as well as created opportunities for partnership and collaboration for the industry’s stakeholders. The overarching themes that emerged from the various discussions were the need for a strong legislative framework, transparent business practices, and redressal mechanisms, and meeting internationally accepted standards of delivery and service.

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