Winners of Property Finder Awards on why Dubai's real estate sector is on solid ground
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Winners of Property Finder Awards on why Dubai’s real estate sector is on solid ground

Winners of Property Finder Awards on why Dubai’s real estate sector is on solid ground

The eighth edition of the Property Finder Real Estate Awards celebrated the UAE’s leading brokerages and agents, acknowledging their tenacity and innovative solutions

After going through a challenging year in 2020, Dubai’s economy showed robust recovery in 2021.

The government’s effective management of the pandemic, successful vaccine rollout programme, new visa options and pro-investment policies have led to an influx of interest and investment in Dubai.

Expo 2020 Dubai has further shone the spotlight on the emirate’s growing status as a preferred destination for holiday makers, expats and investors in 2021. These factors have been effectively leveraged by Dubai’s real sector, which enjoyed a record-breaking year across most segments.

Michael Lahyani, founder and CEO of Property Finder, describes it as a “year of fundamental changes and developments”, but also one that “presented an excellent opportunity for all of us”.

The eighth edition of the Property Finder Awards honoured some of the sector’s top performers, who stood out in 2021 due to their consistent commitment to enhancing the industry by offering exceptional service, high-quality listings and transparency. The selection of the winners was through a variety of criteria across 14 categories.

Based on this, the Property Finder awards were given to:

  • Driven Properties (Best Quality Brokerage, Best Quality Broker and Best Property Video)
  • Exclusive Links Real Estate Brokers (Best Boutique Brokerage)
  • LuxuryProperty.com (Best Quality Broker – Boutique)

We spoke with the winners to discover how they used technology and other innovations to capitalise on the opportunities, factors that helped them win and their expectations extending into 2022.

ABDULLAH ALAJAJI
Founder, Driven Properties

 

What are the factors that contributed to your win?
As an organisation, we are committed to improving every aspect of our business, but truth be told, the key to our success lies in our people. I feel very proud to be surrounded by true professionals in every department. To that effect, we welcomed 21 new partners to the organisation last year, with another 10 joining the partnership towards the end of the year, all by way of issuing new equity. These individuals have and continue to add immense value to the organisation, and it’s time for everyone to start reaping those rewards.

Another key differentiator is our continuous investment in technology. This has helped propel our service standards to another level. In fact, client retention has become a key aspect of our practice, using the best tech tools at our disposal. The culture and atmosphere at Driven Properties allows individuals the freedom to spread their wings, and reach for the sky. Winning three major awards in a market as competitive as Dubai is a true honour.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from the past two years?
Adapting to change is key. Companies and individuals who were quick to adapt to new circumstances were the ones succeeding. In our case, that meant paying close attention to our clients and their changing needs, and addressing them effectively. One key thing that defines us as an organisation is that we are not afraid to take risks, even in these changing times. We’ve started several verticals, made significant investment to complement our service offering and continue to pour large pools of capital into technology to automate all business processes to ensure we don’t miss opportunities.Another example of that mindset is our approach to creating our award-winning video.

Our marketing team wanted to take a completely different approach to what was considered the industry standard. It was a risk, and it worked. It helped send a message to the industry that the entire real estate ecosystem is an advocate of change and it’s inspiring all of us to find ways to raise the standard even higher.

What are the trends you see this year and how will they guide your business?
Dubai is a very dynamic city. In venture capitalist terms, it was a ‘startup’ in the past, and now, it’s a mature city that continues to register impressive growth year on year. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for the city and are excited to be part of it. Of course, Dubai will always surprise us with initiatives and reforms aimed at attracting more foreign direct investment into the city.In terms of our practice, we will continue to use experience and innovation as our guiding principles to doing business. This is how we thrive. We will also continue investing in technology and always be the first to take risks.

KIANOUSH DARBAN
Associate partner, Driven Properties

 

What are the factors that contributed to your success?
We’ve all faced challenges in the past two years, but the pandemic didn’t stop me from doing the job I love: selling luxury real estate. During the lockdown and even after, I kept in touch with all my loyal clients via phone or video calls. Technology played a major role in overcoming challenges we were facing. It kept us connected even though we were physically apart.

Once the lockdown was lifted, I was fully prepared to get into the sway. I’ve had one of the best years of my career because I kept my focus and my faith. I’m grateful to have a great rapport with my loyal clients, it has resulted in many big deals coming my way. There were some monumental and record-breaking moments, such as the sale of the most expensive penthouse in Dubai and of course, winning the Property Finder award for being the best agent in the luxury real estate space in Dubai. Dedication to my clients and company has been a major factor as well my openness to learning and improving.

Any takeaways from the past two years?
The pandemic took everyone by surprise. Industries had to adapt quickly, and ours wasn’t an exception. My first priority was making sure my clients were safe and comfortable while we found ways to navigate through the crisis. I had to make sure all safety protocols were being followed.I was closely connected to clients living overseas. I spontaneously started having virtual viewings. I would get them on a video call whenever I visited a property I thought they might like. Many of them started asking me to take videos for them, and in some cases, it even resulted in the purchase of a property that hadn’t even been seen in person. My biggest takeaway is I’m fortunate to help people find their dream home, and that I enjoy the trust of my clients.

What’s your outlook for the year?
Dubai is one of the most attractive destinations in the world as well as being the safest city in the world, with a location that offers a great bridge between the East and West. We see an increasing number of people relocating here; they all require a home or an office, and that’s great news for all of us in the industry. I have reasons to believe this year will be even better than the previous year. I’m focused on expanding my network with trusted agents in various parts of the city to ensure my clients have the best experience buying and selling properties in Dubai.

LOUISE HEATLEY
Owner and managing director, Exclusive Links Real Estate Brokers

How did you deal with challenges during the past two years?
We see challenges as opportunities to create a positive experience from what may initially seem like a problem. Every obstruction faced can result in improvement, if you are effective and proactive. We’ve consistently and continuously tried to advance and enhance our customer service and productivity. We’ve had to constantly innovate and adapt to meet changes in the market. It’s not just about reacting quickly and efficiently, but also about assessing risk and potential future considerations that we can prepare for in advance. We maintained our customer communications, offered a high level of service delivery and met our company policies and targets regardless of the additional external factors that impacted all of these.

What were the things you had to adapt to during this period to do your job better?
The demand in the market increased substantially in 2021 and our leads increased by 100 per cent through the Property Finder portal alone. We changed our customer relationship management system to remove some of the manual and human elements both to look after our customers and avoid any potential loss of business or reduced performance. We continuously drive our team to push their limits, try new things and face their fears. We started our series of agent videos to showcase their individual personalities — remember, people buy from people.

Many of our team members are not comfortable in front of the camera and were very anxious, but our marketing and production team worked closely to produce amazing video content that truly captures our agents’ individual personalities. I’ve also pushed myself to do a podcast series called, ‘Property Talk from Louise’s Lounge’.

What are your plans for 2022?
There is greater international investor demand and more awareness of Dubai and its opportunities, with the government effectively managing the pandemic response. Expo 2020 Dubai has also helped create awareness. We believe consumer interest will continue in 2022 and our focus is to meet our customer requirements, so we are currently setting up business operations for our newly formed company, Exclusive Links Vacation Homes. Many of our international clients want access to their property, but they do not yet live full time in Dubai. Our short-term rental division will allow us to care and maintain their property while offering monetary returns. Exclusive Links has the full property management license and we have been providing our management services since 2005.

RICCARDO SCALA
Director, The Private Client Office, LuxuryProperty.com

What were the factors contributing to your win, particularly in the face of challenges caused by the pandemic?
I can honestly say I never stopped working at all. When the whole world shut down and Dubai went into lock-down, I got special permission to go out and help people who needed to find homes to rent or buy, as they were stranded in the city. It was hard work, but I kept at it. I firmly believe hard work wins every time.

What were some of the things you did differently in your job last year?
For me, 2021 was the year of live video streaming tours. Many clients were unable to visit Dubai due to lockdowns in different parts of the world, but they still wanted to buy property. I adapted quickly to being comfortable in front of and behind the camera, presenting properties to buyers all over the world. It was a challenge, but also a great learn-ing experience.

What’s your outlook for the market this year?
I feel the demand for high-end luxury homes will not experience a slowdown this year, as there are still plenty of buyers out in the market looking for their dream home. One thing that has now become compulsory for all buyers is executing a full know-your-customer and proof-of- funding protocol – these are important anti-money laundering guidelines required by the government. These steps really help qualify buyers in the right way, reducing the time taken to complete the purchase process. Increasing efficiency at the front end certainly makes business smooth sailing on the home straight.

Taken from Property Finder’s Prestige special report in Gulf Business’ March issue

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