When you buy property in Dubai, choosing a high-quality real estate developer should be on the top of your list of things to do. In fact, it’s probably more important here than in any other major international housing market.
If you’re not convinced of the importance of finding a reliable real estate developer in Dubai, just ask someone who bought an apartment or commercial property there in 2008. Back then, choosing a developer meant the difference between getting scammed or not.
The Dubai Pearl began construction in 2009. Buyers aren’t happy because it still looks like this today.
The local market has certainly improved since then. Nonetheless, the UAE remains heavily dependent on its construction and oil industries.
Dubai’s property sector is currently saturated with hundreds of developers fighting for your money. Meanwhile, home prices are on a losing streak and the job market is slowing down.
Therefore, when you choose a real estate developer in Dubai, don’t simply look at marketing materials or finishing standards in a showroom. These things are meant to impress you and nothing more.
Instead, you should look to the developer’s balance sheet and reputation. Consider whether they’re worth your time and your money, and more importantly, if they’ll keep their promises during a recession.
With all that said, here are ten of the top developers in Dubai’s ultra-competitive real estate market.
1. Emaar Properties
Since its founding in 1997, Emaar Properties has consistently been one of Dubai’s leading property developers.
Emaar boasts a massive number of residential and commercial projects. Included in the firm’s portfolio are undertakings like the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world, and the Dubai Mall which is largest on the planet.
In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to not enter an Emaar development when you visit the city of Dubai.
On top of its major commercial projects, Emaar has also developed a number of high-end residential properties, including the Arabian Ranches, Dubai Marina, and Dubai Hills Estate.
Emaar developed the Burj Khalifa, a building that needs no introduction.
Today, Emaar properties operates in 36 different markets across the Middle East, East Asia, North Africa, Europe, and North America, and its brand is well-known among property developers around the world.
Perhaps the sole drawback to Emaar properties is that your primary options are luxury brands. Housing in Dubai is expensive as-is. With major developments like the Dubai Creek Tower in the pipeline, Emaar doesn’t seem to want to waste its time with low-value developments.
Notable Projects: Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Opera House, Dubai Creek Harbour, Emaar Beachfront
2. Nakheel Properties
Over the course of two decades, Nakheel Properties has grown into a premier property developer in Dubai and around the world. The company is known for its projects in Dubai, yet currently maintains a presence in more than 85 countries around the world.
Nakheel is best known for the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago in the Persian Gulf featuring a number of luxury residential and commercial properties. On these man-made islands, you’ll find projects like the Palm 360, a twin-tower luxury hotel, and the Nakheel Mall.
Unlike many of its counterparts, Nakheel offers a wide range of brands to suit various clients’ needs.
Entry-level developments like International City and Jumeirah Village offer affordable one-bedrooms while brands like the Palm Beach Residences are among the top luxury projects in Dubai.
Nakheel Properties also boasts some of the most impressive numbers out of Dubai’s best real estate developers. Its 2017 revenue was over 5.5 billion AED, and its profits continue rising.
Mid-Range Projects: Dragon Towers, Badrah, Jenan Heights
Luxury Projects: Palm Jumeirah, Al Furjan, Jumeirah Park Homes
Nakheel is now constructing The World – a series of manmade islands that look like its namesake.
3. The First Group
The First Group is a global property development company founded 30 years ago by Danny Lubert.
Although the company operates in several major markets worldwide, it established a head office in Dubai in 2005, and since then, has become one of the leading property developers in Dubai.
Ranging from entry-level to high-end projects, The First Group has a diverse portfolio of properties. It’s among very few firms on our list that have built practically every type of building – whether small or large, expensive or cheap, hotel or residential.
They’ve developed several luxury hotels in partnership with international brands, and also built a number of high-rise residential developments in Dubai’s Sports City, like the Bridge, which won an award for best residential high-rise development.
Of their Dubai properties, the First Group is best known for its award-winning Wyndham Dubai Marina as well as the Sky Bay Hotel and Avalon Tower. They also partnered with brands such as Emirates Airlines and Millennium Hotels, indicating this developer’s commitment to quality.
Notable Projects: The One, Dolphin Tower, Avalon Tower, Ciel Tower, Sky Bay Hotel
4. Deyaar Properties
In 2002, Deyaar Properties emerged as a subsidiary of the Dubai Islamic Bank, but as it grew and became increasingly profitable, it spun-off as an independent company.
Deyaar Properties is now led by CEO Saeed Al Qatami, who entered with an impressive resume that includes Deyaar’s VP of Business Development and Director of Omega Engineering. He won the Development Industry CEO Excellence Award in 2014.
Today, Deyaar properties specializes in residential and commercial high-rise complexes in Dubai, and in addition to development, it also offers property management services. Notable projects by Deyaar include the Mayfair Tower, Central Park, and the Atria.
Although Deyaar’s balance sheet took a small hit in 2018, Al Qatami attributes the decline in profits to Deyaar’s expansion into the hospitality industry with projects like the Millennium Deyaar Hotel. Overall, Deyaar is among the leading property developers in Dubai.
Notable Projects: Central Park, Mayfair Tower, Al Seef Tower, Midtown, The Citadel
5. Damac Properties
Although Damac Properties was only founded in 2002, it quickly flew to the top of Dubai’s property development market, and today, it’s one of Dubai’s largest developers with over 2 billion USD in annual revenue. In fact, it was the #1 Forbes Growth Champion in 2017.
Damac is a luxury-oriented developer that high-end residential properties, and it has expanded into the hospitality market with its subsidiary, DAMAC Hotels and Resorts.
Its major projects in Dubai include DAMAC Towers by Paramount and DAMAC Heights, which boasts the Best International High-Rise Architecture Award from the International Property Awards.
The developer is also behind the DAMAC Tower London – the tallest residential skyscraper in London.
DAMAC is arguably the UAE’s most famous property developer with its numerous buildings in London, Riyadh, and elsewhere.
They’ve certainly made waves in the UK, yet Damac Properties’ core business interests remain in the Middle East. Damac has a huge presence in Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia in addition to its Dubai developments.
Overall, Damac Properties is one of the fastest-growing and most international developers in Dubai.
Notable Projects: DAMAC Hills, Ocean Heights, AYKON City, Park Towers, Al Jawharah
6. Azizi Developments
Azizi Developments first emerged in 2007, making it a relative newcomer to the Dubai property development market. It got off to a rocky start during its first few years because of the Global Financial Crisis, Azizi Properties rebounded in 2013 to become a premier developer.
Today, Azizi Developments’ portfolio in Dubai is worth around 45 billion AED. The company is involved in nearly 200 ongoing projects including the well-known Riviera waterfront property.
Construction on Azizi Riviera is still underway, yet the project is making steady progress and shaping up to be an excellent addition to Dubai’s luxury real estate market.
Azizi Development has also been involved in a number of smaller but highly successful projects, such as two major developments in Dubai Healthcare City.
While Azizi Developments is new to the Dubai property development game, the company is already making the news.
For three years in a row, it won Developer of the Year at the Construction Innovation Awards. They also won the Best Developer award at the Design Middle East Awards.
Furthermore, Azizi plans to launch an initial public offering for the company in the next few years.
Despite Azizi Developments’ newcomer status, its rapid growth and solid record have made it a top player in Dubai’s property development market.
Notable Projects: Mina, Riviera, Grand, Victoria, Aura
7. Gemini Property Developers
Gemini Property Developers is a subsidiary of Gemini Group, which has operated in the UAE for over three decades. It formed back in 2005 as an expansion of the Gemini Group’s already-successful business ventures.
The firm focuses on residential projects in both Dubai and India. Gemini already finished one successful project in Dubai, the Splendor residential complex.
They’re now working on a second flagship development, Symphony, a smart home real estate project located in Dubai’s Business Bay.
Although Gemini Property Developers’ current portfolio is rather limited, its projects are luxurious and in-tune with the Dubai real estate market’s needs. Additionally, its backing from the highly successful Gemini Group makes this developer a safe bet.
Notable Projects: Splendor, Symphony
After Omniyat burst onto the Dubai real estate development scene in 2005, it nearly fell into total obscurity during the Global Financial Crisis as several of its projects were halted or canceled.
However, instead of giving up, Omniyat retooled its strategy and has reemerged as one of Dubai’s best property developers.
Omniyat’s CEO, Mahdi Amjad, has wisely guided his company out of recession and into the future of Dubai’s property market. In his strategy, Amjad has focused on capitalizing on the demand for “off-plan” development and on diversifying into the hospitality industry.
Omniyat opts for a modern style. Perhaps their most famous building is The Opus, designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid.
In the past year, Omniyat hit numerous major milestones that cemented its status as a top Dubai developer. The company completed two major developments – the Opus and the Pad – and is well on its way to finishing a handful of luxury projects due for completion in 2020.
If Omniyat’s rebound into the Dubai real estate development market doesn’t have you convinced of the company’s prowess, its financing speaks for itself. Omniyat receives extensive support from local banks and its financing requirements are covered for the next few years.
Notable Projects: Langham Place Residences, The Sterling, One Palm, The Binary, the Opus
9. Dubai Properties
Dubai Properties began in 2004 as a subsidiary of the Dubai Holding Group – a business owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Today, it remains among the top real estate development companies in Dubai.
However, while the company’s ownership should certainly inspire confidence, Dubai Properties also stands on its own as an excellent property developer.
Dubai Properties’ unique ownership also allows it to expand into areas that other real estate developers cannot always access.
In addition to your standard array of fancy hotels and luxurious apartments, Dubai Properties develops houses, large commercial spaces, and even plots of land. The company also takes on unique projects, such as a “living wall” to offset the UAE’s carbon emissions.
Due to its solid corporate structure and variety of unique assets, Dubai Properties is a solid bet in the Dubai property development market.
Notable Projects: Dubai Wharf, Remraam, 1/JBR, Bellevue Towers, Manazel Al Khor
10. MAG Property Development
Moafaq Ahmad Al Gaddah – or MAG – Group’s property development subsidiary was formed in 2003. Since its founding, MAG Property Development has become one of the top residential property developers in the Arab world.
In fact, the company ranked 18th among other unlisted real estate companies in the crowded Middle Eastern market, and its new CEO, Talal Moafaq Al Gaddah, has been named as one of the most influential young CEOs in the Middle East and around the world.
MAGEYE, now under construction, is a master-planned community fifteen minutes south of Downtown Dubai.
Like many Dubai real estate developers, MAG specializes in high-end residential developments. However, unlike its contemporaries, MAG has deftly begun to capitalize on the rising demand for affordable housing in the UAE.
The Dubai government has begun discussing affordable housing quotas. As a result, MAG property is increasingly building cheaper units in its MAG 5 Boulevard project and MAGEYE residential complex.
With its new and highly capable CEO, MAG Property Development is actively looking toward the future of Dubai, making it an excellent real estate developer in the local market.
Notable Projects: MBL Residence, MAGEYE, MAG 5 Boulevard, MAG318. MAG230
Are Other Dubai Property Developers Good?
Dubai is home to hundreds of property developers ranging all sizes. Just because a developer wasn’t included in our top ten doesn’t necessarily make them bad.
Regardless, you should do the proper research on a developer before buying one of their projects. That’s especially true if you’re purchasing real estate in Dubai off-plan, either before or during its construction.
Ask yourself several questions: what does the developer’s financial situation look like? Is the quality of their past projects good? Do they have a history of meeting deadlines? Are the online reviews by tenants living in their previous developments positive?
Search for their complete developments on Google and look at what people are saying about them. Visit one of the developer’s other buildings and see if it looks busy and well-staffed… or like a ghost town.
Dubai’s property sector, quite frankly, doesn’t have a good record of stability recently. Events from the last decade are enough proof of that. Furthermore, UAE’s economic fundamentals haven’t really changed since 2008.
The UAE still heavily relies on its oil sector with gas prices hovering near all-time lows. Small signs of progress were made towards diversification into the financial sector. Of course, banks don’t exactly perform well in times of economic distress either.
I’m not calling for doom and gloom. But my point is: you should be careful about choosing a developer when buying real estate in Dubai. Consider buying property outside the UAE if you can’t handle some financial research.
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