Sharjah's real estate market has experienced strong growth and an increasing demand for residential and commercial properties. How did you manage to bring the company to its current position in this growing market?
Potential Real Estate has grown in parallel with Sharjah, where demand for real estate has always existed, even in times of economic crisis, because the government has been very keen in providing the necessary infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, the electrical grid, education services, and healthcare, which creates demand for residential and commercial properties. We must also mention the regulatory infrastructure, which guarantees the rights of investors, and regulates the relationship between tenants and landlords.
What is your assessment of the recent government policies aimed at relaxing the rules on foreign ownership in terms of improving the real estate market in Sharjah?
Many expatriates have always wanted to own property in Sharjah. Many of them were born and educated here, but their passport prevented them from doing so. The opening of Sharjah's real estate market to them finally gives them the opportunity to buy their own places and be secure for an extended amount of time without feeling the effect of price fluctuations in rent, which are high as a result of increased demand. Moreover, it allows them to invest their money in real estate, which is more profitable and safer than putting it in a bank. Opening the market has increased demand for our services. Many people actually prefer to rent out their new investment while staying in their own residence.
Which of Potential's initiatives or projects do you expect will have the most impact going forward?
In Sharjah we have big plots in Industrial Area 1, and we are going to have a huge impact on this area because the project will cover, and area of 150,000sqf will cost AED400 million ($108.9 million). For the next four years, this will be a huge project for us. In Abu Dhabi we will begin construction in October on a 21-story residential building with 130 apartments right next to the Exhibition Center, which will be aimed at families in the higher segment of society. Another big project is the Sultan Bin Rashed mosque that we are building in Al Ain. With a capacity for 2,100 worshippers, it will be monumental for Al Ain. We will provide facilities for ladies and for men, and we also have Koran recital classes and educate newcomers about Islam, which is very important as a majority of newcomers to the UAE want to learn more about the local culture and religion. To this end, we are building a multipurpose room that will serve as a lecture hall, and also a place for neighborhood gatherings, where people can be educated by the General Authority of Islamic affairs on a variety of societal topics.
What is your outlook for the real estate and construction sector in the UAE for the medium term?
It will continue to grow. What is unique about the UAE is that we do not depend on our own growth numbers. Over the past four years, the average population growth was 8.5%, and projected population growth in the next five years is 9.5%, which means we need to provide for about 800,000 people per year. I do not see the real estate market dropping anytime soon. There will be steady growth, backed in particular by the Expo 2020, which will guarantee us a lot of business.
What are your company's expectations for the coming year?
Our company manages over 2,500 units and we just added another 500 units to our capacity. People started to realize that we are giving a good, honest service. We are breaking into to the market right now, and I hope to expand our units under management to 5,000 over the coming three years.