COMMUNITY WELLBEING

Oman 2020 | REAL ESTATE, HOUSING & MORTGAGE | INTERVIEW

The Omani real estate market has been hit hard in 2020, but Yahya Group has separated itself from the rest with the help of unique facilities, lifestyle comforts, and technology.

Ken Mueller
BIOGRAPHY

Ken Mueller is the Chief Business Development Officer at Yahya Group and the General Manager of Dolphin Village. Mueller joined Yahya Group Holding in 2011 and is involved in the various divisions of the company.

How do you expect the outbreak of COVID-19 to impact the Omani business environment in the medium term?
The pandemic and the decline in oil prices will affect the Omani and global economy for years to come. Thus, we have to cut down expenses where appropriate, and concentrate on the divisions that have the greatest possibility of maintaining a positive income flow. We remain optimistic for a faster recovery, but we are also careful with investing in areas that may lag in terms of recovery.

What lasting changes will the current macroeconomic environment and COVID-19 have on the Omani real estate sector?
The Omani real estate market has been hit by two factors. First, by the reduction in income for many and second, by the departure of numerous middle- to high-level expats. Therefore, there is no doubt that margins will be negatively affected. The key to controlling the negative effect on margins will be retaining long-term residents and managing maintenance budget without degrading property. The rental sector will benefit from the young generation of Omanis who will marry and live outside their parents' home at a younger age.

How is the evolution of the community living concept reflected in the adjustments Yahya Group has undertaken at Dolphin Village?
Dolphin Village always has been a multi-cultural community. Originally, the predominant nationality was British, as the Dolphin Village was the staff camp for the Yahya-Costain Construction Company, which had roots in the UK and Oman. Once the village became a commercial enterprise, the number of nationalities grew and today we have residents from six continents. I believe our definition of community is summed up in our motto 'it's where you belong'. I can see we have a strong community when I see our residents help each other and come together to help others.

How do you expect requirements for real estate players to evolve and adjust to the evolution in demand for their assets?
With the reduction of expats in Oman, the initial result will be downward pressure on rental rates. High-end properties, such as Dolphin Village, will be able to maintain their rates better than others as they offer more extensive facilities that no other community offers. Due to the Village's amenities, people consider Dolphin Village a residential resort. New projects will have to contemplate how they will offer their tenants more than just a home to live-in, with lifestyle comforts becoming the main asset to attract the best clients.

How is digitalization impacting the management of residential assets in Oman?
There is no doubt that new technologies and programs will help managers of real estate in countless ways. One area is the ability to quickly target problem areas and track the repair expense versus replacement costs. With better technology and communication, the experience of residents will improve. Since Dolphin Village is a multicultural community, there are sometimes language barriers when requesting services or asking questions, but these barriers will be overcome through technology. Through technology, we will be able to understand our residents' needs better and satisfy their demands more efficiently. This will also help residents get a clearer picture of what to expect from us. Technology will also assist us in accomplishing our goal of achieving high satisfaction rates and retain a good clientele.