BUILD IT BETTER

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | REAL ESTATE, HOUSING & MORTGAGE | INTERVIEW

Wafi and ETMAM work to serve the Kingdom and its citizens in the field of real estate development and home ownership.

Mohammed bin Saud Al-Ghazwani
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed bin Saud Al-Ghazwani has spearheaded Wafi since its inception in 2017. He is also responsible for ETMAM, the Real Estate Development Services Center that is developed to be the central ministerial point of contact for developers. Both entities were created under the supervision of the Ministry of Housing.

Could you tell us more about the newly established Wafi and your mandate for the real estate development sector?

Wafi was developed to deal with the organization of the sale and rentals of off-plan real estate units, regardless of their purpose or method of development, before or during the construction phase. The program also requires real estate developers to implement approved models and specifications according to the timetable of each project. The program is supervised by a committee set up by a decision of the Council of Ministers, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Ministry of Justice, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON), and two members of the public sector. The committee is also involved with a number of other government agencies, such as the Real Estate Development Fund as well as ETMAM. Wafi seeks to be the leading and distinguished program in the supervision of real estate development projects, serving the country and citizens in the field of real estate development through supervision and follow-ups and the development of effective policies and operational mechanisms. The committee's tasks are focused on granting licenses within a maximum period of 10 days from the completion of the license application for the project and outlining the conditions and requirements necessary for the licensing, sale, marketing, and presenting of off-plan real estate units.

What is Wafi's vision for the development of the residential sector in the Kingdom?

Wafi works in accordance with the mechanisms and rules that will facilitate the mechanism of citizens' ownership of housing, support supply, enable demand, increase ownership, and facilitate access with various options, high quality, and favorable prices in line with the NTP and Vision 2030. Off-plan sales and rents are tested and proven global concepts. The best way to ensure citizens are able to obtain suitable housing through multiple guarantees provided by the program is to protect them from fraudulent sales and safeguard the rights of buyers and tenants through systems and procedures. These measures are the result of the ministry's vision and dedicated work of Wafi employees. In order to improve the quality of services provided, an online platform was launched to facilitate services for citizens and to follow up on off-plan sales and leasing across the entire country with ease and efficiency.

What role can Wafi play to support the ministry's objectives to promote transparency in the real estate sector, encourage competition, and improve the residential sector?

The resolution by the Council of Ministers to develop a program to regulate the off-plan sale and leasing sector reflects its interest in boosting the real estate market, organizing it, and encouraging fair competition, which will subsequently benefit the housing sector. The program was based on fulfilling contracts, and the vision is to achieve a transparent real estate environment wherein everyone is on equal footing and the conditions and mechanisms are equally applied to all. Today, Wafi works to apply the highest standards through clear and published requirements. It also enables everyone to engage with the off-plan sale system without differentiation or favoritism in accordance with clear and consistent standards and timeframes. Wafi protects buyers' rights by annotating the title deed of the property, depositing funds in the project's escrow account, requiring an engineering consultant and a legal accountant, as well as field monitoring of the licensed projects and working to qualify and evaluate the developers' assessment. The program also prohibits developers from selling or leasing any off-plan real estate units, whatever their purpose or method of development, advertising in local or foreign media, or presenting them in exhibitions without first obtaining the necessary license from the committee to carry out the activity.

How can Wafi drive collaboration in the coming years?

Wafi has held a number of joint workshops with real estate developers, specialists in the field, legal accountants, and engineering consultants, with the aim of promoting partnerships and development in order to boost the real estate market. We envision becoming an entity that protects the rights of citizens and an important custodian of the real estate sector investments in the Kingdom, working continually to protect the rights of beneficiaries and ensure their satisfaction. We want to organize the sale and lease of off-plan activities in the real estate market by 2022 to stimulate the supply of real estate and raise productivity, providing housing products at the right price and quality, improving the performance of the real estate sector, and increasing its contribution to gross domestic product.

ETMAM was set up as developer services center for the real estate sector and as a governmental central connection point for developers. What are your mandate and activities?

ETMAM rules as a connection point for developers and is currently working to raise awareness among real estate developers about the services provided by the center. We participate in exhibitions that publicize the center's role in servicing real estate developers so that citizens will benefit from our services. We held a series of workshops with participation from both public and private sectors to develop ways of cooperation and to identify and analyze the challenges that developers might face.

For greater private sector involvement, it is instrumental to have an attractive investment climate. How is ETMAM equipped to pursue this?

Like other programs of the Ministry of Housing, ETMAM contributes to creating an attractive investment environment that allows the increment in the domestic and international investments at the real estate sector within the Kingdom. Our common objective is to increase the volume of investments in the real estate sector and to accelerate the pace of work in residential projects. ETMAM works as the connection point through various service-level agreements with different governmental entities. Developers can submit their applications for permits, approvals, and handovers, and ETMAM ensures that these are done quickly and in compliance with the regulations. ETMAM also monitors the real estate development process to develop the necessary system of rules and regulations that facilitate procedures, with the participation of all relevant entities.

What are your objectives and expectations for the coming years?

For Wafi, we are keen to work on bridging the rapidly growing gap between demand and supply, and to develop a comprehensive and integrated plan to address the problem of both supply and demand through various products. One of our most important achievements is the integrated supervision of the real estate development projects in all regions of the Kingdom led by a Saudi team of distinguished competencies. This reflects the efficiency of the team and the keenness of the committee to conduct business with quality and effectiveness in line with the ambitions of Vision 2030. ETMAM aims to propel the real estate sector in the Kingdom and improve residential development activities with more and better private sector participation. We also aim to improve the performance of the real estate sector and increase its contribution to GDP. Our ultimate objective is to raise home ownership to at least 70% by 2030.