Why the world’s rich have quietly settled in Dubai

This summer, fresh from the west coast of the United States, a tech entrepreneur arrived in Dubai. In tow were his family, their family office and a fleet of 30 luxury cars. Everything a billionaire needs to start a new life in Dubai.

“It’s very safe here for my children. LA is not what it used to be. Crime has increased since Covid, ”explains the 50-year-old entrepreneur who did not want to be named.

Finding a house that could accommodate 30 cars was not easy, explains Rohal Kohyar, Marketing Director of Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty. Eventually, a villa on its own private estate was identified. There was a basement which could be converted into a giant garage.

Setting up the family office was not easy either. Family offices of this size manage hundreds of millions of dollars in private wealth, a task that requires a team of around 30 specialists.

“We had to increase the salary for an EA (Executive Assistant) position to make it attractive for people to come back to the UAE,” says Zahra Clark, MENA region manager for Tiger Recruitment.

During the pandemic, many expats left Dubai to return home. But with so many wealthy families now relocating to Dubai, recruiters must offer big incentives to attract investment professionals to the Emirate.

Kohyar estimates that 20 billionaires bought property in Dubai this year, and Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty saw an increase of around 300% in its activity compared to the same period last year.

According to the Dubai Land Department, the volume of real estate sales in Dubai rose 136.5% in August compared to the same month last year. Villa sales rose 124% thanks in part to the sale of several Dh100million ($ 27million) villas in the Dubai Hills Grove area. “Normally we do one or two deals worth 100 million Dh ($ 27 million) per year. This year we have already concluded nine,” Kohyar explains.

Real estate booms have happened before, but this time it’s different, Kohyar says. “Now people are buying these luxury properties to live there with their families. ”

And they are in a hurry, he said. Buyers don’t wait for developments to be completed. “They must be ready now.” The rich are suddenly in a hurry.

There is something else going on in Dubai that is different: people come from further afield. Kohyar says most of his clients come from major European countries, such as the UK, Switzerland and Germany. Of the super-rich who set up family offices in Dubai, Clarke says most are from the US and UK. Other recruiters say there is increased interest from Singapore and Hong Kong.

Many have been impressed with the way Dubai has handled the pandemic. Vaccines have been rolled out quickly to Dubai’s three million people, PCR testing is cheap and available, and the country only suffered a brief lockdown in March and April 2020. “We’re busier now than “before Covid. It will continue as long as Europe, UK and US cannot get it right in the way they are dealing with the Covid situation,” Clarke said.

But in reality, the pandemic has hit Dubai very hard. Thousands of skilled expats began returning home as jobs dried up, the cost of living rose and they feared they would find themselves stranded abroad.

The rulers of Dubai suddenly realized the fallibility of their economy. Expats brought with them business, wealth and entertainment. Without them, young talents or entrepreneurs in Dubai could follow them abroad.

In an effort to reverse this brain drain, the UAE government has started offering “golden visas” to top performers. The 10-year residency visa was created in 2019, but since the start of this year it has been given to top students, successful entrepreneurs and award-winning actors.

In July, 45 students who obtained more than 95% on their exams were granted gold visas. Among them was Raghad Muaiyad Asseid Danawi, a 17-year-old Jordanian student studying at Qatr Al Nada School in Dubai. “This is a great opportunity for me, my parents and my siblings,” she said. Khaleej weather.

In the same month, the United Arab Emirates made 100,000 golden visas available to computer coders. After losing to Europe, Israel and Silicon Valley, Dubai now wants to establish itself as a technology hub and aims to build 1,000 large digital companies over the next five years.

Along with students and computer coders, the UAE has also issued golden visas to actors. Yasmin Abdelaziz, a popular Egyptian actress received a golden visa in July, joining a trio of Lebanese pop stars – Najwa Karam, Marwan Khoury and Ragheb Alama – who have already been granted the visa.

All of this makes Dubai more attractive to the wealthy. For 10 million Dh (2.7 million dollars), they too can have a golden visa. And, thanks to a new law introduced in February this year (Legislative Decree 19), they can take their family offices with them.

But perhaps the most attractive thing about the UAE is the lack of income tax. As other parts of the world, and in particular the United States and the United Kingdom, raise wealth taxes to pay for the pandemic, Dubai suddenly looks much more attractive.

And, if they start moving their businesses or family offices here, they’re more likely to stay, Kohyar explains: “This push right now is more personal, it’s more rounded, and we think it’s going to be a lot more. sustainable because people move here with their families and with their businesses, so they will definitely stay. “

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