Uber-wealthy flock to Dubai’s iconic Palm Island as mansion sales surge

Dubai’s luxury real estate market is booming, with sales of homes priced at $10 million or more soaring by 19% in the first quarter. Despite regional tensions, wealthy individuals are flocking to Dubai, particularly to iconic locations like Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Bay Island. Factors like ‘golden’ visas, increased investor interest, and relatively affordable prices compared to global counterparts contribute to Dubai’s appeal as a prime residential destination.

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By Zainab Fattah

Sales of homes with a price tag of $10 million or more climbed 19% in Dubai during the first quarter as the world’s ultra-wealthy continue to flock to the Middle East’s business and tourism hub despite mounting geopolitical tension across the region. 

A total of 105 luxury homes were sold for $1.73 billion in the first three months of this year, according to property consultant Knight Frank LLP. Sales on Palm Jumeirah, the iconic tree-shaped artificial island off the coast of Dubai, accounted for 36.3% of the activity in the quarter. 

“The level of deal activity in Dubai continues to strengthen, particularly at the top end of the market, where the near constant stream of international high-net-worth-individuals vying for the city’s most expensive homes persists,” Faisal Durrani, a partner at Knight Frank, said in a statement.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, Dubai faced an exodus of expatriates and mounting competition from neighboring business hubs and, in response, the government opened up and officials made it easier to receive the country’s famed ‘golden’ visas. That — along with an influx of investors such as Russians seeking to shield their assets, crypto millionaires and rich Indians setting up second homes — has driven a surge in demand for Dubai property.

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The data is the latest sign that Dubai’s appeal hasn’t been dented even as geopolitical tensions have risen in the region since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. 

Last year, Dubai registered 431 sales of homes worth at least $10 million, which was the most of any city on the planet, according to Knight Frank’s data. London, with 240 in such sales, was a distant second, while New York and Hong Kong notched 211 and 163 of those homes sold, respectively.

To be sure, millionaires flocking to the emirate have found that the city’s real estate is relatively affordable compared to those other international metropolitan areas. In Dubai, $1 million gets homebuyers 980 square feet of prime residential space. In New York, that sum fetches just 366 square feet on average, Knight Frank found. 

“Dubai’s luxury homes market still remains one of the most affordable in the world,” Durrani said. That’s despite the fact that the recent growth rates are “making it one of, if not the fastest growing prime residential market globally,” he said.

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Jumeirah Bay Island, a seahorse-shaped piece of land accessible by bridge from the Dubai mainland, accounted for 11.1% of the sales of homes worth $10 million or more in the first quarter. Dubai Hills Estate, a planned community that says it features a 33-mile bike route and 18-hole championship golf course, accounted for 7% of such sales. 

“Dubai Hills Estate has quietly for some time been rising up the ranks as not only one of Dubai’s most sought-after markets for domestic buyers, but now luxury home buyers are increasingly active here too,” Will McKintosh, Knight Frank’s head of prime residential in the Middle East and North Africa, said in the statement. 

A total of 12 homes were sold for $25 million or more in the first quarter, according to the property consultant. Dubai had 56 homes sold in that category last year.

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