August 29, 2017
The UAE attracts people all over the world due to its glamorous, sun-filled lifestyle – as well as the opportunity to thrive professionally. And interestingly, it often allows people to have something of a second life career wise – and become leaders and entrepreneurs. And of course, in the country’s vibrant real estate sector having the ability to adapt quickly to change and new scenarios is a definite plus. It was therefore interesting when Prestige caught up with Paul Christodoulou, the Chief Operating Officer at Aqua Properties, to hear about his unusual journey to the realm of luxury property deals. “Well, I originally lived and worked in the UK for Secrets Ltd as their Managing Director; Secrets owned and operated several bars and nightclubs within the London and Essex area,” he explained. “I was an investor in the Dubai market since 2003, buying property on the Palm Jumeirah. After spending thirteen years in the British hospitality industry I found myself in Dubai handing over one of my properties.
I realised I needed a fresh and exciting challenge so it was at this point I decided to move my family to Dubai. With my own portfolio in the property market it made sense to live and work in the emirate and manage my own properties. I have remained in the UAE property market ever since.
He joined Luxhabitat as Luxury Sales manager for three years, later moving to Kendal & Co as CEO for another three years – before finally joining Aqua Properties as COO in 2015.
A good example of solid management skills being transferable to any sector if ever there was one. Aqua offers a full real estate repertoire including off plan investment, and residential and commercial property transactions. “Many profess to provide a one-stop real estate solution, but only a handful truly do – such as us,” said Christodoulou. “We are what it says on the box. We offer our clients services from brokerage to property management to development services and project management. “Our clients vary up and down the spectrum from individuals looking for one type of investment to bulk buyers. From end users buying a studio or a luxury villa, to group companies or a body of a few looking for building investments.” So what is his day-to-day working life like? Well for a start he’s an early riser. “The day normally starts at 6.30am when I share all our leads with the teams from the previous evening. I am normally in the office from 9am. I’m quite structured, so apart from unexpected scenarios that may come up my day is normally quite well planned in advance.” As we move further into the long hot UAE summer, I ask him whether this is a quieter time for the firm. “Actually, historically we don’t see this as a quiet time – quite the opposite. We see a huge number of rental enquiries and transactions due to the school year ending in the beginning of July and starting again in September; families make the decision to relocate, move to other communities, or arrive in Dubai during this time,” he explained. Christodoulou also offered a tip for buyers looking at the market during the summer months. “The summer is a great time to buy as there is less competition due to people travelling abroad. You now have a strong choice available to you with less people looking.” He added: “If you are a seller on the other hand, it’s also a great opportunity as those that are here are genuine buyers. Although there is less volume, the buyers are serious and you now have more time available to dedicate to the purchase process.”
Overall, the Aqua COO says this year has been better for the local property market. “So far 2017 is consistently more upbeat than 2016 – in fact, we are seeing a significant increase in sales and rental inquiries which have led to successful transactions. I believe the increased interest is because of the now attractive selling prices. I don’t necessarily think these prices are going to be around in 2018.” He says it’s difficult to predict the future as no-one knows what is around the corner. “But if we compare 2017 figures to the same time in 2016 we see an increase of 45 per cent in transactions across the board. “We therefore believe this level will continue especially into 2018 with the Dubai Expo 2020 plans coming to fruition and the increased hype around it with new exciting projects like Creek Harbor and Dubai Hills attracting a new influx of investors.
The days of Dubai relying on historical investors such as from the Asian subcontinent and UK are over with new country investors from China and Africa arriving.”
In every industry there are challenges, and he says in his line of work he often sees people not giving the sector the respect it deserves. “What I mean by that is we often see people not understanding our professional constraints,” he said. “For example, our brokers can spend up to ten hours a day working on everything from viewings to government paperwork to finalising any one deal. “However, people often just see a broker walking them through a property, not understanding the knowledge or the professional skillsets that are required to complete and earn. I find this frustrating, we deserve respect.” He adds that seeing team members succeeding as individuals gives him the most satisfaction. “When you get a new person joining and are involved in his or her professional development, to then watch them do well and find a place in this competitive and challenging market is very rewarding,” he said. An avid tennis player and socializer, it is clear the enjoyment of getting out there and interacting with likeminded people hasn’t left Christodoulou from his days in the entertainment industry. “I’m a very social individual and my family life is really important to me, so I find the Dubai social overlap into my work life a real joy.”
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