The festive season has started early for real estate professionals in the UAE. If the current momentum is sustained in the marketplace, they have every reason to party hard right through to the New Year as well.
Hiring has picked up across the board and for existing personnel there have been sweeteners in the form of pay rises , of 3-5 per cent compared with the same time last year, according to a senior official at Macdonald & Co, the specialist consultancy.
“Large developers are hiring  new sales and marketing staff as they look to re-brand and re-launch their products and sell off-plan again,” said Ben Waddilove, director. “We have completed 22 per cent more placements between April to September compared to the same period last year.”
The salary hikes and better packages are in evidence in specific areas such as development and project management, with developers placing a premium on candidates having regional experience. “It is harder to recruit into locations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar as there is so much going on in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” said Waddilove. “The rapid increase in rents is also creating upward pressure on salaries as the cost of living increases.
“The positive market sentiment is feeding through to the consultancies that service large developers and we are noticing that some of the smaller players are now looking to hire and expand their teams.”
Despite all signs pointing to the property market remaining tuned to an upbeat mode, real estate firms are still showing a certain reserve on hiring practices. “We do not see a return to the situation in 2005-08 where developers hired very large teams very quickly... employers are much more selective,”
While developers work with the staffing numbers best suited to their immediate priorities, the situation at estate agencies is much more dynamic.
“We have been receiving an increasing number of calls from former agents who, after leaving the industry as a result of the recession, now wish to re-enter the fray,” said Mohanad Al Wadiya, managing director at Harbor Real Estate. “We are also receiving calls from agents in the UK, South Africa and Australia.
“All of them have read about Dubai’s resurgence and interested in learning about opportunities in the local market. In addition, the tax-free environment and eventual strengthening of the dirham are major draws.”
With an eye on ensuring optimum retention, Harbor, currently in the midst of another recruitment drive, has instituted a compensation and benefits package that includes the possibility of agents getting up to 90 per cent commission of property sales and leasing. “The package was developed with the assistance of professionals from several industries including automotive, media and finance; high performers have the opportunity to achieve monthly recognition rewards and annual performance bonuses. In addition, a health insurance and savings scheme has been developed with Dubai’s National Bonds Corporation.”
But with more agents fighting to land deals, it is all getting a bit crowded in Dubai realty. “After a point the sweet spot  is gone as more players share the spoils,” said Chandrakant Whabi of Acrohouse Properties. “Dubai’s real estate industry is now at that point.
“With more than 400 registered real estate companies already operating and more in the pipeline, it is going to be lot more competitive. Besides, many established companies are expanding aggressively, which is going to increase supply of registered agents even further.
“New companies are going to find it difficult to survive as they will face the pressure of high operating cost — office rents, marketing costs and salaries have increased quite a bit in the last one year — and intense competition from established players to attract talent. So even if the overall activity increases further from here, it does not necessarily mean that all will make money.”