Sohail Baig, CEO, Emaar Pakistan
Sohail Baig, CEO, Emaar Pakistan

“It Is Very Encouraging To See That For The First Time In 70 Years, Real Estate Has Been Recognised As An Industry”

Sohail Baig, CEO, Emaar Pakistan, speaks to Uzma Khateeb-Nawaz about Emaar’s plans for a game-changer in the real estate market.
Updated 12 Jul, 2021 01:39pm

UZMA KHATEEB-NAWAZ: What are the major projects Emaar Pakistan is presently involved in?

SOHAIL BAIG: Emaar Pakistan currently has two projects – Emaar Karachi and Canyon Views in Islamabad. Emaar Karachi is a vertical development on 75 acres of land on the seafront within Phase VIII, DHA. It is a high-rise development which will eventually have 30 plus towers, offering work and play options within one community. It is conceived as an integrated neighbourhood, with 20 million square feet of residential units, office spaces, malls, retail and hospitality. The project is scheduled for completion over the next 10 years. As of now, seven towers are standing and over 250 families are enjoying life at Emaar Karachi. Canyon Views is a horizontal development built on 400 acres in Phase V, DHA, Islamabad, and will eventually have about 5,000 mixed use and residential units. Presently, there are more than 200 families living at Emaar Canyon Views.

UKN: What are the other Emaar property opportunities available to Karachi right now?

SB: We have launched two residential towers in Karachi; Panorama in March 2020 and The Views recently. Both offer apartments, penthouses, town houses and retail spaces. All our premium penthouses have been sold and only a limited number of residential and commercial options are available. In parallel, we are working with strategic partners on commercial assets development, such as hotels, malls and office spaces to accelerate the development of Emaar Karachi. Our customers value excellence. In Karachi, people are concerned about security and convenience, which attracts them towards vertical living within gated communities. Emaar Karachi enjoys beautiful views of the Arabian Sea. Canyon Views Islamabad is more about serene living in a horizontal development. This is how we differentiate between the two markets.

UKN: What are the unique advantages that Emaar offers to buyers?

SB: Emaar Karachi offers international design and architecture standards for luxury living by the sea. Our developments have highly advanced mechanical and electrical systems in place, including fresh air circulation, VRF, central exhausts, CCTV and data. Emaar Karachi has differentiated arrangements with the utility providers, with 100% backup arrangements. Our towers have dedicated swimming pools, gyms, function halls, yoga rooms and kids’ rooms. The beach front promenade offers an exclusive way to enjoy and celebrate life by the sea. Another advantage is the fact that amenities such as clubs, schools and hospitals are located nearby. Emaar’s vision is to offer integrated community living where people can experience excellence in lifestyle in a secure neighbourhood. Emaar Karachi captures this through a premium location, security, convenience and world-class design and architecture.

UKN: What is your target customer profile?

SB: We are among the few international developers operating in Pakistan that follow complete documentation and other procedures for property regulation. Seventy percent of our customers are from Karachi and the balance 30% is overseas Pakistanis who want to invest in transparent and documented investment options.

UKN: What are the specific challenges that come with working in this market?

SB: It is primarily related to documentation. Unfortunately, 50% of the property market prefers to deal in cash, which we do not entertain and this has been the single biggest barrier.

UKN: Apart from documentation, in what way does the buying process differ from that of other developers?

SB: The entire sale cycle depends on the timely delivery of a quality product. We are the only developer in DHA Karachi to offer a four-year payment plan. This is the biggest incentive for people to buy a property at Emaar Karachi. The four-year payment plan is spread over the construction period, so by the time the payments are completed, the buyer can move into the property. We are also working on off-plan home loan financing through the banks, and this will eventually change the way we do business and unlock the huge potential of real estate in Pakistan. It is the norm in most other countries, but not in Pakistan, yet this is what will enable the public to buy property.

UKN: How does off-plan home loan financing work and when will it come on stream?

SB: We are partnering with a number of banks to offer financing to purchase new off-plan Emaar properties. We intend to announce this shortly and this will be a game-changer for the real estate market. In this regard we must thank the State Bank of Pakistan for facilitating such initiatives. The Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Mr Reza Baqir, has been very proactive in accelerating reforms in the real estate market. The sharp reduction in the discount rate, the amnesty scheme, the emphasis on lending to the real estate sector, promoting home loan schemes and the launch of Roshan Digital Accounts have been landmark decisions. It is very encouraging to see that for the first time in 70 years, real estate has been recognised as an industry. This is a step in the right direction.

UKN: What other incentives do you think the government should be considering?

SB: A lot of incentives have been given to the undocumented players, but nothing to the documented sector. If the government provides special tax breaks and incentives to the documented real estate sector this will accelerate the documentation process and generate more revenue for the government. It is critical to introduce tax incentives for first home buyers and new home buyers along with home loan interest expense tax deductibility to promote mortgages – this is where the future of real estate lies.