Your Dubai second home could be just a three-hour flight from Tel Aviv

Hartland development in Dubai is offering real estate delights for Israelis

FOREST VILLAS at Sobha Hartland.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
FOREST VILLAS at Sobha Hartland.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dubai is becoming one of the number one destinations for Israelis as new relations with the United Arab Emirates have rapidly expanded into a massive air bridge linking Tel Aviv and Dubai. With thousands pouring in every week on up to 10 flights a day, the question many are asking is what will come next.  
I flew to Dubai in early December to get a sense of the possibilities. While many may be seeking business partnerships or short-term vacations, there is also a very real option to purchase real estate. This is because real estate in Dubai is not only affordable but also unique. One of the major developments close to Dubai’s picturesque canal and just minutes from downtown Dubai’s mall and Burj Khalida, is the Hartland development by Sobha.  
Sobha Realty says this is one of the most sought-after locations in Dubai and that every inch of the development is designed and executed with the utmost care and highest attention to detail. From penthouses to luxury villas and prices from 800,000 to almost 12 million AED, there is a lot to choose from. That makes sense because Hartland isn’t just a few rows of apartments, it’s a kind of miniature city within a city. With some 8 million square feet of freehold property, and 8,000 trees throughout the development, there is a sense of community with the added value of security and a pleasant suburban feel.
On a tour of Sobha, the owners are proud to present their model of development, which has origins in the unprecedented success of the founder PNC Menon. Menon, whose origins are in India, grew up in Oman and was an expert in interior design of palaces. Later, he created Sobha in the 1990s and has done more than 150 large real estate projects, in India and now in the UAE. When Sobha talks about real estate, they talk in terms of tens of millions of square feet because their legacy is in building large developments using what they call “backward integration.” This means building every aspect of the development from start to finish, not just contracting out and selling plots. This requires thousands of workers in Dubai and some 50,000 in India. Francis Alfred, managing director and CEO, says that this enables the company to use the best “German standards.”
What this means is designing every aspect of the houses, whether the villas or apartments, with attention to things like making sure fixtures are perfectly fit, there are no leaks and counter-tops are well made. Acoustic barriers below balcony floors decrease noise, unique settings for gas have been offered to civil defense experts for national use.
It’s winter time in Dubai and the Hartland development feels spacious and the air pleasant. This is in contrast with the heat of the summer. A stroll along some of the mid-rise buildings shows how the developers integrated playgrounds and pools between the apartment blocks, so one feels part of a community. There are many investors here, including Emiratis and people from China and India, and sub-Saharan Africa, looking at the properties. Even amid the pandemic when most travel is still halted, the interest in Hartland was clear. There is no real estate tax here, although owners will pay a registration fee and a yearly maintenance fee, similar to a kind of building committee fee one would have in Israel. The UAE has been changing many rules in the last years to attract investment and streamline processes of getting long term residence visas. The main word that Alfred and Menon use is that this is a safe and stable place.  
 What about Israelis, will they be welcome here? Sobha indicates that Israel is a new market and in the wake of the peace deals they are welcoming people to come and invest or move in. “We compared between here and New York and Hong Kong and others and it is the best for real estate investment,” says one of the Sobha managers. People could buy here and stay for part of the year or rent them out. The locals say this is an exciting city that is constantly growing with new projects every day. That’s clear from driving around. Not just in Hartland, but the entirety of Dubai is a kind of pulsating city expanding before one’s eyes.  
Hartland will be completed in the next several years and will eventually have up to 25,000 people living here. Hundreds of families are moving in a year. Down by the villas, each with their own pool and space for a maid and a driver, the interest was clear. As we roamed around one villa, from a giant living area and kitchen to the second floor, people came in and out to see the property. Most of them seem to be sold and these are among the most expensive parts of the property.
The government runs the city like a successful business, the real estate experts say. “There is no corruption here and it is safe here. This is one country I’ve seen with no corruption and that’s good for business,” says Menon, the founder and entrepreneur behind Sobha. “We are a different company, the only in Middle East and whole world doing backward integration, our company was a case study in this.”  He says Israel has a very developed market similar to Europe and there could be a lot of synergy with what’s happening in Dubai. “I have seen a lot of conversations happening now, it will take time to see what are the opportunities and what are the meeting points in a year or two, to understand.” Yyotsna Hegde, president of Sobha Realty, agrees: “It’s an exploratory state at the moment.” In a year we will know more, says Menon. “Dubai is one of the top 10 cities in the world. It wants people to come and settle here – 3.75 million people live here. We are growing at a rate of four or five percent a year, we ha
ve to be different and what is different with Sobha is we are strict about quality.”
He says he hopes Israelis will come and purchase here. “If you’d like a second home here, it is a mixed society, people from 200 countries live here and it is so easy and safe to live here. Life is made as simple as possible and making it better and better.” That means having a maid or cleaners is cheaper, and it also means one’s money goes further for certain items. The diversity also means that people from all backgrounds can congregate at places like the Dubai mall and feel instantly at home.
Driving around Hartland, seeing the schools and pleasant streets and pools, one can see why people are choosing Dubai. A short trip down to the Dubai Marina for a Starbucks coffee and sheesha waterpipe to sit and watch people take their boats out makes one wonder. Why not winter here? If Sobha has their way, thousands more could be wondering the same thing in Tel Aviv.
The writer was a guest in Dubai.