Rami Tabbara on Investing in Real Estate in Dubai

Younvesting in property has been a focus of Rami Tabbara’s life since he was young. In Dubai, “our parents always tell us that as soon as you make money, you have to put it in property,” he says. When he was 23 years old, his parents told him to buy the best apartment he could afford. It was still being built.

It didn’t go to plan, taking three years for him to get the keys. But that experience taught him “a lesson to focus on ready and income–generating properties,” he says. This experience led to him co-founding Stake. Stake aims at making investing in real property affordable and more accountable.

Dubai’s real estate market is booming, with cranes dotting the skyline, new property developments being advertised, and neighborhoods popping up out of the desert. According to Prathyusha Gurrapu (head of research and advisory, Core, a Dubai-based property consultancy), the market is currently at an all-time high, with no sign of slowing down. The second quarter of this year “has seen the highest amount of residential transactions in Dubai ever, in terms of both number of transactions and combined sales values,” she says. Dubai Land Department estimates that over 43,000 properties transactions worth more than $31.3B were registered in 2022’s first half.

Rami Tabbara (co-founder, CEO, and chief executive officer of fintech company Stake) at Stake office in Dubai on July 6, 2022.

Anna Nielsen for TIME

According to Savills data, Dubai’s rental market has seen a surge in activity, surpassing those in New York and London. Efforts to broaden Dubai’s visa system have made it increasingly attractive for people to come and live and invest there, but challenges remain for foreign investors. Gurrapu states that foreigners have difficulty getting a UAE mortgage and can’t bank in Dubai. Therefore, most international investors need to purchase properties with cash.

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Tabbara wants smaller retail investors to be able to invest in Dubai’s buoyant real estate market. He co-founded Stake in 2019 with the goal of lowering the barrier of entry for investors who don’t have access to a large down payment or the full sale price in cash. Using Stake’s app, people around the world can invest in property in Dubai with as little as $136 (AED 500). Stake’s app allows investors to browse properties and purchase them after they have been thoroughly vetted. Stake purchases a property when it is fully funded. Investors receive shares that correspond to the amount they invested. Investors receive monthly dividends from Stake, who manages the property.

Tabbara hopes to also guide investors. Before founding Stake, he worked in sales for Dubai–based property developers and encountered what he describes as a lack of transparency. “I was seeing retail investors not getting the best deals, putting their life savings and children’s college funds into the wrong property,” he says. This is why the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), which regulates the company, developed an algorithm with MIT graduate students to assess the quality and potential deals in real estate.

Gurrapu says that there’s a gap in Dubai’s market for retail investors, and that platforms like Stake are quickly gaining popularity as the real estate market soars.

However, it is difficult to bring real estate in the digital age. Although the tradition of real estate investing is strong in Dubai, “the process of investing is clunky, full of hassle, and still mostly done offline,” says Tabbara. He’s hoping a new generation of investors can transform the real estate market from one full of cumbersome bureaucracy to simple, accessible, and completely global.

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