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Why this city’s prime property will outperform global peers

Leslie Shaffer | Writer for CNBC.com
Sunday, 22 Dec 2013 | 9:36 PM ET

While prime property prices in many global financial centers are likely to pull back as stimulus is unwound, the Dubai market is set to climb on its new-found safe-haven status, Knight Frank said.

"Probably the biggest issue we need to watch is the unwinding of quantitative easing," the global real-estate consultancy said in a note. "The relationship between prime residential markets and economic policy has become ever more entwined.

Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve scaled back its asset purchases to $75 billion a month from $85 billion, a move likely to lead to higher borrowing costs, including for mortgages.

(Read more: Dubai celebrates winning right to host Expo 2020)

Dubai
Anna Shtraus | Flickr Vision | Getty Images
Dubai

The financial crisis led to policy responses which inflated prime property markets. As a result, attempts to manage prime markets have become more overtly political."

In spite of the government introducing measures to cool the sector, Dubai's prime property prices are likely to rise 10-15 percent in 2014, extending an over 20 percent rise in 2013, it said, putting the emirate at the top of its list for expected price gains among 10 financial centers.

(Read more: Is Malaysia's property market headed for a Dubai-style crash?)

The search for regional safe-havens is likely the top reason investors will enter the market, supported by improvements in the local and global economies, it said.

To be sure, Knight Frank noted transactions in the emirate slowed in the fourth quarter after the government introduced cooling measures aimed at preventing a replay of its spectacular property bust in 2008, when prices dropped over 50 percent in the wake of the global financial crisis.

More demand than supply in Dubai property: DAMAC CEO
Hussain Sajwani, chairman and CEO of DAMAC, says demand will exceed supply in the Dubai property market over the next 3 to 4 years.

But the award of the 2020 World Expo to Dubai is likely to spur additional property purchases in the emirate, Knight Frank said.

(Read more: Is Singapore real estate losing its shine?)

In addition, around 70 percent of the buyers in 2013 were domestic, it noted. This may suggest the property market hasn't yet attracted outside funds.

Prime property prices in other global financial centers aren't likely to fare as well. While Knight Frank expects properties in Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and Paris will see price rises of 5-10 percent, it anticipates London and New York prices will stall, while Singapore, Hong Kong and Geneva are likely to see declines.

Despite high demand from international buyers – accounting for around 40 percent of demand in 2013 – New York's luxury property prices are likely to remain flat for a second year as supply is growing and some sellers are pricing themselves out of the market, it said, noting that the newly elected Mayor de Blasio's policies may not be as supportive for the segment.

(Read more: Is Hong Kong's real estate market taper proof?)

In London, prime property prices may eke out a less than 5 percent rise after a 5-10 percent rise in 2013, Knight Frank said. Around 50 percent of 2013's buyers were foreign, it noted, adding rising interest rates are the biggest risk to the market.

"Prime central London property has outperformed since 2009, but will begin to lose ground compared to the mainstream market over the next few years," it said.

Singapore and Hong Kong are likely to see luxury property prices fall amid cooling measures from their respective governments, it said.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1

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