Fellow panellist Ronald Hinchey, resident partner of property consultants Cluttons, agreed with the sentiment, but estimated that actual recovery to anything like 2008 levels could take far longer.
'In Hong Kong 11 years ago there was a similar situation and values fell by between 40% and 60% , the same thing happened with Silicon Valley, and they still haven't quite got back to their peaks,' Hinchey said.
'Emerging markets normally look at an eight to 10 year cycle of correction, so, from 2004 we all thought that we had at least until 2012 before things started to waver. But it's better to have a correction like this in mid-cycle than to get to 2012 and have a crisis.'
The current situation, with investors sitting back and awaiting developments in the market before returning to buying, is in part driven by uncertainty as to the direction that the market has taken.
With prices mushrooming on a monthly basis, many felt that the growth in the sector was far from sustainable.
Unsustainable price increases
'Very naively we thought that we were immune from the global crisis. It was a big shock for us,' said Hinchey. 'Prices shot up to a level where speculators dropped out of the market, which, along with the loss of liquidity, was a double hit.
'The increase in asking prices for the sale and lease of units in the Dubai property market was unsustainable. The key issue is affordability. Young executives were paying up to 60% of their salaries on rents. If things slow down and it becomes more affordable, then people will come back.'
Cluttons estimate that up to 80,000 new apartment units are expected to hit the market in 2009, along with 22 million square feet of office space, which will create further downward pressure on rental and sale prices in the city.
'The amount of further new stock that might have been coming online will probably decrease by around 50% in 2009 and 2010,' said Blair Hagkull, regional Managing Director of Jones Lang Lasalle.
'Fiver years ago commercial office rents on Sheikh Zayed Road were around Dhs70 a square foot, then, by 2008, lease income from one floor was providing what it cost to build the whole building and developers were looking at a one year payback rate. Now things will probably go back to being a seven or eight year payback rate.'
Change of mindset needed
Hagkull argued that one of the main factors behind unlocking the market, as well as the return of liquidity to the sector, is the need for a change of mindset in both investors and sellers.
'At the moment there is a big difference between the reality on the ground and people's expectations. Brokers have to be able to explain to sellers from the get-go that their property may not be worth what they think it is on paper.
'Once people understand this, the market will become unlocked. I think 2009 will be a very transitional year for the sector. Things will then improve gradually in 2010, but it's by 2011 that I expect the sector to have stabilised'
Although happy to answer queries from attendees to the meeting, the panellists passed over certain questions relating to the impact of defaults by investors and the putting on hold of certain key projects on confidence in the sector.
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