Crafting living experiences

Somendra Khosla, Chairman of SOHO Development talks to BPME about how the developer stands out in the market, the future of the UAE real estate market, and the firm’s plans for the future

The real estate market in the UAE, and Dubai – in particular – has been enjoying an upward trend post pandemic, and has attracted investors as well as new developers, the latter of which have added, and continue to add, new properties to Dubai’s residential property segment.

Property portal Bayut’s recent Q1 2024 report on Dubai’s property marketed stated that the previous upward trend in property prices across the emirate has “stabilised considerably with certain areas even reporting declines in average prices.”

Its report revealed that “there has been a modest increase in sales prices for apartments and villas in prominent neighbourhoods of Dubai, with the highest surges reaching up to 7% during the first quarter of 2024. As per Bayut’s report which leverages Dubai Land Department information, the emirate saw a cumulative total of 36,946 property sale transactions in Q1 2024. The transactions encompassed both residential and commercial acquisitions and had a monetary value of US $29.8bn.

The statement from the firm said, “While the market has continued to enjoy sustained interest from investors and end-users, there is also a healthy influx of new properties, ensuring adequate supply to meet the demand for housing within the emirate.”

In line with its earlier statement, the reported stated, “In the affordable segment, transactional sales prices for apartments in highly searched areas have decreased from 1% to 16%, with the exception of Dubai South, which registered a moderate increase of 4.48%.” That said, it then also added, “The average transaction prices for affordable villas have predominantly seen upticks ranging from 7% to 62%, with Dubailand reporting the most significant increase in transactional price.”

It also revealed, “When it comes to mid-tier properties, there has been a significant rise in the average sales transaction prices for apartments, ranging from 6% to 42%, with the most noticeable uptick recorded in Jumeirah Lake Towers. Similarly, sought-after areas featuring mid-tier villas have observed increases in average transaction sales prices ranging from 5% to 14%. Notably, Al Furjan stands out as an exception, experiencing a slight decrease of 0.37% in its transactional sale price.”

Bayut’s report also added there is a resurgence in the demand for family villas. “The market has witnessed a heightened interest in larger family-oriented residences, particularly within luxury and mid-tier communities, indicating a shift towards more spacious properties and a preference for family-friendly living environments,” said Bayut in its statement.

While the appetite for quality living experiences is seeing a resurgence, it’s something luxury residential developer SOHO Development has been focused on for over a decade. The developer says it is committed to creating non-branded residences that offer luxury amenities in a bid to create hotel-inspired living spaces.

Founded in 2008 by father-son duo Somendra and Sahil Khosla, the firm says it seamlessly blended architectural innovation with interior elegance, starting with its project on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, and continuing on with nine villas on Palm Jumeirah’s G and I fronds, as well as its SOHO Palm Jumeirah project on Palm West Beach.

Here, Big Project Middle East speaks to Somendra Khosla, Chairman of SOHO Development about the firm’s approach to residential real estate, the market in the UAE and Dubai, and the firm’s plans for the future.

  • What is SOHO Development’s inspiration and vision with regards to residential real estate?

Our luxury homes and premium apartments are locally inspired by renowned hospitality brands such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz Carlton, One & Only Resorts, as well as home-grown brands like Address Hotels and Vida Hotels and Resorts etc, ensuring excellence in quality and service delivery.

We offer a unique proposition in the Dubai real estate market, providing high-quality, fully furnished living without the premium price tag associated with branded properties. This makes them an attractive choice for buyers seeking luxury without overspending. For investors, the pricing not only enhances the resale potential of these properties but also widens the potential buyer pool.

  • Share insights on the non-branded luxury residential/serviced home market in the UAE. How do you see this market developing in the next two years?

In the United Arab Emirates, the non-branded luxury housing industry is booming, especially in Dubai, where the affordable market segment is growing. Non-branded residences typically have lower service charges, making them an attractive option for investors looking to maximise rental yields. Their lower entry price makes them more accessible to a broader range of investors and leads to faster resales.

Average professionals/investors now seek high-quality, affordable luxury homes, fuelling demand for unique, non-branded luxury residences. Over the next two years, we expect this market to continue its robust growth, driven by a maturing real estate sector and evolving buyer preferences for individuality and affordability.

  • What impact will the growing appetite for branded residences have on non-branded luxury residential offerings in the UAE?

 The growing appetite for branded residences in the UAE complements rather than overshadows non-branded luxury residential offerings, as both segments cater to distinct consumer preferences. The maturing market and increasing consumer appetite for unique, bespoke options ensure that non-branded residences remain highly attractive to buyers seeking individuality and bespoke spaces. This growth in both segments enriches the luxury real estate sector, offering diverse investment opportunities and fostering a sophisticated, dynamic market.

  • The last big shift in customer appetites for residential real estate was triggered by the pandemic. Have appetites changed since then, or are they much the same? What do your buyers value/prioritise?

Since the pandemic, customer appetites for residential real estate have evolved significantly. Young professionals and investors are increasingly drawn to Dubai for its safety, opportunities, and lifestyle, often extending their stays indefinitely. Today’s buyers and investors prioritise non-branded residences that are high in quality and sustainable and promise long-term yields. They value attention to detail, quality of life, and prime locations, reflecting a shift towards more thoughtful, future-oriented investment strategies. This trend underscores a growing emphasis on sustainability and long-term value in the residential real estate market.

  • The UAE has multiple luxury residential offerings on the market; in your experience where do developers struggle to deliver on their promise of luxury living and a luxury lifestyle? How can this be avoided?

In their pursuit of quick construction and cost reduction, some developers occasionally overlook critical aspects such as finishes, size, layout, and material selection. These shortcuts can result in subpar quality, cramped living spaces, and a lack of premium feel.

Developers should instead prioritise maximising space while still maintaining high-quality finishes, thoughtful and spacious layouts, and the use of premium materials. This ensures that luxury residential offerings meet buyer expectations, uphold the market reputation, and foster customer loyalty, not only retaining existing buyers and attracting new ones but also enhancing the brand image. This positive perception reinforces the brand’s position in the market, and facilitates long-term growth and expansion.

At SOHO Development, we stand out by offering more than just villas and apartments. With years of industry experience and a focus on excellence, we provide high-quality products that exceed market expectations and set new benchmarks in luxury living.

Collaborating with the industry’s best to ensure every aspect of our buildings and villas meets the highest quality standards, we provide a hotel-inspired lifestyle in Dubai’s prime locations, such as beachfront or parkfront areas. Our residences are designed by leading architects, constructed by quality contractors, and fully furnished with impeccable aesthetics.

  • What is SOHO Development’s overarching vision in terms of its projects in the UAE? What differentiates your projects from other contenders in the market?

 Our vision at SOHO Development is to provide a hotel-inspired lifestyle with quality,  amenities and design-led aesthetics. What sets us apart from others in the market is our commitment to exceeding expectations. We collaborate with industry leaders to set new benchmarks in luxury living, offering fully furnished flats designed by leading architects.

Our projects are strategically located in prime areas like beachfront or parkfront locations, and we anticipate and provide amenities beyond the traditional, such as co-working spaces and zen studios for wellness activities. We aim to understand and accommodate the diverse lifestyles and preferences of today’s buyers. Our goal is not only to meet but exceed the expectations of our residents, fostering a sense of belonging and fulfilment in their living spaces.

  • What are some of your key projects in the UAE? What is their USP compared to other contenders in the market?

We launched our very first flagship development on Sheikh Zayed Road, hosting the global luxury brand Ethan Allen, and quickly expanded our portfolio to develop nine luxury villas on Palm Jumeirah. These lavish beachfront villas on I, N and G fronds are designed as custom-built retreats on exclusive beachfront, offering ultra-discrete living. Fully furnished, these villas provide curated experiences that cater to the luxury lifestyle.

This success further fuelled the development of ‘SOHO Palm’, a landmark build-to-rent residential building project that embodies our commitment to high-quality luxury living. Each fully furnished apartment features ultra-modern aesthetics and uninterrupted beach views, enhancing the allure of trendy community living. Unique to this project, residents enjoy private beach access—a rarity among residential buildings in West Palm Beach.

We are now spearheading the development of two new residential buildings in Dubai Hills, set in a tranquil parkfront location with elevated amenities. Additionally, we are expanding our project offerings to develop two bespoke luxury villas on Jumeirah Bay Island.

Compared to other contenders in the UAE market, our USP lies in our commitment to delivering fully furnished, curated experiences that blend luxury, exclusivity, and convenience. Our projects are designed to exceed market expectations and offer residents unparalleled living experiences.

  • What differentiates a regular residential project from a luxury residential project? How do you guarantee a luxury living experience for buyers?

What sets apart a luxury residential project is the meticulous attention to detail and the selection of materials and finishes. In our luxury developments, every aspect, from the kitchen to the wardrobe, from sanitary ware to appliances, is inspired by hospitality standards. We prioritise using premium materials and high-end finishes to elevate the living experience to a luxurious level.

Upholding these high standards throughout every stage of development, we guarantee a luxury living experience for our buyers and tenants. Our commitment to excellence ensures that each home is crafted with precision and care, delivering exceptional build quality and craftsmanship that rivals even branded residences.

Moreover, our fully furnished residences offer a hotel-inspired lifestyle, complete with amenities that cater to every aspect of modern living. From well-maintained gyms to expansive swimming pools, children’s play areas, and beautifully landscaped gardens, we provide a comprehensive living experience that consistently surpasses the expectations of our residents.

  • What are some of the key challenges SOHO Development has faced in terms of planning and delivering luxury residential offerings in the UAE? How did you tackle these challenges?

 As developers, one of our primary challenges is staying attuned to the evolving needs of our buyers. With demands shifting constantly, our ability to adapt becomes crucial in meeting and exceeding expectations.

When we successfully identify the buyer’s needs, the next important step would be strategic timeline planning, which becomes essential to delivering quality residences. Unforeseen challenges when finalising designs or materials, are inevitable in these projects, emphasising the importance of proactive planning and allowing adequate time for these tasks.

Moreover, identifying the right partners and engaging them from the project’s start is essential for effective timeline management. Early involvement allows us to plan for contingencies, incorporate feedback, and ensure smoother project progression, while maintaining our high standards.

  • What is the inspiration behind the architecture and interior design/fit-out of your projects? Do you have preferred designers that you usually work with?

At SOHO Development, we draw inspiration from the hospitality sector to craft luxurious living experiences that seamlessly blend with residential comfort. This approach appeals to discerning individuals seeking privacy, comfort, and exceptional value without compromising quality.

When it comes to design, we collaborate closely with a select group of preferred designers who share our vision and values. These designers, including renowned LW Design, XBD Collective, Saota, and Naga to name a few, bring a wealth of expertise and creativity to our projects. Their innovative approach to architecture and interior design helps us create spaces that not only meet but exceed the expectations of our clients. By working with these preferred designers, we can ensure that each project reflects our commitment to delivering the highest standards of luxury living.

  • How does SOHO Development approach sustainable development? Do you strive for performance-based certifications or criteria-based certifications?

At SOHO Collections, our approach to sustainable development revolves around continuous improvement and delivering better products. We understand that embracing sustainability not only benefits the planet but also adds value for residents, investors, and stakeholders.

Our commitment to sustainability involves developing buildings that comply with industry standards, leading to reduced operational costs. By designing properties that efficiently consume resources like water, heating, and electricity, we contribute to environmental conservation while enhancing the long-term viability of our projects.

Furthermore, we prioritise urban landscaping to create green barriers that help reduce overall temperatures within our properties, promoting a healthier and more comfortable living environment.


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