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Better property rights for expats in Abu Dhabi

Freehold homes are now within reach of expatriates living in Abu Dhabi, as the city aims to boost its property sector.

Those foreigners living in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been restricted to leasehold agreements in the past, but can now purchase houses in designated investment zones.

The move puts Abu Dhabi in a similar position to Dubai, where it has always been easier for expats to buy property.

In fact, Dubai has one of the most thriving property markets in the world, due to a decree issued in 2002 that granted freehold rights to people from outside the Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

A number of the new investment zones being set up in Abu Dhabi are to be controlled by Aldar Properties, the biggest property developer in the UAE and majority owned by the state.

Abubaker Seddiq al Khoori, chairman of Aldar Properties, said: "We believe that attracting long-term foreign investors will bring great benefits to Abu Dhabi in particular, and to the UAE in general, so that we can continue our path of construction and development."

Many of the bigger development projects that had been planned in the city were put on hold when the global economy took a downturn in 2009, hitting Abu Dhabi's residential property sector hard.

Despite the move to allow expats freehold property rights being welcomed by most foreigners in the country, some remain sceptical.

The bureaucracy is complicated to navigate and expats are subject to wide-reaching conditions that mean certain modifications to a property are not allowed.

Will Palmer, a British expat living in the UAE, told the Telegraph: "While this is good news, freehold property rights in this country are not that straightforward as you still have to adhere to some conditions, especially if you live in a gated community."

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