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Guide to buying property in the UAE

One of the major hassles about moving to a new country is finding somewhere to live and many people don't want to rent as they feel like this is wasting money. If you are in this situation or having been renting in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a while and feel like it is time to put down roots, this is the guide for you.

Finding a property to buy

The first step in any property search wherever you are in the world is finding a house or apartment for sale. This should start off with thinking about the area in which you would like to live. It may be where you have been renting or could be more convenient for work or the children's schools.

If you are thinking about a move into a different district, be sure to go and visit the area. Have a walk around and take the routes you are most likely to use frequently. This way you can check that your preconceived ideas are right and the positive benefits to your lifestyle can be achieved.

Once you have established where you would like to move to, you can start looking for properties. The internet is always a good place to begin and there are lots of websites willing to help.

For example, there are some well known sites such as Rightmove and Prime Location that have listings on houses and apartments in Dubai. It can feel reassuring to use firms you are familiar with, but be sure to look at on the spot companies too, who will have good inside knowledge.

Register with estate agents, pick up local newspapers as they often have property listings and set about a word of mouth campaign. The expatriate community is a really useful source to tap into and letting people know you are looking can often turn up results.

Expats always know someone who is leaving and therefore letting go of their property or a family living in a complex where there are apartments up for sale. Use the power of the grapevine.

Buying the property

There are many unlicensed brokers operating in the UAE, so be sure to get one that is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) so that everything is above board.

If the seller has a mortgage on the house or apartment then they must have it discharged before obtaining their title deed from the land department ready for sale. This can be a lengthy process, so expect some delays. As a buyer, ask lots of questions to ensure that you know all the information about the house and who you are buying it from.

A memorandum of understanding, which acts as a contract, is then drawn up by the seller's agents once an offer has been accepted. All responsibilities and costs for both parties should be outlined within this document.

The buyer then pays a ten per cent deposit, usually in the form of a cheque, written out to the seller, but normally held by the agent until things progress.

As a buyer, your bank will then carry out a validation, which involves them inspecting the property to ensure lending for it is appropriate. Once this has been carried out, the seller must apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the developer.

This usually lasts for just two weeks and within this time final approval from your bank, clearance from the seller's bank and the transfer from the land department must all take place.

Buying off-plan

Another alternative is to buy a property off-plan, which means you are securing it from the drawings supplied by a developer, but it is yet to be built. This is a relatively easy process, but involves putting down a 15 per cent deposit and waiting for the house to be constructed.

Since this can take anywhere from two to three years, expats will want to be sure they are planning on staying in the UAE for the foreseeable future. This is why buying on the secondary market tends to be more popular with those from overseas.

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