A Guide to Buying Property in Dubai

One of the major hassles about moving to a new country is finding somewhere to live. Renting can be a good option for some, but if you’re looking to make permanent roots somewhere, buying will be a better option.

However, in some countries, such as Dubai, buying property can be a complicated process for foreigners. In this guide, we help to explain how to buy property in the UAE.

The law for buying property in Dubai

The different emirates of the UAE have slightly different regulations around foreigners buying property. In Dubai, there are designated areas where expats can purchase property. These include Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina, Arabian Ranches and Jumeirah Beach Residence.

In some emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, foreigners are only allowed to purchase leaseholds, as they are not permitted to own land. However, in Dubai, foreigners can own the freehold, meaning they also own the land. They also have the option of buying a leasehold of up to 99 years, where the land is not included. This is usually relevant to buying apartments in a block, whereas you will likely buy a freehold if you are purchasing a house.  

To buy a property in Dubai, you do not have to have a resident card, but you will need a valid passport.

Finding a property to buy in Dubai

The first step in any property search wherever you are in the world is finding a property 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. Keep in mind that you will be restricted to the areas in Dubai where it is permissible for expats to buy property.  

If you already live in Dubai and are thinking about a move to 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 local companies too, who will have good inside knowledge.

Register with local estate agents and pick up local newspapers as they often have property listings. Try to find etstae agents that have experience with buying property for foreigners in the UAE, as this will help to make the process much more streamlined.

You can also use word-of-mouth to find your dream home. The expatriate community in the UAE 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 property in Dubai

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 property, 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.

If you are buying with a mortgage, you will need to get pre-approval before you can sign the sale agreement. Your lender will have to inspect your finances and also the property, to ensure lending for it is appropriate.

Once the agreement is signed, the buyer then pays the deposit, usually 10% of the property price and paid in the form of a cheque or bank transfer. The seller must then apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the developer.

Obtaining the NOC usually lasts for just two weeks and within this time final approval from your mortgage lender, clearance from the seller’s bank and the transfer from the land department must all take place. In total, buying a property in Dubai can take an average of 30 days, but can increase to 10 weeks if there are issues with a mortgage.

Buying a property off-plan in Dubai

An alternative is to buy a property off-plan. This 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, as it will typically be a much quicker process.

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