Since 2002, Dubai’s real estate market has been open to foreign buyers, and has continued to grow at a phenomenal since.
During the rapid growth years in the mid 2000s, it was reported that Dubai was home to almost 25% of all the cranes in the world, which became a symbol of the fast-expanding nation.
As one of the most business-friendly countries in the Middle East, many multi-national businesses, and more recently start-ups, have based their operations in Dubai taking advantage of the multi-national workforce and it’s position as a global travel hub.
Before you buy property in Dubai, it’s important you learn about local regulations and trends. This article covers the key information when you buy property in Dubai as a foreigner.
Can foreigners buy property in Dubai?
Since the Dubai government introduced new ownership regulations in 2002, it’s become remarkably easier to buy and own property as a foreigner.
There are three different property types available:
- Freehold properties (Musataha)
- Long term leasehold (Usufruct)
- Strata-titled properties (Commonhold)
Buying freehold property
A freehold property will give you full property ownership in your own name, for an unspecified length of time. In 2002, Dubai’s government introduced the so-called Freedom Decree and, as stated on the Dubai Land Department’s website: “Freehold ownership is absolute and unrestricted by time and extends to the land and all buildings thereon”.
Buying a freehold property will give you full rights and no restrictions to lease, rent out or sell the property.
Freehold areas in Dubai
You can only buy freehold property in dedicated areas, determined by the Ruler of the Emirate in Dubai.
Regulations change from time to time, so it’s advised to check with the Dubai Land Department (DLD) for more information about the different freehold areas.
Some of the most notable areas where foreigners can get freehold ownership are:
- The Palm Jumeirah
- The World Islands
- Downtown Dubai
- Old Town
- Burj Khalifa
- Business Bay
- Dubai Marina
- Emirates Hills
- Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)
- Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
- Discovery Gardens
- Arabian Ranches
- Midriff (specified plots)
- Dubai Investment Park (DIP)
- Falcon City
- Dubai Sports City
- Dubai Motor City
- International City
- Jumeirah Islands & Jumeirah Village
Buying leasehold property
A leasehold property gives you the right to lease the property for a time period of up to 99 years. However, this is the maximum lease terms and the lease terms normally stretches between 30-99 years, when the term expires, the ownership goes back to the landlord.
Commonly, the price appreciation is not as high the closer you get to the expiry date of the lease, while the price accelerates faster when the lease is renewed. You can do everything including rent and sell with this kind of property, except for demolishing it!
Process when buying property in Dubai
The buying process is fairly straightforward in Dubai, but differs depending on if you buy an established (resale) or off-plan from a developer.
Foreign buyers often prefer to buy off-plan, as they are able to lock in the prices in advance of any market increases, and the home is brand new if/when you or a tenant moves in. Here are some important factors to consider when buying Dubai property.
1. Is your developer approved by the Dubai Land Department? (DLD)
If you buy off-plan, firstly you need to make sure that the developer is approved by the Dubai Land Department. For a complete list over the approved developers, you can visit the DLD’s website.
Check that the Developer has completed a number of projects previously. You can also visit some of the projects in person.
2. Is your agent registered with the RERA? (Real Estate Regulatory Agency)
Regulations change fast in Dubai and it’s important that you work with a credible and reliable agent, who knows the foreign ownership regulations in and out. They should be be registered with the RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency), which regulates and authorizes the real estate sector in Dubai.
Chestertons has been operating in the Dubai real estate market since 2008 and it’s agents are all RERA certified.
3. Getting a mortgage
Get a pre-approved home loan application from a local bank, or a bank located elsewhere. It’s important that you get a pre-approved home loan, sometimes referred to as In-Principle-Agreements earliest possible, to secure your financing.
Chestertons can recommend local mortgage brokers and banks to help secure the best mortgage to fit your investment goals.
4. Agree on the terms
Agree on the terms with the seller and sign a property sales contract, referred to as form F. You will need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and pay the deposit – equal to 10% of the purchase price.
5. Apply for a No Objection Certificate (‘NOC’) to sell the property (applicable on resale or second-hand homes)
The document will show that the developer agrees to the sale of the property and that the seller has paid any outstanding fees, or that the seller does so. The application process usually takes a week and costs between $200-2000. This is usually paid by the seller.
6. Register the property in your name at the Dubai Land Department
When the developer has issued the NOC, you’re ready to pay a visit to the Dubai Land Department or a trustee office to transfer the property under your name. A new title will be issued in your name.
Property taxes and fees
Below is an outline of applicable taxes and fees when purchasing a Dubai property. It’s recommended you check with the relevant agencies for the most up to date information:
Dubai Land Department transfer fee
- 4% plus AED 540 administrative fee
- AED 2,000 for property below AED 500,000
- AED 4,000 for property above AED 500,000
Mortgage registration fee
- 0.25% of loan + AED 10 fee
Mortgage processing fee
- Up to 1% of the loan amount
Estate agency fee
- 2% of the purchase fee
Conveyancing fees (where appropriate)
- AED 6,000 – 10,000
- AED 2,500 – 3,500
Oqood fee, for off-plan properties
- 4% of purchase price
- 25% or more of the property cost
- As of January 2018, the Dubai government has added a VAT of 5%
Can I get a residency visa if I buy property in Dubai?
Dubai is one of a few countries that offer long term visas to foreigners who buy property. These two visas may be applicable to your investment goals:
The Property Investor Visa
The property investor visa is a two-year renewable visa offered to foreigners by the Dubai Land Department. A number of benefits follow if you manage to get this visa, for example, you can receive an Emirates ID, local driving license and bring your family over. This visa is only valid for property investments.
You’re only able to receive a property investor visa in case the property value is AED 1 million (around USD 270,000) and it needs to be a residential property.
Cost for the property investor visa
The total cost to apply for this visa is around AED 13000 – 15000 (around USD 3500 – 4000).
The Six Months Residency Visa
The Immigration authority is responsible to issue the six months residency visa, which is a six months multi entry-visa. One of the benefits of this visa is that it’s cheaper compared to the property investor visa, and you can buy property in all seven Emirates to qualify for Dubai residency.
The investment value requirement is the same as for the property investor visa.
Cost for the six month residency visa
The total cost to apply for this visa is around AED 2300 (around USD 620).
Great post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!