Buying Property in UAE: The Guide to Real Estate for Expats

See all Posts
February 3, 2020

If you’re an expat thinking about investing in property in the UAE, you should decide whether this is to either relocate or to invest.

Thousands of expats relocate to UAE every year and stay in the country for long periods of time. They can now even retire once they reach the age of 55. The quality of life, tax-free income and savings are major factors for expats to make the move across seas.

Buying or investing in real estate in the UAE isn’t plain sailing and there are lots of things to think about to ensure a smooth process and to get the most out of your money. 

If you’re an expat that’s looking to settle in the UAE for longer than 3 years and are looking to buy property, this guide contains all you need to know before you start your search. 

  • Where to buy property in the UAE & the difference between freehold and leasehold. 
  • Can expats get a mortgage to buy in the UAE?
  • Why you should invest in property

Where to buy property in the UAE & the difference between freehold and leasehold

It can be confusing to know where is best to buy property and where you can buy property.

Prior to making the decision to invest in property, it’s important to understand all facets of property ownership before you take the plunge and put down your hard-earned money.

For a long time, expatriates were not entitled to own property in the UAE.

Dubai was the first Emirati to open its doors and allow expats to buy real estate. However, Property ownership for expats is divided into two categories, leasehold and freehold.

  • Leasehold property

When you buy a leasehold property, it essentially means that you’re buying the right to live in or occupy the property from a freeholder for a period of 99 years (or less). 

At the end of the lease period, ownership of the purchased property unit reverts to the freeholder.

Being a leaseholder means that your wealth won’t directly benefit you or your family, as there is no long term investment or right to ownership of the property.

  • Freehold

When you buy a freehold property it gives the buyer absolute ownership over both the unit and the land that it stands on.

Dubai Land Department (DLD) will register the buyer’s name as the ‘landowner’ in the registry and this grants a title deed for the property.

Freehold property in UAE can be freely sold, leased or occupied at the will of the freeholder. The freehold contract is applicable in perpetuity, and when the owner passes away, an heir can inherit it. 

This kind of investment is an investment in you and your families future.

Freehold property owners and their families have access to renewable UAE residence visas. However, being a resident in the UAE is not a requirement to own freehold property. 

If you’re looking to purchase a freehold property in the Emirates this gives you the advantage of not having to live in the country should you choose. Instead you can earn a passive income through lease holding the property you’ve bought.

If you’re an expat who is currently living in the UAE, Dubai law states that you can buy a leasehold property or a freehold property in one of the 23 freehold areas including:

- Al Barsha South
- Emirates Hills
- Jebel Ali
- Sheikh Zayed Road
- Dubai Marina
- Palm Jumeirah.

If you’re looking to buy in Abu Dhabi, Non-GCC nationals (people not from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman or Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) are able to buy leasehold and freehold property in designated investment zones in Abu Dhabi. These include:

- Yas Island
- Reem Island
- Saadiyat Island
- Raha Beach
- Al Reef Village, and more.

If you’re looking to buy in any of the other Northern Emirates, expats can now make freehold and leasehold purchases in:

-  Ras Al Khaimah
- Sharjah
- Ajman
- Umm al Quwain

We know that buying property comes with a host of other requirements like mortgages, down payments and a credit score but, Ai Investment group can make it  simpler.  We can explain the ins and outs of mortgages in the UAE.

Can expats get a mortgage to buy in the UAE?

The short answer is yes.

Expats can get a mortgage from lenders in the UAE,  but, there are some restrictions.

The UAE Mortgage Cap law requires all non-UAE nationals to have a cash down payment of at least 25% of the property value (this is normally 20% for UAE nationals), plus associated purchase costs.

This 25% down payment is the minimum requirement for expat buyers, you can put down more if it’s readily available to you. 

When buying property, life insurance is compulsory when you take out a mortgage in the UAE as this is the only way for the bank to guarantee the loan is paid in full in severe cases of death. 

The amount of this insurance will vary depending on your age and health conditions, whether you choose to take the life insurance from the bank or from an external life insurance provider.

When applying for your mortgage expats will need to present lenders with the following documentation:

  • Passport and copies
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of address
  • Salary certificates or evidence of regular income
  • Bank account statements for three to six months

Now you know all the facts, let us guide you through.

Ai Investment Group is a UAE based financial planning firm, we’re experts in investment and wealth management for expatriates and UAE nationals. We believe in providing exceptional solutions for individuals, families and businesses.