Real Estate

July 31, 2023

Reading Time: 8 min

The UAE real estate buying guide

The real estate market of the UAE is constantly expanding. Now 2.5 times more sale and purchase transactions are conducted in the Emirates than 5 years ago. Many apartment complexes and villas are built in areas where foreigners are allowed to buy them.

When investors purchase real estate in the UAE, they may get an additional source of income and become eligible for a UAE Golden Visa.

Elena Ruda
Elena Ruda

Explained the nuances of the real estate market in the UAE

Real estate market in the UAE

The UAE real estate buying guide

Who can buy property in the UAE

Nationals of the UAE are allowed to buy real estate in full ownership everywhere in the UAE. This also applies to citizens of some Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Foreigners from other countries can buy property in the United Arab Emirates under certain conditions. In special areas called freehold zones, it is allowed to purchase property into full ownership. In any other place in the UAE, it is allowed to have only a tenancy over a real estate object.

In the case of a tenancy, a person owns only a physical object for 50—99 years but not the land it is built on.

In the case of full ownership of a property in the freehold zone, foreigners can obtain the UAE Golden Visa. There are 9 freehold zones in Abu Dhabi and around 50 in Dubai.

4 benefits of real estate investment in the UAE

1. Growth of prices on real estate. The demand for real estate in the UAE is increasing. By the end of 2022, the amount of property sales transactions has reached 25,500, which is 60% more than in the same period of the last year.

Due to that, the prices are also increasing. For example, at the end of 2022, an average off-plan apartment costs AED 1.3 million, which is 15% more than a year ago.

2. An opportunity to rent the object out. Owners have a right to rent their properties out. The rental yield is about 5—8% per year.

Among the people who rent residential properties are tourists, business people, and highly qualified employees who come to work in the country.

3. No taxes on real estate. There are no annual property taxes that real estate owners must pay. Owners also don’t pay taxes on income from renting their properties out.

It is required to only pay taxes upon buying or selling a real estate object. Yet, the rate is pretty low, 2—4%, and the tax amount is usually divided in half between the buyer and the seller.

4. Obtaining a Golden Visa. People who purchase real estate in the freehold zones can participate in the UAE residency program. The visa is given for either 2 or 10 years, depending on the sum of investment into real estate.

With a Golden Visa, investors can open bank accounts for international transactions. At the same time, they are not required to live in the country permanently.

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

Property costs by areas in Dubai

Dubai is the most popular district for buying property in the UAE. Foreigners purchase real estate there four times more often than in Abu Dhabi, the country’s capital.

The average price for a square metre in Dubai city centre is higher than in Abu Dhabi: $3,755 versus $3,340, respectively. However, apartments outside the city centre are more expensive in the capital than in Dubai: the average price in Abu Dhabi is $2,947 and in Dubai is $2,380.

Among the Dubai areas where investors purchase properties the most frequently are Business Bay and Dubai Marina. The most expensive apartments are located in Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah areas.

On average, you would need $300,000—600,000 to buy an apartment in Dubai. If you decide to buy a villa, be ready to pay $500,000—1,000,000.

Average prices on apartments and villas in the 10 most popular areas in Dubai

Area

Price per square metre

Average property price

Apartments

Jumeirah Village Circle

$2,846

$157,922

Al Furjan

$3,095

$232,614

Arjan

$3,326

$154,940

Sobha Heartland

$4,754

$369,436

Dubai Hills

$5,117

$351,754

Dubai Creek Harbour

$5,138

$472,374

Business Bay

$5,536

$354,685

Dubai Marina

$6,562

$590,785

Burj Khalifa

$7,394

$672,499

Palm Jumeirah

$7,887

$830,452

Villas

Dubai South

$1,885

$517,330

Damac Hills 2

$2,052

$340,349

Jabal Ali First

$2,172

$865,521

Villanova

$2,418

$466,414

The Valley

$2,427

$435,480

Town Square

$2,588

$471,285

Emirate Living

$2,638

$789,610

Mudon

$2,775

$655,803

Damac Lagoons

$3,335

$497,454

Tilal Al Ghaf

$3,822

$2,164,679

Types of properties in the UAE

Among the types of properties that foreigners can purchase are apartments, townhouses, villas, and commercial properties. To qualify for a UAE residence visa, a foreigner can choose finished real estate or a property under construction.

Apartments are bought almost 5 times more often than villas: for the 2nd quarter of 2023, the number of purchased apartments reached 23,244, while the number of purchased villas is 4,808, according to the Dubai Real Estate Market Report.

New or secondary market property: which is better to buy?

In the UAE, you can purchase a newly-built property or one still under construction from a developer. The other option is to buy a property which had a previous owner. Each type has pros and cons, so the choice depends on your goals and preferences.

A new property is often built in step with modern trends. It might be more space-optimised and energy efficient. The new property can also be bought at different construction stages and offers more options to choose from.

Off-plan properties typically have the lowest price. They require 10—20% payment as an initial cost. The remaining sum is paid after the building is complete. However, the construction might take longer than expected, or the project can be abandoned altogether.

Resale properties may require much money for renovations and repairs. However, you won’t have to wait too long to get ownership and move into.

The secondary market real estate is more tangible. You can see exactly what you’re purchasing, including location, surroundings, amenities, and even neighbours.

If you’re going to apply for a 2-year residence visa, you cannot invest in property under construction — the real estate must be finished. This rule doesn’t apply to a 10-year Golden Visa requiring AED 2,000,000 investment.

The purchased property for a residence or Golden visa can be either new or resale, as this factor is unimportant.

Documents for buying market property in UAE as expat

The list of documents may vary depending on the emirate and circumstances of the property purchase. Here are the documents an investor typically needs to prepare for purchasing property in Dubai:

  1. Passport.

  2. Current residence visa or permission to reside in the UAE.

  3. Sale and purchase agreement, also known as the Memorandum of Understanding or Contract F. This document sets out the terms and conditions for the property purchase.

  4. No Objection Certificate from the developer or previous owner if the property is purchased on the secondary market. The certificate confirms there are no outstanding charges, and the transfer of ownership is possible.

  5. Power of Attorney if the investor uses an agent or representative to conduct the transaction.

If the investor buys property on a mortgage, they must get pre-approval before signing the sale agreement. The Dubai Land Department requires mortgage approval before applying for the No Objection Certificate.

After all legal procedures are done, the property title deed will be issued in the investor’s name. Since then, they will officially become a property owner in the UAE.

The process of buying real estate in the UAE

The process of purchasing real estate in the UAE takes around 6 weeks. The investor doesn’t need to complete the procedure on their own: the deal is accompanied by lawyers. They check the contract conditions and the property’s legal purity.

1

From 1 week

Choosing an object

The object can be chosen remotely.

Licensed agents help investors select the property based on their needs and wishes.

2

Up to 2 weeks

Sale and purchase agreement

The seller and the buyer sign the sale and purchase agreement that includes information on the following:

  • the address, size and cost of the object;

  • terms and conditions of the deal;

  • who pays the related fees;

  • the date of substantial completion.

3

Up to 1 week

Obtainment of No Objection Certificate (NOC)

If the investor buys real estate with a mortgage, they need to obtain a No Objection Certificate in the bank. Other required documents are a pay sheet from the developer and the real estate transfer certificate.

4

2 to 3 weeks

Registering ownership

After all the money is paid and the contract is signed, a buyer and a seller need to register their deal with the Dubai Land Department.

An application for contract registration is filed through The Real Estate Regulatory Agency app.

Property taxes in the UAE and maintenance costs

Upon purchasing real estate, the following taxes and fees are paid:

  1. Transfer tax: 4% in Dubai and 2% in Abu Dhabi. The tax amount is usually divided in half and paid by both a seller and a buyer.

  2. Registration fee: $545 if the deal is less than $137,000 and $1,090 if the deal is more than $137,000;

  3. Administration fee for a tax payment — $147.

  4. Administration fee for issuing a certificate of ownership — $68.

When purchasing commercial properties, buyers pay an additional 5% VAT.

When owning property, no annual tax is charged.

If renting a property out, rental income is not subject to taxation.

Upon selling a property, the seller pays half the transfer tax—for example, 2% of the property value in Dubai or 1% in Abu Dhabi.

Utility bills. The average cost of basic utilities for an 85 m² apartment is $163 per month. The Internet costs around $95—100 a month.

Obtainment of the UAE Golden Visa by the purchase of a real estate

A foreigner who has purchased real estate into full ownership has a right to obtain the UAE Golden Visa. It is granted for 2 or 10 years, depending on the cost of the property.

To get a 10-years Golden Visa, the investor needs to purchase real estate for at least AED 2,000,000, or about $545,000. In this case, the investment sum doesn’t depend on the composition of the investor’s family.

To get a 2-year residence visa, investors must buy real estate for AED 750,000, or around $204,000. This sum applies if the investor owns a property alone. If the ownership is registered for two spouses, the real estate must cost at least AED 1,000,000, or around $272,000.

The investor can take a loan to purchase real estate, and the down payment must be at least 50%.

The process of obtaining the Golden Visa takes from 2 months and consists of 5 steps.

1. The preliminary Due Diligence. Immigrant Invest lawyers check the investor and their family members against different international databases. This procedure is required to reveal the risks of refusal and increase the chances of getting a visa.

2. Preparation of documents and getting a 6-month visa. The lawyers provide the investor with a list of required documents. Then they translate and notarise them and conduct consular legalisation. After that, the investor gets an entry 6-month visa.

3. Purchasing of real estate. The investor is not required to come to the UAE to buy a property: we can help do it remotely.

4. A medical checkup. As the investor and their family members who participate in the UAE Golden Visa program are required to have no serious illnesses, they need to undergo a medical checkup. The applicants are tested for dangerous infectious diseases and pass fluorography.

5. The main Due Diligence. The applicants come to the UAE to apply for a visa and give biometrics. The process of considering the application takes 5—7 days. When it is approved, the investor and their family members get visas.

In short: factors to consider before buying property in the UAE

Affordability. The first thing to consider is whether you can afford real estate. Keep in mind not only the property price but maintenance costs, administrative fees and taxes as well, which can reach 7—8% of the purchase price.

Rental yields. Rental yields in the UAE are about 5—8% per year. If you plan to rent your real estate out, make sure the rental income covers your mortgage and maintenance expenses.

Staying period. Before investing in real estate in the UAE, it is worth considering whether you would like to connect your life with the UAE for a long time. Sometimes, renting a property may be more profitable than buying your own.

Trends and market conditions. Exploring current trends and learning how the property market will change is a good idea. Maybe new objects will be built soon, or prices in some areas will decline. The more you know about the market conditions, the higher your chance of getting the best deal.

Location. Consider the lifestyle of your family and what facilities you need nearby. Maybe you need kindergartens or schools, or cafes and restaurants are essential to you. Make sure you choose the best option for your needs.

Quality. Check the age of the property you’re investing in and whether it requires renovations. Also, make sure that the developer building your real estate has a good reputation.

Eligibility for a residence visa. If you plan to get a residence permit in the Emirates, make sure the property you are going to buy meets the requirements. The minimum investment amount is AED 750,000 ($204,000).

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for government programs in the European Union and the Caribbean.

Will you obtain the UAE Golden Visa?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain the UAE Golden Visa?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can foreigners buy property in the UAE?

    Yes, foreigners are allowed to buy property in the UAE. However, there are certain location restrictions. According to them, foreigners can only purchase real estate in specific places called freehold zones. The majority of them are located in Dubai.

  • Is it worth investing in UAE real estate?

    Investing in UAE real estate is profitable as property prices are constantly increasing. In 2022, real estate costs 1.5 times more than 10 years ago.

    Owners can rent their property out without a need to pay taxes on income received from renting. So, real estate in the UAE can be an additional source of income.

  • How much does an average house cost in the UAE?

    The cost of a house in the UAE depends on the area it is built in. On average, you can buy a villa for $500,000—1,000,000. Some of the least expensive areas are Dubai South and Damac Hills 2.

  • Do you get residency if you buy a house in Dubai?

    It is possible to get a residency in the UAE if you buy a house in Dubai. There are two residence visa options: for 2 and 10 years. The first is granted if the investor purchases real estate for AED 750,000 ($204,000), and the second is for investing AED 2 million ($545,000).

  • What are the pros and cons of buying property in Dubai?

    The benefits of buying property in Dubai are the following:

    • no property taxes and no taxes on income received from renting the properties out;

    • the constant growth of prices on real estate;

    • an opportunity to rent the properties out and receive 5—8% income from it;

    • an opportunity to obtain a residency visa in the UAE.

    The main disadvantage of buying an apartment in Dubai is that a foreigner can’t purchase it everywhere but only in the freehold zones. However, around 50 of them exist, meaning that each investor can find a suitable location.

  • Where can foreigners buy houses in Dubai?

    Foreigners can buy real estate in freehold zones in Dubai. There are around 50 of them. Some of the most popular ones for buying houses are Damac Lagoons, Town Square, and Tilal Al Ghaf.

  • Are property prices in Dubai falling?

    No, they are actually rising. In April 2023, Dubai real estate market noticed a 33% fall in sales transactions and 18,3% in sales value compared to the month before. It happened for the first time since December 2022.

    Market analysts and investors considered it to be a short-term fluctuation. Early May data showed a quick return to the first quarter of 2023.

    By the end of 2023, the Dubai real estate market is expected to have unprecedented price growth and reach AED 300 billion. Experts link the rise in prices with the increase in sales volume. Even though property prices are rising, luxury housing in Dubai is still more affordable than anywhere else in the world.

  • Is it cheaper to rent or buy an apartment in Dubai?

    It depends on your goals and financial situation. If you don’t plan to stay in the UAE long, renting can be cheaper, as all you have to pay is rent.

    The average rental price for a 1-bedroom apartment in the centre of Abu Dhabi is $1,444 per month, outside the centre — $1,179. In Dubai, the same apartment in the city centre will cost about $2,004 per month.

    If you are considering staying in the UAE long-term and applying for UAE Golden Visa, buying a property might be a wiser choice. To buy an apartment in Dubai, you need $300,000—600,000. Purchasing a villa will cost $500,000—1,000,000.

    In addition to the property cost, real estate owners also pay transfer, administrative, registration, and administration fees for issuing a certificate of ownership.

    The purchased property can give you a stable income if you decide to rent it out. Rental yields here are about 5—8% per year. In the UAE, real estate owners don’t pay annual property taxes or taxes on income, but they have to pay an annual maintenance fee of $15—60 per square metre.