Buying a property in UAE – an overview

Abu Dhabi
The city of Abu Dhabi at night

There are seven emirates in the UAE with most property interest focused on Dubai. From Abu Dhabi to Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, regional and international buyers still invest enthusiastically, enjoying the easy payment terms and impressive tax-free resale returns that property in the country offers. In Abu Dhabi foreigners can only buy in designated areas on 99 year leases while in Sharjah they are only permitted to buy leasehold property.

It goes without saying that the scale of construction and the sheer variety of properties available in UAE is unparalleled compared to many global destinations. From small apartments, luxurious penthouses, spacious villas overlooking perfectly manicured golf courses, waterfront properties on a vast marina, and beachfront properties; there is a wide range of properties to choose from. And that’s not all. Any intending buyer can choose from an array of architectural styles too. From designs based on tradition Arab architecture to Mediterranean-style villas and cutting-edge high-rise blocks, there is a wide range to choose from.

Generally, resident visas are issued to property owners, which extend to their immediate families. These visas are renewable every three years during ownership.


Buying a property in UAE is now much easier than it once was, with amendments in laws allowing foreigners to own freehold title. To buy a new-build off-plan, the process is easy. There is no formal system of transferring of legal title of property from one person to another in UAE, but buyers should always employ a lawyer to check the contract and manage the payments. As there is no system of searching for title deeds held by overseas owners, buyers of resale property should always ask the original developer to confirm who owns the property. Properties can be registered with the respective Lands Department of the emirate who will provide land certificates to foreign national buyers. Here’s the process:

  • For an under construction property, the buyer reserves a unit and pays an initial deposit – usually 10 percent.


  • The remaining balance is paid either in stages until the completion date or at one go.
  • For resale property, a holding deposit is paid at the outset and completed once funds are in place to carry out the exchange.


  • For new-builds one needs to pay a land registration fee of around 2 percent and a year’s upfront maintenance charges.
  • If buying a resale property, all the charges of a new-build apply, plus a 1 to 2 percent transfer fee, depending on whether the property is completed or not.


Lenders in UAE often do not consider individual properties and give loans to buyers of only some developments. Furthermore it can be difficult for non-residents to obtain a mortgage as there are only a few banks who will consider lending to non-GCC non-residents Based upon the valuation or purchase price of your property (whichever is lower), one can borrow up to 70% of the value for purchase. A loan for any other reason will be dealt with case by case. These loans are available to individuals up to the age of 55 and the buyer can borrow for a term of up to 15 years. For buyers who are looking at taking a mortgage, it is advisable to find out whether loans on the property he is intending to buy are available. Before you give the deposit on a property make sure that you are eligible to get a mortgage.