Property Buying Process

Buying property in the UAE is straightforward and is supported by a stable Government and political system, a robust legal structure and a commitment to supporting foreign investment with sound property title rights. The process is also relatively quick, low-cost and subject to very low local tax rates by international standards.

There are different approaches to buying property across the UAE so we’ve restricted our comments to Dubai which represents the most popular market.

Since 2002, foreign nationals have been allowed to buy freehold properties in designated areas in Dubai. Some of the developments available for foreign freehold ownership include The Palm, The Burj Khalifa, Jumeirah, Emaar Towers, The Greens and International City amongst others. For some projects land can be leased up to 99 years. Escape to the Sun will only present properties with freehold or these long term leases with Government approved developers and agents.

A list of approved agencies and developers for Dubai can be found at the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, a department of the Dubai Land Department

Properties in the designated developments are usually bought off-plan, or before completion. Buyers choose what to buy, and pay an initial deposit of around 10%-15% of the total market price. A holding deposit may also be asked by the developer, taking the property off the market, giving the buyer time to arrange finance and documentation. This will usually secure the property for up to one month. The holding deposit is non-refundable in the event that the buyer decides to withdraw.

Developers generally offer different payment plans with staggered payments to the developer before and sometimes even after completion.

Properties must be registered and foreigners will be granted Land Certificates by the Dubai Land Department. The sale agreement and other required documents are also lodged at the Department for registration.

As mentioned, transaction costs for buyers are very low. There is some talk about Dubai introducing a form of Stamp Duty but this has not happened yet.

Buyer Transaction Costs

Title Deed AED250 (GBP£50)
Registration Fee  2%
Real Estate Agent´s fee 0% to 3%
Total Costs 2% to 5%

Usually the seller will be liable for the Real Estate Agent’s fees but it is not unheard of for the buyer sometimes to also pay, these fees are usually in the range of 2%-3%.

Similarly, on private sales, the seller is subject to a 2% registration fee and these can get transferred to the buyer. It is worth being clear on negotiations, what registration fees are payable.

Currently, there are also no local taxes payable on any rental earned or capital gains tax. Whether this remains the case for the future is another matter.

We always recommend appointing a local legal expert and you will also need to factor in these costs as well. However, the vast majority of sales in Dubai are progressed without a solicitor and most agents will organise the transfer and deal with Dubai Land department regarding the registration.

With apartments and developments with communal areas it is also usual to pay on-going maintenance fees. These vary depending on location, nature of the building and the extent of services provided such as parking, gym, gardens and pool.

The UAE Government has a six-month visa called “Property Holders Visa” which allows foreign investors to stay in the UAE for up to six months provided that the property you are purchasing is over AED1 million (approx £200,000) and the property is held by an individual owner and not a company or multiple owners. You cannot work on this visa.

Visitors with an EU-passport can obtain a visit-VISA for 30 days. Usually there is no charge on entry via international airports. Longer term VISAs up to three years are possible but with various costs and restrictions.

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