Tens of thousands of real estate properties are sold each year in the United Arab Emirates. For example, almost 15,000 transactions were concluded in Abu Dhabi and over 61,000 in Dubai in 2021. The total cost exceeded USD 60,000,000,000. Let us take a look at what people buy in the Emirates, the types of property that exist in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the property rights of foreign citizens.
How to Buy and Rent
Let us be clear: in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi foreigners are allowed to buy real estate and the land underneath the property. They can own this property indefinitely and unconditionally. In the Emirates, this type of property ownership is called Freehold. It was introduced in Dubai in 2002 and in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
There is one nuance though: UAE laws only allow the citizens of foreign countries to buy property and own it indefinitely based on a Freehold basis in zones assigned for this purpose. However, this limitation looks more intimidating on paper than it is in reality. In Abu Dhabi there are nine such zones and in Dubai several dozen. Usually these are the best parts of the city.
Two other types of ownership rights in the Emirates are Leasehold and Usufruct. Both are forms of long-term rent (up to 99 years) without the right to dispose of the land. In Abu Dhabi, there is one more type of ownership, Musataha. This is rent for 50 years with the right to extend it for 50 more years and the right to develop the land.
If you do not plan to buy and own property in the UAE right now, but want to live on the coast of the Persian Gulf for some time, bear the following in mind: residential properties tend to be let for no less than a year. Short-term lets are possible, but cost more because such properties are tailored for tourists and anyone currently looking for a more long-term accommodation.
New buildings in the UAE
What Types of Housing Should You Consider in the UAE?
So you have decided to buy real estate in the Emirates to live in or let. Or you are planning a work trip to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and need somewhere to rent. What are the options? There are a number: from modest studio flats to luxury villas with eight bedrooms. So it all depends on your budget and your habits.
This is the most common and affordable housing. You can find tens of thousands of options on websites offering flats for sale and rent catering for any taste and budget. The price depends on the location, the class of building or residential complex, and the infrastructure. It also depends on whether the flat is furnished or not, is equipped with domestic appliances, as well as its size.
The prices of small, unfurnished studio flats in Dubai start at AED 200,000 (USD 55,000) and can reach AED 2,500,000 (USD 680,000) which is the price of a bigger studio flat on a high floor in downtown Dubai, with furniture, a balcony and a communal spa in the building.
In Abu Dhabi, for instance, on the island of Yas, a studio flat that you can occupy immediately will cost from AED 560,000 (USD 152,000) to AED 1,150,000 (USD 313,000). Renting a studio flat there for a year will cost from AED 40,000 to AED 70,000 (USD 11,000 to USD 19,000). In Dubai, it can cost as much as USD 40,000 a year to rent premium studio flats.
Prices for two-bedroom flats in Dubai start at approximately AED 500,000 USD 136,000) and can reach AED 20,000,000 (USD 5,445,000), and in some cases even AED 30,000,000 (USD 8,167,000).
In Abu Dhabi, on the island of Saadiyat, a two-bedroom flat may cost AED 1,400,000 (USD 381,000), or even AED 8,000,000 (USD 2,178,000). The average annual rent here ranges from AED 75,000 to AED 320,000 (USD 20,000 to USD 87,000), while in Dubai you can rent such a flat for AED 1,500,000 (USD 408,000), or even more.
Duplexes, lofts and penthouses
Anyone who wants a big property, but is not ready to buy a detached house, should not only look at flats with multiple rooms, but also at 2-level or 2-floor real estate units. In the Emirates, the former are called duplexes, while the latter are called lofts
What is the difference? A loft is a flat with high ceilings and a second half-floor. A duplex is a flat with two full floors. In reality, it is a private property with a staircase, but is located in a high-rise building.
In Dubai, a one-bedroom duplex can be bought for AED 900,000 (USD 245,000), while a four-bedroom duplex starts at AED 10,000,000 (USD 2,722,000). In Abu Dhabi, you can find a four-bedroom duplex near Al Raha beach for AED 5,000,000 (USD 1,361,000) or less, but there is far less choice.
Penthouses are a separate category - they are comfortable flats on the top floors of skyscrapers. In Abu Dhabi, the price of a five-bedroom penthouse in Al Reem, Al Raha or Saadiyat ranges from AED 9,000,000 to AED 20,000,000 (USD 2,450,000 to USD 5,445,000). In Abu Dhabi, prices may be two or three times higher, but the choice is far better.
In Abu Dhabi, for instance on the island of Yas, a studio apartment that you can immediately move into will cost 560,000 AED ($152,000) to 1,150,000 AED ($313,000). Renting a studio apartment there for a year will cost 40,000 to 70,000 AED ($11,000 to $19,000). In Dubai, premium class studio apartments may cost several tens of thousands dollars a year.
Prices for two-bedroom apartments in Dubai start at approximately 500,000 AED ($ 136,000) and may reach 20,000,000 AED ($5,445,000), and in some cases even 30,000,000 AED ($8,167,000).
In Abu Dhabi, on the island of Saadiyat, a two bedroom apartment may cost 1,400,000 AED ($381,000), or even 8,000,000 AED ($2,178,000). The average yearly rent here is 75,000 AED to 320,000 AED ($20,000 to $87,000), and in Dubai one may rent such an apartment even for 1,500,000 AED ($408,000), or even more than that.
Townhouses and Villas
If you do not need high floors and amazing views, and would be satisfied with a house with several bedrooms, you should go for a townhouse or villa.
A townhouse is a mid-size house, usually with a maximum of three to four bedrooms, with a separate entrance and a wall that you share with neighbours. The prices of such residential real estate can reach AED 10,000,000 (USD 2,722,000) in Abu Dhabi and can be twice as high in Dubai. In Dubai, you can rent a townhouse for a year for AED 1,000,000 (USD 272,000) and for ten times less. In Abu Dhabi, it will cost approximately AED 400,000 (USD 109,000) to rent an expensive townhouse for a year.
Townhouses are sometimes confused with villas - even real estate agents can get it wrong. However, there is a difference between these types of housing, inter alia, when it comes to price. A villa is a detached house for one family with its own (albeit small) piece of land.
On the island of Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi, a villa with a swimming pool can cost over AED 30,000,000 (USD 8,167,000). A customised luxurious six-bedroom estate in Emirates Hills in Dubai can sell for AED 200,000,000 (USD 54,450,000). It can cost AED 4 million to rent a luxury villa for a year, which is comparable to the purchase price of a flat or, at the very least, the first mortgage payment for a property that is a little more modest than a designer villa.