The Most Popular Types of Real Estate in the UAE

The Most Popular Types of Real Estate in the UAE

The UAE is a relatively young country, having been founded just 51 years ago. Since its inception, it has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, you'll find a landscape dominated by breathtaking skyscrapers, luxurious villas, and townhouse districts, a far cry from the narrow streets with standalone houses and traditional Bedouin tents of the past. The country has even witnessed the creation of man-made islands in the Persian Gulf and artificial inland reservoirs. Continue reading to discover how the UAE's property market has evolved, what it currently offers, and how to select the best option for your needs.

Tents and Sha'bi houses

In the past, the largest portion of the population in the territory that now constitutes the United Arab Emirates consisted of Bedouin nomadic tribes. These tribes traditionally dwelled in tents constructed from palm trunks, leaves, and camel skins.

Photo: Félix Bonfils (Wikimedia)

In the second half of the 20th century, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE and its inaugural president, introduced a resettlement initiative for the nomadic population. He believed that adopting a settled lifestyle in cities and urban areas was a crucial step in establishing a modern nation.

The government provided free housing to the participants of the program. These were concrete "folk houses," or sha'bi houses. Nevertheless, the initiative failed. People complained that the fences were too low, houses had only one bathroom and weren't divided into men- and women-only areas, violating Islamic laws. The houses of the next construction stage met all the requirements.

You can still find some of these houses in the Emirates. However, many of them are no longer owned by their original occupants, who have upgraded to better properties. Today, sha'bi houses represent the most affordable real estate available in the thriving UAE property market. 


"Folk housing" evolved into compounds among other types of houses in the UAE. A compound is a closed housing estate consisting of apartment buildings. The compound's premises are highly secured and only accessible to its residents. Typically, compounds consist of multi-story buildings with private backyards and various amenities for the residents.

Some compound complexes may even partition their premises, preventing residents from one block from entering the gardens or common areas of another block. This arrangement ensures absolute privacy and a comfortable living environment in multi-story residential buildings. 

Classified websites list a total of 72 compounds in the UAE, with 43 in Abu Dhabi and 29 in Dubai. Prices for these compounds start at 700,000 AED ($190,600) and can go up to 40 million AED ($10.9 million).

Bungalows, Villas and Townhouses

Townhouses are similar to compounds but typically offer less privacy. They consist of low-rise apartment buildings with separate entrances. Townhouses share a side wall and a roof, but each apartment has a small plot of land for a driveway, a garden, or a barbecue area. 

The UAE's property market offers over 12,000 townhouses across the country, including in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Ajman. The prices range from 580,000 AED ($157,900) for the cheapest townhouse to 33,500,000 AED ($9,120,000) for the most expensive ones.

Somerset Mews (Housearch)

If you prefer more privacy, consider villas. While they may stand close to each other and face the same street, they don't share any walls. Moreover, villas always have a larger area around them where you can create a garden, build a pool, gazebos, and outbuildings.

There are approximately 22,000 villas available for sale in the UAE. The lowest price is 730,000 AED ($198,800), while the highest is 190 million AED ($51.7 million).

Bungalows are among the most comfortable types of detached houses in the UAE. While the term "bungalow" typically refers to one-story buildings, in the UAE, you can often find two- and three-storey bungalows. These houses are designed with facades that are not directly visible from the street, providing additional privacy. 

Currently, there are approximately 30 bungalows available for sale, with 11 of them located in Abu Dhabi and 18 in Dubai. The prices for bungalows range from 830,000 AED ($226,000) to 75 million AED ($20.4 million).

Apartments, Penthouses and Duplexes

Apartments in high-rise buildings are the most popular type of housing in the UAE. The local property market is replete with options, ranging from small studios to spacious multi-bedroom apartments with multiple bathrooms and private terraces. Some apartments even offer access to private pools.

There are over 69,000 listed apartments in the UAE, available in various locations across the country. Prices for these apartments range from 205,000 AED ($55,800) to 70,000,000 AED ($19,060,000).

The OPUS (Housearch)

Now, let's take a closer look at penthouses, which are properties occupying the top floors of buildings, either in full or in part. Penthouses are considered one of the most luxurious types of housing, offering stunning views from their windows. Typically, penthouses feature panoramic glazing, often extending around the entire perimeter.

Today, there are 1,576 penthouses available across the country. The least expensive one is priced at 1,300,000 AED ($354,000), while the most expensive penthouse costs 45,000,000 AED ($12,250,000). 

Duplexes, which are two-storey apartments, are another popular type of real estate in the UAE. They can be situated on various levels within a building, including lower, middle, or upper floors. It's worth noting that some penthouses also span two floors. Therefore, if you're interested in this type of housing, it's a good idea to explore listings in both the penthouse and duplex categories. 

The UAE's property market currently features 947 duplexes available in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras Al Khaimah. Prices range from 530,000 AED ($144,300) to 22,750,000 AED ($6,130,000).

ORLA (Housearch)

Floors Instead of Apartments 

Classified websites in the UAE also feature listings for less common types of housing. For instance, you can find ads for apartments that occupy half a floor. Currently, there are 23 half-floor apartments for sale, all located in Dubai. Prices for these properties range from 18 to 48 million AED ($4.9 to $13.07 million).

Another unique category is the full floor apartments. Local developers frequently offer entire floors for sale, and this system has gained popularity among investors. However, it comes with certain drawbacks. The price mentioned in the listing often applies to a single apartment on the floor, making it challenging to determine the lowest price for full floor offerings. Prices can go up to 40 million AED ($10.89 million). Currently, there are 145 full floors available for sale in Dubai and 1 in Ajman. 

Lastly, you may come across listings labeled as "bulk sale units." These advertisements propose purchasing multiple apartments within the same building, even if they are located on different floors. Bulk sale units often come with a discount from the seller. Currently, there are 95 listings in this category, and you can find bulk sale unit ads in nearly every emirate. Prices can range up to 90 million AED ($24.5 million).

LIV LUX (Housearch)

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In a Nutshell

The residential real estate market in the UAE is incredibly diverse, offering properties at various price points, locations, and categories. You can find options ranging from studios and small apartments suitable for students and young families to unique luxury properties featuring one-of-a-kind designs and exclusive furnishings. This diversity ensures that individuals with various tastes and budgets can easily find a suitable property.

Cover photo: Safa Two (Housearch)

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