Owning a House in Abu Dhabi: How, Why and Where to Buy a Villa in the Capital

Owning a House in Abu Dhabi: How, Why and Where to Buy a Villa in the Capital

Have you been thinking about buying residential property in the United Arab Emirates, but prefer living a calmer and slower paced life than that in Dubai’s business districts? In that case,  a property in Abu Dhabi might be the best option. Your own villa in the capital city of the Emirates guarantees privacy and tranquillity. At the same time, you would still live in a big city with all the attendant conveniences and entertainment. So read on and you will find out everything about buying a house in Abu Dhabi.


Can expats buy a property in Abu Dhabi? Let us start with some recent history. Until 2019, while foreigners could buy property in Abu Dhabi, they couldn’t acquire permanent ownership. Any purchase was limited to a lease of 99 years. In addition, even if foreign citizens bought a house in the capital of the UAE, they still didn’t own the land that the house was on.

Recently, however, Abu Dhabi followed in the footsteps of Dubai where foreign citizens have been able to buy and fully own both real estate and land since 2002 and amended legislation accordingly.

Photo: Kamil Rogalinski (Unsplash)

Districts Where Foreigners Can Buy Property in Abu Dhabi

As in Dubai, foreign citizens can only acquire freehold rights to houses and flats in Abu Dhabi (in other words, full ownership with no time limitations) in special zones called investment zones. 

The key difference between the two emirates is that Abu Dhabi has several times fewer freehold zones than DubaiSo where can expats buy a property in Abu Dhabi? The main list includes eight districts: Al Raha, Yas Island, Saadiyat, Al Reem, Al Maryah, Al Lulu, Al Reef, and Masdar. 

I want to buy a property in Abu Dhabi, which types of housing are there? Real estate agents distinguish between two types of property: townhouses with a separate entrance, but frequently with neighbours living in the same complex, and villas – detached buildings with a land plot. However, even real estate agents here sometimes get the two confused. Anyone planning to buy a property in Abu Dhabi should take a closer look at the following districts:

Average prices for finished houses
Villas: from 6,000,000 to 70,000,000 AED Townhouses: from 2,600,000 to 10,000,000+ AED
Louvre Abu Dhabi; New York University; Under development: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Zayed National Museum
Al Raha
Villas: from 7,500,000 to 15,000,000 AED Townhouses: from 4,500,000 to 6,000,000+ AED
Villas: from 3,000,000 to 15,000,000+ AED Townhouses: from 1,800,000 to 8,000,000+ AED
Yas Marina Circuit; Ferrari Theme Park; Yas Waterworld, water park; Warner Bros. World, theme park; SeaWorld Abu Dhabi
Al Reef
Villas: from 1,000,000 to 3,000,000+ AED Townhouses: from 1 200,000 to 2,500,000 AED
10 minutes to the International Airport

The table features average prices for finished houses as of late 2022. Whether I can buy an off-plan villa in Abu Dhabi? If you are in no rush to buy, you should consider villas still under construction. In this case, make sure that your developer has a licence issued by Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development. Are there any other districts where I can buy off-plan villas in Abu Dhabi? Villas under construction can also be found on Al Reem Island in the vicinity of Central Park with its tennis courts, and the huge Reem Mall with its snow park. 

Study the Market, Choose a Property Developer, Bank and Real Estate Agent

Where can I find a property for sale in Abu Dhabi? You can find out about the houses under construction and for sale in Abu Dhabi on the website Housearch. We also recommend that you pick an experienced and reliable real estate professional licensed by Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport to oversee your deal. 

How much does it cost to buy a property in Abu Dhabi? The agent will charge a commission – usually, it represents about 2% of the price of the house that you plan to buy. However, future owners should bear in mind that they can expect additional expenses, such as municipal and banking fees. Together with the agent’s commission, such expenses could add up to 7.5% to the total deal price. We also recommend that you put to one side 10% to 25% straight away for the down payment that you will have to make to book the villa or townhouse of your choice.

Photo: Jouri Hills (Housearch)

After studying the real estate market and making a decision, make sure that the district that you have selected is in a freehold area where you are allowed as a foreign citizen to own property. We also recommend that you take a look at other projects of your property developer in order to check out the quality of their construction work. 

Can I take a mortgage and buy a villa in Abu Dhabi? If a future owner plans to take out a mortgage, they should get the bank to pre-approve their application. For that reason, the bank requests paperwork confirming the income level of the buyer. It is highly likely that you will also have to take out life insurance to be eligible for a mortgage in Abu Dhabi.

What Papers You Need to Get and Sign

How to buy a property in Abu Dhabi? You have decided on your budget, made all the banking arrangements and selected a house. Now is the time to deal with the paperwork. Here you should adhere to the following sequence of events:

  • First, you must sign with the seller a so-called letter of intent which indicates the timeframe of the deal and the agreed amount of the down payment.
  • As the buyer you must arrange for the valuation of the property and obtain a no-objection certificate from the seller. Where can I get this certificate for buying a villa in UAE? The property developer issues this certificate, which confirms that no outstanding payments are due on the property.
  • If any payments are due, the seller must pay them first. If there is no such debt, you can proceed with the signing of the sale and purchase agreement, pay for the property, and receive papers for your new home. 

What are the benefits of buying property in Abu Dhabi for expats? In addition to other benefits, the purchase of a property in Abu Dhabi entitles the buyer to obtain residency in the UAE for up to five years, with the option to extend this term. What must be the villa price for getting a golden visa in Abu Dhabi? Any foreign citizen buying property for a minimum of AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000) is eligible for a golden visa. Incidentally, house prices in the capital start at about this level. Immediate family members are also eligible for a golden visa if the property owner has already been granted this visa.

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In a Nutshell

In conclusion, this article is for those who want to buy a house in Abu Dhabi. Real estate experts point out that villas and penthouses are not only more expensive than flats, but also offer a lower rate of return. It is harder to let or resell a villa than a small studio or even a spacious flat. This is important for anyone planning to buy real estate solely as an investment. However, ownership offers a different level of comfort. You also have a good chance to get a personal pool. Moreover, in the long run a villa may well turn out to be an even more profitable investment than a flat. If you seek for a property in Abu Dhabi to buy, take a look at this short FAQ: 

Can foreigners buy property in Abu Dhabi: Yes, but full ownership is limited to the freehold zones only.
Where can expats buy property in Abu Dhabi: The most popular freehold zones in Abu Dhabi are Al Raha, Yas Island, Saadiyat, Al Reem, Al Maryah, Al Lulu, Al Reef, and Masdar. 
Property investment in Abu Dhabi: ROI averages from 5% to 7.3% per annum.
When is the best time to buy a villa in Abu Dhabi: It depends on a combination of factors, including market conditions and economic trends, and is not linked to the seasons of the year.
What are the benefits of buying a villa in Abu Dhabi: A buyer gets the potential for capital appreciation, a safe investment environment and a less hectic lifestyle compared to neighbouring Dubai.

Cover photo: Bvlgari Resort & Residences (Housearch)

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