Is it possible to buy a property in the UAE even if you are not living there?
How difficult is it to purchase a property while being a non-resident? Are non-residents able to buy property anywhere in the UAE? These are very common questions that we come across, especially as the UAE becomes more prominent on the investment map due to attractive returns and increasing trust in the economy and the country’s leadership. Many non-residents have become fascinated by the UAE and want to own a property there, be it for investment, as a holiday home or future retirement.
How can I invest in property in the UAE from abroad?
If the thought of buying property in the UAE has crossed your mind, or you are already planning your next purchase, it’s only normal to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the process, not only because you will be making a long term commitment, but also because you will be buying in a country that you are not living in. In this article, we’ve put together some recommended steps in order to own a property in the UAE, along with some relevant information to help simplify the process and remove some of the hassle.
1. Check your eligibility
As a new buyer, you may assume that the first step you need to take is to start looking for a property. However, it’s important to understand how much you can borrow and how much you can afford before starting the process. This will not only narrow down your search options and locations, but will also help you make a financially responsible decision. Each lender has their own requirement in terms of minimum income, which can influence your eligibility for a mortgage. Plus, you wouldn’t want to commit to a property purchase before knowing how much you can actually borrow.
2. Set a budget and prepare the down-payment funds
Once you have identified how much you are eligible for (how much can borrow), you can now establish a price range for the property you want to buy and prepare your down-payment funds. Normally, the minimum requirement for a down-payment is 40% of the property value, and once you have the funds ready and available you can start searching for your desired property.
3. Finding a property
Finding a property that matches your requirements shouldn’t be a difficult task as the UAE has various attractive free-hold investment areas to choose from that allow foreign ownership.
An important step at this stage is to find yourself a trusted property consultant that is associated with a certified real estate company, such as the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi Municipality (ADM) in Abu Dhabi. Generally, you would find the list of approved real estate agencies published on the websites of RERA and ADM. It is important to note that, although some properties would be exclusive to certain real estate agencies, most of the properties would be listed with multiple companies and real estate portals, so make sure to look around. It’s also recommended that you build trust with your property agent, hence it would be a good idea to shortlist a few of the ones that you feel comfortable moving forward with, and hopefully they will be able to help you find the right property.
Another approach you could consider to find your ideal property is to start the search process for your property before engaging with any agent, especially as there are so many platforms where both agents and property owners themselves publish their listings directly.
If you have already identified your ideal property yourself, you can always get in touch directly with the developer who would be able to guide you by providing more information about the property options and layouts that are still available for purchase, as your desired property might be available in various layouts. Since you may not be available to conduct the property inspection in person due to not being present in the country, the property agents should be able to support you by sharing the relevant property details such as floor plans, images and videos, along with expected returns for the property, which should help you make a decision regarding the property.
4. Getting a pre-approval
Once you have shortlisted a property, it is normal practice right before signing a reservation agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) - the initial sale contract between you and the seller - to be asked to provide a pre-approval from your lender showing that your finance request has been approved. The main reason for this is for the property owner to stop advertising for his property while the MOU is valid, which would cause some inconvenience if the finance request wasn’t approved. The pre-approval will only confirm the loan amount that you are eligible for without specifying any of the property details. At Abu Dhabi Finance we provide finance for all kinds of properties for which a Title Deed can be presented, however it might be worth checking with your mortgage advisor for any limitations. It is also recommended that, before signing the MOU, you consult the relevant experts on the legal and conveyancing requirements within the region. As most of the loan application process (including the pre-approval) can be done online or remotely using virtual tools, your presence wouldn’t be required until the last stage.
Once you have secured your pre-approval and managed to get all the necessary expert advice needed, you can then proceed to reserve your property through an MOU or a developer reservation agreement.
5. Property valuation
The next step is to proceed towards final approval, and for that your lender will instruct an official property valuation with one of their approved valuation companies.
As per UAE law, it is a mandatory practice for this to be conducted once the property is identified and before releasing the payment. The use of this practice is to safeguard you as a buyer and to assess the property value and ensure that the purchase price is in line with the market price. Also, it is important to note that the lender will only finance up to 60% of the valuation price or selling price, whichever is lower.
6. The last step towards owning your property in UAE
Once the property valuation is accepted, the lender will then proceed to issue the Loan Offer letter (or Loan Agreement), and at this stage you would be required to physically be present in the UAE to sign and complete the property transfer and mortgage registration in the respective land departments, or alternatively do this virtually if offered by your mortgage provider. If you opt for the later, you’d probably receive the offer pack via courier to sign (potentially in front of a notary public) and send back after attending a live session via a video conferencing tool through which all offer terms and conditions are explained. This method will – in most cases - require additional formalities such as verification with the client’s embassy in the UAE. A power of attorney is another option that can ease the process, by authorizing a selected person to sign the loan offer on your behalf.
The full mortgage request process can take up to 45 calendar days from the moment you identify a property, which is also the validity of most MOU’s, hence it's advisable that you make the necessary arrangements and plan your travel in advance accordingly.
Buying a property in the UAE is a fairly simple process as long as you follow the above steps and secure yourself the right property advisor and finance partner to support your journey. Remember that this is a long-term decision, which should be made with all the necessary information in hand. Again, if you would