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As An Expat Can I Own Real Estate in Dubai? And Where?

Sept. 7, 2020


If you’re an expat, you can legally own a property in Dubai. Dubai has come a long way in regards to the laws governing real estate ownership, especially for foreign nationals residing in the UAE. In the past, expats were unsure of investing in real estate in Dubai. This is partly because of the lack of regulations and law concerning the ownership of a property for foreign nationals. Because of this, expats had to look elsewhere to invest in real estate. 


Dubai Property For Expats


Things changed in 2001 when the government of Dubai gave expats (regardless of nationality) the right to a 99-year lease of real estate in specified areas within Dubai. Thereafter, the following year in May, freehold ownership was introduced, which made it possible for non-GCC nationals to purchase Dubai property. 


According to the formal legislation, expats are permitted to purchase, sell, lease or rent properties in Dubai given that it is within the assigned freehold zones in the Emirate. In an effort to diversify its economy and gradually reduce the reliance on oil, the UAE government made these things possible to encourage real estate investment within the country.


In the years that followed, this has reinforced Dubai’s reputation as an international hub and ignited the rise of real estate investments in the country. In fact, according to the Dubai Land Department, 2018 recorded a massive 80 billion AED of real estate investments by over 31,000 international investors. 


Types of Real Estate Ownership For Expats


Due to the legislation set by the UAE government, owning real estate in Dubai is an easy process and constantly proves to be a popular investment for expats. According to property lawyers,  foreign nationals can own real estate in Dubai in two ways - freehold and leasehold. 



In simple terms, freehold lands are designated places in Dubai where foreign nationals can have the absolute ownership of a purchased property for perpetuity or simply put, free from the hold of other entities. This includes the building/structure and the piece of land it is erected on. 


Which places are freehold?

There are a total of 47 freehold areas in Dubai that can be used for any lawful purposes. Expats are advised to work with a property lawyer to ensure that all the legalities are done with due diligence.


Notable designated areas include:

  • Jumeirah Lake Towers
  • Business Bay
  • Jumeirah Village Circle
  • Dubai Marina



On the other hand, leasehold properties are those that can be rented from an owner for a maximum period of 99 years. As opposed to freehold properties, wherein the owner has autonomy of the land, leasehold entails purchasing the right to occupy rather than own the property as is. Needless to say,  the ownership of the property returns to the owner at the end of the lease or contract. 


If you’re a foreign national interested in investing in real estate in Dubai, it is only imperative to work with property lawyers or real estate legal consultants  to guide you through the proper legalities of the process. 

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