Housing is one of the great challenges of setting up in the UAE, and although you may receive a housing allowance from your employer, you’ll probably need to top it up from your own pocket to cover the rent or mortgage.
Looking for a home away from home can take time, and while searching for your dream property to either rent or buy you may want to consider staying in a cheap hotel.
Aside from the fancy hotels the UAE is famed for, there are plenty of budget options where visitors can rest their heads. In Dubai, Al Barsha is home to a number of decent, less spectacular but well-priced hotels, while in Bur Dubai and Deira you’ll find a number of places that offer good facilities and a central location. In Abu Dhabi, cheap hotels in areas such as Al Salam Street cost under Dhs.250 a night.
Guest houses are becoming more popular and, while smaller in size, they offer a homely feel and are ideal for guests who want to see more of the ‘real UAE’. Located in residential areas, they won’t have access to private beaches, but there is no shortage of good public beaches to enjoy.
Hotel apartments are expensive, but ideal if you need temporary, furnished accommodation. They can be rented on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, and water and electricity are also included in the rent.
ADCB offers personal loans to Emiratis and expats to help cover the cost of renting.
With a UAE residence visa you can rent a home in any emirate – and the country isn't short of interesting places to live, with the options growing all of the time.
Rental contracts are typically one year, and 60-90 days’ notice must be given if you or the landlord want to cancel the contract rather than renew it. There is usually a fine of two months’ rent if you break the lease early. Paying for rental accommodation in the UAE may be very different to what you’re used to. Most landlords demand one cheque for the year, and if you manage to negotiate two or three cheques, expect to pay a slightly higher rent. Some landlords accept post-dated cheques that are cashed on their due date, while some employers will arrange to pay your rent payments directly from your salary, which can save a lot of hassle.
If living alone, the best option is to rent a room within a villa or apartment: the rental payments are typically monthly, you can usually leave your room with just one month’s notice, and the price will probably include all bills. Just remember that officially, under UAE law, it is illegal for unmarried or unrelated people of the opposite sex to live together if they are in a relationship.
Using a real estate agent is the easiest and often best option to finding a home, although they will charge you for their services, usually around 5% of the annual rent, Dhs.5,000 or whichever is higher. Only ever deal with a government-registered broker or agent to avoid being the victim of any rental scam; ask the agent for their trade licence number, which verifies that their office is licensed by the government to manage, rent and sell real estate. Alternatively, check out classified adverts in local newspapers or drive around the areas you fancy living in as often there will be ‘To Let’ signs on vacant villas. Once you find a property, ask for proof of ownership of the property being rented out, and demand a receipt for any payments made by cash or cheque.
Extra costs to be considered when renting a home include the refundable water and electricity deposit, which can be as high as Dhs.4,100 for a villa in Dubai; if renting in Dubai, you will also be charged a housing fee of 5% of your yearly rent, spread across 12 months.
Real estate regulation
The good news is that the UAE's rental market is becoming increasingly regulated. All landlords must register their properties and all tenancy/rental contracts through Abu Dhabi's Tawtheeq and Dubai's Ejari online systems, and the Abu Dhabi Rent Dispute Settlement Committee and the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) in Dubai have been set up to safeguard and protect your rights, and to deal with any rental disputes.
Found an apartment or villa to rent? Paid the 5% deposit required to secure the property? The next step is to sign a tenancy contract, which you can only do once you have your residence visa. Only ever sign a tenancy contract that is registered through Abu Dhabi's Tawtheeq or Dubai's Ejari online service if renting in these emirates; this is required by law to safeguard the rights of both the tenant and the landlord.
Your rental contract will cover the financial terms, the length of the rental and who is responsible for maintenance; since payments are usually made through post-dated cheques, make sure that payment terms are clearly stated. Before signing on the dotted line, you should also check conditions relating to utilities, security deposit, parking, pets and gardening.
Rental contracts are valid for one year, after which they can be renewed for another year or terminated. A tenancy contract does not terminate automatically. Instead, it renews on the same terms until you or the landlord agree to change the terms or end it. If the landlord wants to evict you or increase the rent, he must give you 90 days’ notice before the end of the contract; likewise, if you want to move out of the property you must give 90 days’ notice. There are four circumstances under which a landlord can serve a notice for eviction on expiry of the tenancy contract: to demolish or add to the premises, making it unliveable; for repair or maintenance; to recover the premises for personal use or for a next of kin; or to sell the property.
Once you have the keys to the property you'll need to register the tenancy contract with the relevant municipality. Find contact details for your emirate's municipality here.
You'll need your Resident ID or passport copy, a copy of the security deposit receipt, and a fee of around Dhs.195. The next step is to apply for services, such as water and gas utilities, internet, and TV.
See the How To's section for a step by step guide to rent a property.
ADCB offers residential properties for rent in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Northern Emirates through its subsidiary: ADCP (Abu Dhabi Commercial Properties)
Buying a property in the UAE is something to consider, especially once you are settled at work.
The good news is there are plenty of great places to buy and, while property may be expensive, the market looks set to keep rising. There are obviously some things to consider, such as the fact that property ownership doesn't automatically entitle expats to any extra rights to residency, and a residence visa will still need to be renewed every two to three years.
The property market in the UAE grew at the fastest pace in the world in the year up to the end of June 2013, financed primarily from cash buyers. Talk of another property bubble has been rejected by those in real estate, and a mortgage cap has been introduced in an attempt to stabilise the market.
Mortgage lending is increasing though, and so buying a home is a viable option for well-paid expats planning to stay long-term or for those wanting to buy-to-let and make a return on their investment – especially as rents are rising each quarter.
ADCB offers a range of mortgages of up to 80% of the property value and payable up to 25 years; the bank has the local expertise to help you avoid common pitfalls and professional consultants to guide you through the entire buying process.
To buy a property in any of the emirates you need to have a UAE bank account, and have a 25% down payment/deposit (or 15% of the property value). Typically, you need to be salaried or self-employed with a minimum monthly salary of Dhs.15,000, and aged 21 or over.
Buying a property in the UAE can be confusing at first because it is a relatively new concept for non-GCC expats, and real estate laws are new and changing. Non-GCC expats can only buy in areas designated for expatriate freehold and leasehold sales; Many properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are freehold although there are some available on a 99-year lease.
There’s no requirement to have a solicitor act for you when buying a property, or selling one, but it will give you peace of mind and make sure you understand all the terms in the Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA) which will be drawn up by the real estate agency. You’re also strongly advised to organise a local will if buying a property as inheritance can be a legal minefield here in the UAE. Without a relevant will in place you may find your assets don't automatically go to the right person in the event of your death; this can affect widows and children in particular.
In order for the full transfer of ownership to take place, you will need to register the property with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipal Affairs, Dubai Land Department, or the responsible department in the other emirates for transactional processes related to freehold and leasehold purchases. See Useful Links for a list of municipalities.
It is also worth checking whether your chosen development offers a Homeowners’ Association. In Dubai, there are numerous such associations registered with RERA, mostly in ‘new’ areas such as Marsa Dubai, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Palm Jumeirah, which enable people who own units in a development to decide the financial governance and service levels provided to the community’s occupants; this helps settle disputes over issues such as parking, pets that disturb neighbours, privacy, and the maintenance of common areas.
Once your offer for a property has been accepted, a Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA) will be drawn up by the real estate agency, which defines all the terms and conditions for the transfer of property. If you require a mortgage, the lender will issue an unconditional offer letter, which states the terms and conditions of the mortgage.
Once the paperwork is signed and sent back to the lender, the settlement process begins. This is when the lender transfers the mortgage payment to either the seller or to the existing lender who has the first charge over the property. This usually occurs on the day of the transfer. Equal instalments are then taken from your bank every month.
For the full transfer of ownership to take place, you will need to register the property and your mortgage with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipal Affairs or the Dubai Land Department. This establishes legal ownership of the land or property, thus safeguarding the owner from future dispute, and provides the owner with the title deeds to their property or land. And then? Collect your keys and call the removal van.
Make sure you budget for the additional costs associated with buying a house, as they can add up. The obligatory amounts equate to around 6% of the purchase price, not including any cash deposit.
By law there is no requirement to have a solicitor act for you when buying property, but you may wish to employ legal help to see you through the process. Legal costs will vary depending on whose services you use.
The flat fee to the agent is usually 2-5% of the purchase price, upon completion of sale.
Life insurance to the value of the property is mandatory for a mortgage.
The Abu Dhabi Department of Municipal Affairs charges 1% of the property price to establish legal ownership of the property. The Dubai Land Department charges 4% of the property value, plus a Dhs.10 surcharge. The buyer also pays Dhs.250 fees (plus Dhs.10 surcharge) for the title deed and a Dhs.100 map issuance fee (plus Dhs.10 surcharge).
Before you go house hunting, it’s advisable to get a pre-approval, so you’re in a position to make an offer should you find the place of your dreams. A 10% deposit is required to secure a property. A mortgage can be calculated on more than one salary, providing they are listed as co-borrowers in the loan contract. UAE Central Bank rules also state that your monthly mortgage instalments and other debts should not consume more than 50% of your income.
See the How To's section for a step by step guide to buy a property and register your new home.
ADCB offers a variety of mortgage loan packages to suit your specific needs. With repayment periods of up to 25 years, mortgage amounts of up to 80% of the property value, and competitive interest rate options.