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Buying and Selling Property in the UAE

Our team comprises of internationally trained and experienced lawyers who handle all aspects of conveyancing including drafting contracts and agreements, negotiations, and title registrations.

Whatever type of property transaction you need to complete, our property team will work closely with you, answering your questions promptly and ensuring a smooth process.

What sets our property team apart is the vast breadth and depth of our experience in both highly complex and standard transactions.  As such, both expatriates and UAE nationals trust us to manage the buying and selling of their residential property.

At TWS Legal Consultants, we take the time to listen to your questions about residential conveyancing matters.  We understand that for most people, their home represents not only where they live, but the most significant financial purchase they will ever make.  As such, your lawyer will meet with you in person (if possible) and manage your matter from beginning to end.  If you are not able to come to our office, we are fully set up for video calls.  Our lawyers pride themselves in being highly responsive to client questions and will return your phone calls and/or emails as quickly as possible.

Can expatriates buy property in the UAE?

The UAE is a federation of seven autonomous emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm al Quwain, and Ajman.  This means that there is a twin legal system which includes local judiciary and the federal judiciary.  Therefore, each emirate can have different laws regarding residential property matters.

Abu Dhabi

From April 2019, an amendment was made to the Abu Dhabi real estate law allowing all foreigners to own the freehold of land and properties purchased in investment zones.  Before this, ownership of property in Abu Dhabi was largely restricted to UAE and GCC Nationals.

Dubai

Expatriates living in Dubai can buy:

  • A leasehold property
  • A freehold property in one of the 23 freehold areas, including Al Barsha South, Emirates Hills, Jebel Ali, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah.

What is the process for buying a residential property in Dubai?

In most cases, the procedure for buying a property in Dubai is uncomplicated.

The procedures are slightly different depending on whether you are purchasing an off-plan property from a developer, or a home from a private seller.  The latter is referred to as a “resale” purchase.

The usual steps for a resale purchase are as follows:

  1. Terms are agreed by the buyer and seller.
  2. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is signed. This sets out the terms of the agreement and is not legally binding. The deposit (usually 10%) is paid.
  3. The buyer obtains a mortgage if required.
  4. The formal transfer of deeds takes place. The buyer must pay 100% of the purchase price at this time.

For off-plan purchases, the process usually follows the steps listed below:

  1. A reservation form is completed. This sets out the basic terms and conditions of the sales agreement, the details of the payment plan, and the buyer and seller’s personal details.
  2. A deposit of between 5-20% is paid, and the sale and purchase agreement is drafted. This is legally binding on all parties.
  3. The buyer obtains a mortgage if required.
  4. The deeds of the property are transferred. This is done at the developer’s office if the property has yet to be completed, or at the Land Department offices if the property is already registered.  The full purchase price must be paid at this time.

The risks of not using a professional conveyancing lawyer

For most people, buying a property is the most significant purchase they will make in their lifetime. And no matter what country you buy real estate in, risks abound.

Off-plan property buyers are particularly vulnerable to certain risks, such as inconsistent build quality, market deviations that affect property value over time and so on. However, one of the most frustrating aspects of buying a property off-plan is delays in project completion.

Although regulations have been significantly tightened in the country over recent years, you have to ensure you are dealing with a registered developer with a stellar track record of delivering off-plan properties.

When it comes to buying an existing property, you will need to be clear on whether your prospective home is freehold or leasehold. Being unaware of what each type of property ownership entitles you to can lead to extreme disappointment in the future.

How a conveyancing lawyer can protect your interests

The last global financial crisis (GFC) revealed glaring problems in real estate, particularly regarding to rogue developers and late completions. Fortunately, over the years, the Dubai Land Department, through the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), has introduced laws to protect purchasers from contractual breaches.

For example, developers and brokers must be approved by RERA before they advertise any property in the media. But regardless of the regulatory protections in place, it is essential to conduct due diligence on the developer if you are buying off-plan. This is something your lawyer can do for you quickly and effectively.

Your conveyancing lawyer will also check the validity of the proof of ownership (title deed for completed properties; Oqood for off-plan properties), so you are assured that the property is free from any encumbrances or legal impediments before you pay the deposit or sign any contracts.

Moreover, a conveyancing lawyer can provide the following assistance:

  • Advice on buying and selling property in the UAE
  • Advice on buying off-plan property and matters relating to property disputes
  • Explaining and drafting the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
  • Reviewing completion timeframes and advising clients on any potential special conditions relating to a property purchase
  • Ensuring all maintenance and service fees are paid as per the developer’s requirements for an NOC application
  • Drafting and confirming the final transfer documentation, detailing all monies involved
  • Handover of off-plan property
  • Gifting of property in the UAE

Our UK and UAE residential property lawyers can advise and represent you throughout the entire sale and purchase process.  This applies whether you are an investor or an expatriate in the UAE.

Please contact us at TWS Legal Consultants to make an appointment:

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