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Housing in the UAE
Everything You Need to Know about Finding a New Home
Although housing prices for have dipped by 30% over the past two years, accommodation in the UAE still remains expensive. Expats can expect to spend nearly half of their monthly salary on rent alone. Thankfully, with this steep price comes great luxury, and expats will have no problem feeling at home in the desert nation.
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Because the city-states of Dubai and Abu Dhabi attract so many expats, housing in the UAE is easy to come by, but expensive. The average rent in the UAE has dipped by 30% in recent years, but expats can still expect to spend nearly half of their salary on rent alone. Many UAE companies offer housing to their employees, but some offer only an allowance.
When looking at housing costs, keep in mind that Dubai is the most expensive city. Abu Dhabi comes in at a close second. Sharjah, Fujairah, and Al Ain are all less expensive options.
There are different types of houses available throughout the UAE. Choices range from high-rise apartments, villas within gated complexes, and townhouses. UAE rental contracts typically last one year and incur a hefty fine if broken. Many landlords require a year’s worth of pre-dated checks as well as up to three month’s rent as an upfront deposit. As short-term rentals are plentiful, expats would be wise to arrive in the UAE and see a property in-person before signing a lease.
With the wealth of quality houses and apartments for rent, finding the perfect accommodation for you and your family should take no time at all. There are even options should you want to buy a house.
Renting a House or Apartment
If you are wondering how to rent a house or apartment in the UAE, know that it is easy, but rent prices are expensive. The UAE is known for offering attractive salaries, but much of these salaries go towards the high cost of living. The average rent in the UAE ranges between 30,000 to 50,000 AED (8,100 to 13,600 USD) per year for a studio apartment. One-and two-bedroom apartments range between 70,000 and 100,000 AED (19,000–27,220 USD).
Average Apartment Rent in Abu Dhabi
High End Properties
Lower End Properties
Average Apartment Rent in Dubai
High End Properties
Lower End Properties
Keep in mind that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most expensive emirates in the UAE.
Average Housing Rent
Some expats choose to rent a villa or house in the UAE. In Dubai, the minimum house rent is 193,180 AED (52,590 USD) for a home with three bedrooms and 298,640 AED (81,300 USD) for a home with five bedrooms. In Abu Dhabi it is 168,180 AED (45,785 USD) for a three-bedroom home and 305,910 AED (83,280 USD) for five bedrooms.
Renting in the UAE as a Foreigner
Rental contracts in the UAE typically last one year and are hard to break. Luckily, housing laws favor both the landlord and the tenant, so you are protected should your landlord decide to break your lease early. It is possible to find both furnished and unfurnished flats.
The choice comes down to time and money. A furnished apartment costs significantly more than unfurnished, and it is easy to find reasonably priced furniture at stores across the UAE. However, if you only plan on staying in the UAE for a year, unfurnished may be the way to go as it will be less of a hassle for move-in/move-out.
Most companies in the UAE will provide housing or a housing allowance for their employees. Searching for your own accommodation can be stressful with all the choice involved and many expats choose to go through an agent.
The rental process and rules are generally the same throughout all seven emirate states, but there can be minor differences when it comes to legalizing contracts or paying deposits. Be sure to check the specifics associated with your specific emirate state.
Steps to Finding Accommodation in the UAE
Step One: Arrive in the Country
The first step to renting an apartment in the UAE is to be in the country. Many apartments are listed online, but it is advisable to not sign a lease until you can view a property in person. Housing is expensive and leases are typically for a full year. Factors such as surrounding traffic and public transportation options are also important to consider when renting in the UAE, so expats are advised to visit properties upon arrival in the UAE.
Step Two: Look Online
You can begin your search by looking online.
- Just Property
- Property Finder
Even if the pictures of a place look great, it is still advisable to view a property in person. Traffic throughout the UAE can be heavy in many areas, which is best assessed in person.
Step Three: Hire an Agent
Many expats hire a real estate agent to help them in their search. Be sure that the agent is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). In some states, such as Dubai, it is illegal to deal with unauthorized freelance. The agent is responsible for handling the paperwork and the contracts.
Hire a real estate agent to help you find rental property that is suitable for you and negotiate a good rate for the property.
Step Four: Prepare Your Documents
The typical requirements and documents for renting are:
- your passport;
- a copy of your residence visa;
- a marriage certificate that is attested by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if married;
- work contract/salary certificate;
- bank statement.
Step Five: Rental Contract and Deposit
If moving to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, rental contracts must be registered with the local authorities. Be advised that this could soon become the standard throughout all seven emirates. Expats moving to the UAE should check with their real estate agent about specific contract requirements for their emirate.
In Dubai the rental contract is called the Ejari; in Abu Dhabi it is the Tawtheeq. The Ejari is usually taken care of by the tenants. The Tawtheeq is completed by either the property owner or the real estate consultants managing the property.
In the past, landlords in the UAE asked for a full year’s rent as the rental deposit. These days it is possible to negotiate a less hefty fee. It is now common for expats to pay just three months in advance and provide pre-dated checks to cover the rest of the year. Outside of the city centers it may also be possible to find landlords who allow month-by-month payment.
Rental contracts in the UAE are typically one year long. Because relations between landlords and tenants used to be tumultuous, rental contracts carry heavy penalties if broken early. The penalty will be felt by whichever party terminates early. This way, both landlords and tenants are protected.
When looking for the ideal accommodation in the UAE, it is important to keep in mind your location. The roads of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are crowded and commutes to and from work can be stressful. There is public transportation, but it is not as expansive as in other major cities and countries.
Here are some essential questions you should ask yourself when looking for housing in the UAE:
- How long will it take me to get to and from work each day?
- Am I comfortable driving on massive busy highways?
- Do I want to be near the beach?
- Do I want to be close to public transport?
- If there is a Mosque nearby, can I sleep through the call to prayer? (The call to prayer happens five times a day.)
Utilities and Bills Payment
Utilities are typically not included in the rent in the UAE. They will need to be set up with the authority in your emirate. Estimates for utilities range from 500–600 AED (136–163 USD) per month. Keep in mind that your bill will be higher in the hottest months when air conditioning is crucial.
There are separate utility companies for Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and the Northern Emirates. Utilities for water and electricity throughout the emirates are state of the art and most bills can be paid online, through a UAE bank, or at a kiosk machine.
Accommodation in the UAE is a serious financial and time commitment. Because leases are so hard to break, you may want to give yourself a month or two to search for the perfect place. If so, you will want to look into a short-term rental first. Dubai first introduced short-term leasing regulations back in 2015. These regulations protect both tenants and property owners from fraudulent subletting and illegal renting.
Short-Term Rentals: Average Price
Depending on where the accommodation is, the average price of a short-term rental in the UAE can be significantly more expensive than renting with a one-year lease. Be sure to check whether you will be renting during high or low tourist season, or over a holiday, as this can affect the price.
Short-Term Rentals: What Documents do I Need?
When renting a short-term rental in the UAE, the most you should need is a copy of your passport. Depending on your length of stay, you may be asked to pay a tourism fee.
Short-Term Rentals: Things to Know
Expats moving to the desert country solo may look for shared housing. Be advised that Sharia law does not allow unmarried men and women to live together, even if they have different bedrooms. When it comes to expats and non-Muslims, authorities largely turn a blind eye to the practice, but be aware that you are taking a risk. The practice is frowned upon and could potentially lead to serious consequences if you draw unwanted attention to yourself for other infractions.
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Buying a Property as a Foreigner
Like many expats, you may be wondering how to buy property in the UAE as a foreigner. As such a lucrative country, buying property can often be, not just a sound financial solution for you and your family, but it can also prove to be a profitable investment.
The process to buy property in the UAE as a foreigner is fairly straightforward. Although the housing market in the UAE has slowed in recent years, purchasing property is still seeing steady growth. Current legislation allows foreigners of any nationality to own property in the UAE, although some emirates only allow a freehold while others permit a leasehold.
- Freehold: Allows the buyer complete and absolute ownership of the property including the structure and the land it stands on. Freehold property owners in Dubai can upgrade or make changes to their property and have full rights to sell or lease it.
- Leasehold: Implies that a property can be leased by a freeholder for a period of 30–99 years. Tenants must buy the right to occupy or live on property for a set period of time. This period of time should be stated in the lease contract. At the end of the lease, property ownership reverts back to the owner.
You do not need a residency permit in order to buy property in the UAE.
UAE House Prices
Like renting in the UAE, buying property in the Gulf country is not a small investment. The cost depends on the emirate and type of housing, but on average you can buy a home from anywhere between 500,000 AED (136,130 USD) to multiple millions.
Types of Property
The type of property you want to rent will determine the type of community you will live in in the UAE.
Housing types vary between:
Process and Steps for Buying a House in the UAE
The process and steps for buying a house in the UAE vary from emirate to emirate. For the purposes of this guide, we will only discuss Abu Dhabi and Dubai as they are the emirates most popular among expats.
Once you find a property you like and have agreed to the terms with the seller, you will need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the seller. In the MoU you will need to agree to pay at least 2% of the property fee to the real estate agent. You will also need to pay another 2% to the Abu Dhabi Municipality.
Once you have paid these fees and signed the MoU you will receive an ownership certificate from the developer of the property. You will be asked to pay 5,000 AED (1,361 USD) to the developer as an administrative fee.
In comparison with the process in Abu Dhabi, buying property in Dubai requires a few more steps. Like Abu Dhabi, once you and the seller agree to terms, you will need to sign an MoU. You will then be required to pay the 2% real estate agent fee. You will also be required to pay 4% to the Dubai Land Department (DLD) in order to transfer the housing deed to your ownership. Half of this 4% is paid by you (the buyer) and the other half is paid by the seller. You will also need to apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the DLD.
Extra required fees include the following:
- Registration fee: 4,000 AED (1,090 USD) if the property price equals or exceeds 500,000 AED (136,130 USD) or 2,000 AED (545 USD) if the property price is less than 500,000 AED.
- If you have a mortgage on the property, you will have to pay a fee for mortgage registration to the DLD, calculated at a rate of 0.25% of the registered loan amount.
Requirements to Buy Property
Besides the required fees, MoU, and NOC, the only other document required to buy in the UAE is your passport.
As stated earlier, a residency visa is not required to own property in the UAE. However, you can buy property in the UAE in order to get a visa. To obtain the visa, there are several requirements you must meet:
- The property must be residential, not commercial.
- The property can only be freehold.
- The value of the property must not be less than one million AED (272,255 USD).
- The property must be completed; it cannot be under construction.
The required documents to apply for the visa on the basis of buying property in the UAE are:
- title Deed
- contract of sale and purchase
- passport copy of the property owner
- current visa copy (tourist or visit)
- passport-sized photographs
Although the UAE has only recently begun to allow foreign nationals to become permanent UAE residents, as of July 2019 there is no scheme in which you can buy a house in the UAE for permanent residency. For more information on permanent residency in the UAE, please see our Visa and Work Permits section.
Getting a mortgage or bank loan for property purchase is pretty easy in the UAE for expats. On the whole, banks will require proof that you can maintain payments for a minimum of seven years. You will also be required to make a cash down payment of at least 25%.
Other documentation banks will require for a property loan or mortgage:
- records of other financial commitments you may have at the time of the loan / mortgage application (this includes credit card debts and limits; no more than 50% of your total income should be committed to paying off your debts)
- statement of you current income
- loan amount compared to the value of the property you intend to purchase
- lifestyle factors such as your spouse and number of dependents
- type of loan requested
- record of general living expenses
- current savings and other assets
Once you have found your ideal home, it is time to set-up utilities such as electricity and water in order to feel fully settled. There are many utility companies within the UAE to choose from. Keep in mind that water authorities are also responsible for sewage and wastewater disposal. When paying for utilities, do not be surprised when there are extras fees for expats when compared with Emirati nationals.
Public Utility Providers in the UAE
- Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi Distribution Company and Al-Ain Distribution Company
- Dubai – Dubai Electricity and Water Authority
- Sharjah – Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority
- Northern Emirates – Federal Electricity and Water Authority
For more information, visit the UAE government website.
Non-Government Utility Companies for Gas, Electricity, and Water
- ADNOC LNG – ADNOC Group
- Advanced Watertek
- Aggreko Middle East
- Asia Gulf Power Service Company (AGPS)
- Averda International
- Bin Ham Electro-Mechanical Enterprises (BHEM)
- Dalkia Utilities
- Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)
- EMCO Engineering
- Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC)
- Emirates SembCorp Water & Power Company
- First National Operation & Maintenance Co. Ltd (NOMAC)
- Gulf Supplies & Commercial Services (GSCS)
- Ion Exchange
- IPR GDF Suez
- ItN Nanovation AG
- Johnston Lighting & Accessories
- Metito Overseas
- Palm Utilities
- Sembcorp Gulf O&M Company
- Smart Energy Solutions (SES)
- SUEZ – Degremont
- SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions
- Taka Solutions
- Technical Solutions to Industry
- VeBes O&M Company
- Veolia Water
- Xylem Water Solutions Middle East
The required documents for utilities differ from emirate to emirate and are different depending on if you are a tenant or owner. In general, you will need your:
- Emirates ID card;
- rental/lease contract or title deed (issued by the emirate municipal authority);
- account closing letter from the previous tenant for the property you are moving into;
- security deposit.
An important thing to know is that most utilities require set-up in person. If the principal applicant is unable to register for the utilities in person, they must complete a Power of Attorney letter and authorize a proxy to apply on their behalf. The principal applicant must include a copy of their passport or Emirates ID card with the Power of Attorney letter.
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Internet and Mobile Phones
Internet and mobile phone plans are essential to expats. They are the best methods, not only for conducting business but staying in touch with friends and family across the globe. Expats moving to the UAE will be thrilled to know that in such a technologically advanced country, mobile phone reception and internet speed are top-notch throughout the entire country.
The primary providers are Etisalat and du.
To get a phone number, expats need only to visit a mobile phone shop or kiosk and buy a SIM card. However, do not be surprised if not everything on your phone works like it did back at home. As of 2018, certain features of WhatsApp were still restricted throughout the UAE such as voice and video calls. Skype video calls are also banned within the UAE.
To apply for internet or cell phone service, the main documents you will need are:
- residency visa
Despite some internet and cell phone restrictions, expats will find plenty of familiar shows to watch in the UAE. Expats from the US may enjoy STARZPLAY, which has ties to US-based companies such as STARS, Disney, and Showtime. Expats can also enjoy streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, icflix, and WAVO. For those interested in a full integration into the UAE, you can watch Arabic shows on SHAHID PLUS.
If you still want to know how to watch your home country’s TV in the UAE, a VPN may be the best option. Be advised, though, that this may be difficult in a country where video and voice calls from certain apps are still restricted/banned.
Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!
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