living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were previously
only permitted to rent property, or own property
on the federal law approved 99-year leasehold basis.
This all changed in 2002, when the Dubai government
permitted the ownership of freehold property to
expats, which has changed the real estate industry
in the Middle East and Gulf regions.
Dubai Freehold Property
As the emirate of Dubai
is not rich with oil like Abu Dhabi, Dubai has always
focused on the development of its economy by establishing
itself as a trading hub between the East and West.
In addition to this, it is also establishing
itself as the tourism destination for the region,
so it has worked heavily on the promotion of real
The Dubai government began the promotion
in 1997 with the setup of the publicly quoted Emaar
Properties and Al
Nakheel Properties. A year later, Emaar began
work on Dubai
Marina and followed this by the development
of the Emirates
Living Community developments (The Springs,
The Meadows, Emirates Hills, The Views). The Emirates
Living Community developments were first announced
on leasehold basis, but unfortunately weren't a
big success in the market.
The major property boom in Dubai
occurred in May 2002, when Dubai's crown prince
General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoom issued
a decree to allow foreigners to buy and own freehold
property in selected areas of the city, know referred
to as New Dubai. The same month also witnessed the
announcement of Nakheel's manmade island, The
Palm Jumeirah, which followed a year later by
the second man-made palm-shaped island, The
Palm Jebel Ali. All previously developed leasehold
property was automatically transferred to freehold.
After the initial property boom,
various new developers joined the market, the most
popular of which are Damac
Properties (Estithmaar Realty Fz), and ETA Star
Properties. Freehold property in Dubai is currently
limited to areas on Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah,
Jebel Ali and along the Emirates Road.
Dubai Freehold Property Law
On the 14th of March 2006, Dubai's government issued its long-awaited law legalising foreign ownership of properties in designated areas of Dubai (article), but doesnt give property owners permanent residence visas or an automatic right to work in Dubai (article).
Freehold in the rest of the United Arab Emirates
Once Dubai began its offering of freehold properties
to citizens of other countries, the other emirates
weren't to far behind to follow in Dubai's footsteps.
Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah was the first emirate
to emulate Dubai, which included its 1,300 residential
unit development named Al
Hamra Village expected to be completed by 2007.
The second freehold development for Ras Al Khaimah, is spread across 50 acres of beachfront land of the
five-star resort facility is The
Cove. Another popular RAK property is the 1 million square meter tourist development, Saraya Islands.
Ras Al Khaymah's government has setup its own
public joint stock property development company,
RAK Properties, which received freehold rights for all its properties from
the city's ruler in November 2005 (article). RAK Properties has a wide range of projects planned for the city, which includes Julfar Towers, Mina Al Arab, Mangrove Island, and Khor Qurm.
Ajman was the second emirate to follow, when they announced its 15 freehold residential apartment buildings named Al
Naeemiya Towers, which is expected to be fully complete by 2006. The same company who developed the Al Naeemiya Towers have continued their portfolio of ajman properties
with Al Khor Towers, Al Rashidiya Towers, and Al Corniche
Tower. Tameer Real Estate announced its development of a US$ 300 million (AED 1.1 billion) freehold residential and commercial project in Ajman, entitled Al
Ameera Village, which is being built on the Emirates Ring Road and expected to be complete by 2007. Other Emirates Road projects include Emirates
City, and Al Humaid City.
Sharjah has also begun offering
property for foreign ownership, but it has presently
stuck with leasehold. Some of its upcoming towers
include ABBCO Tower, Sharjah Gate,
32-storey Al Taawun Tower, and the 47-storey Al
Sandos Tower. Tameer also has various towers it
will be building throughout Sharjah and Al-Hanoo
is developing the 60 million square foot Nujoom
Umm Al Quwain
Tameer is also developing the Emirates
Modern Industrial Area that will mainly cater to
the manufacturing industry, which is being built
near the famous UAQ Aviation Club. In addition to
this, Tameer will also be developing the AED 30
billion Al Salam City, which will be situated along
the Emirates Road in Umm Al Quwain and completed
by 2010. Umm Al Quwain's property ownership law states that non-GCC nationals can own property but not the land (article).
Fujairah's efforts into the freehold
market have been limited to the 43-storey 170-meter
Al Jabar Tower, which will contain 270 residential
apartments, commercial shops and showrooms and is
being developed by Al Jabel Contracting.
Abu Dhabi and Al Ain
Abu Dhabi's property law came into effect on the 14th of August 2005, when Abu Dhabi's government announced the permitting of 99-year land ownership and renewable 50-year surface ownership to foreigners in specified areas in Abu Dhabi (article). Properties by Aldar Properties and the Al Reef Villas project by Manazel and Hydra Properties will permit foreign ownership according to the new property law.
The Definition of Freehold
The United Arab Emirates currently doesn't have a federal
law defining freehold. Once the freehold property
law is in effect, it will means that the property
purchased by a foreigner will be put his/her name
for life, which allows him/her to register the property in the Lands Department. The owner will then have full rights to the property and has the right to sell, lease
or rent their property at their own discretion. Property owners and their immediate family, will
obtain renewable residence visas for life, which
can cost Dhs. 5,000 per person.