Abu Dhabi allows foreigners to own land for first time

The UAE capital hopes the move will attract more buyers, boost slow market

Abu Dhabi villas and foreign travelers (Credit: Francisco Anzola, iStock)
Abu Dhabi villas and foreign travelers (Credit: Francisco Anzola, iStock)

Abu Dhabi is allowing all foreigners to own land for the first time in its history.

The move is meant to boost the slumping property market in the United Arab Emirates capital amid low oil prices and a strong dollar, according to Bloomberg. Abu Dhabi is the country’s second largest city. Its largest city, Dubai, has been in a slump too — home prices there have dropped 25 percent since their peak in 2015.

Foreigners have been able to buy land in Dubai since 2002, but Abu Dhabi restricted non-citizens to 99-year leases on land. Citizens of neighboring countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait — were also allowed to buy land, but the UAE’s traditional pool of buyers from India and the United Kingdom could not.

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The new rules are still somewhat restrictive with foreign buyers limited to purchasing land in only 30 designated areas.

Views on the impact of the measure are mixed. The CEO of Abu Dhabi’s biggest developer Aldar Properties, Talal Al Dhiyebi, predicts sales will increase by at least 40% this year over last year. JLL’s Craig Plumb, on the other hand, believes it will not have a significant, or immediate, impact on demand. [Bloomberg] – Dennis Lynch