Abu Dhabi opens its property market up to the world

New laws will allow foreign nationals to buy land and homes in the emirate

Helicopter point of view of sea and skyscrapers in Corniche bay in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Turquoise water and blue sky combined with building exterior.
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For years, Abu Dhabi's foreign residents have not been able to own a home outright. Now, thanks to bold new changes to real-estate laws, non-Emiratis will for the first time be allowed to purchase freehold property in specially designated zones. While this is not a first for the UAE – Dubai passed laws that gave foreign citizens the right to own property in 2002 – it is a significant step for Abu Dhabi and its housing market.

Not only will these new measures increase foreign direct investment and help to diversify the economy, they will perform a valuable social role. Every year, thousands arrive in the UAE with the aim of creating a better future for themselves and their families. Investing in property that can be kept and passed on to children and loved ones forms an important part of many people's long-term financial plans. Being able to do so in Abu Dhabi will give foreign nationals a firmer foundation in the emirate and encourage them to stay for longer.

This new reform is just the latest in a carefully considered series of measures that aim to promote long-term residency and the retention of talent. For example, in March, the UAE cabinet announced its plans to grant 10-year visas to specialists working in medicine, science or research. This came after the September 2018 announcement that the nation would offer five-year retirement visas to foreign nationals aged 55 and over, who fulfil certain criteria.

People working within the property sector are extremely optimistic about the new law. Aldar Properties chief executive Talal Al Dhiyebi has heralded it as a "a game-changing announcement" for the industry, adding that such steps are indicative of a maturing real-estate market, and will increase transparency and liquidity. It also displays the confidence and willingness to embrace positive change that is at the heart of the UAE's many successes. The move comes at a time when other global capitals are becoming increasingly sceptical about international real-estate investment. In 2016, for instance, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan expressed open hostility to foreign buyers, blaming them for placing unnecessary pressure on the UK capital's inflated property market and fuelling a housing crisis. In contrast, Abu Dhabi, is looking to the wider world, embracing the opportunities that doing so brings, and proudly declaring itself a welcoming home to people from across the globe.