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Is it the best time to buy property in Dubai?

Dubai’s property market has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the past decade. With EXPO 2020 coming to a close, many wonder if now is a good time to invest in real estate in this glitzy Emirati city. This article explores the current state of Dubai’s property market, factors impacting prices, and whether 2022 presents a strategic opportunity for buyers.

Is it the best time to buy property in Dubai?

Dubai’s real estate market was severely impacted by the global financial crisis in 2008 resulting in a steep decline in prices. The market began recovering in 2012 with prices increasing by over 25% on average between 2012 and 2014 due to factors like:

  • Population and economic growth attracting foreign investment
  • Influx of money due to successful bid for World EXPO 2020
  • Limited housing supply amid growing demand
  • Speculative buying fueled by anticipated price rises

Prices cooled slightly leading up to EXPO 2020, hampered by factors like:

  • Oversupply of newly built luxury apartment units
  • Economic instability in regional key source markets
  • Strengthening of US dollar making property relatively more expensive

The market showed signs of bottoming out in 2021 with villa sales prices rising while apartment prices continued to soften.

Impact of EXPO 2020 coming to an end

With EXPO 2020 concluding on March 31, 2022, Dubai is left with world-class infrastructure and enhanced global reputation. Still, there are concerns that the emirate could experience a hangover effect now that the much-hyped event has finished.

During the 6-month event, Dubai hosted over 24 million visits. The hospitality sector boomed, with average occupancy across hotels nearing 80%. Landlords in areas hosting EXPO 2020 also largely increased rents given surge in short-term demand.

With the event concluding, tourism and hospitality numbers are expected to taper off. Areas that saw prime rental growth could potentially experience some pull-back. This may have a ripple effect across broader real estate segment if speculation about diminished prospects post-EXPO persists.

However, EXPO is also deemed as transformative for Dubai’s economy. It helped concentrate global attention and foreign direct investment into infrastructure development. Building on its success to sustain growth momentum, Dubai has the opportunity to implement policies and infrastructure that can counter cyclical risks – property market included.

Ongoing attractiveness for real estate investors

While EXPO 2020 was a temporary demand driver, Dubai offers many fundamental characteristics that sustain investor interest longer-term:

Robust population growth

  • Dubai population surged over 65% between 2010-2020 to over 3.3 million
  • Continues to be an expat magnet with world’s second largest foreign-born citizenry
  • Population could nearly double again to 5.8 million by 2040 forecasts predict

Strong economic expansion

  • Dubai’s GDP ranks second highest amongst Emirates after Abu Dhabi
  • GDP growth averaged over 4% between 2015 and 2019
  • Dubai’s 2022 budget projects total government spending at AED 290 billion, its highest ever

Global tourism appeal

  • Approximately 16.7 million tourists visited Dubai in 2019
  • Targets 25 million visitors per year by 2025 as regional travel hub
  • Billions invested in attractions like Dubai Parks, Dubai Frame, Museum of the Future

Increased ease of doing business

  • Foreign business ownership laws relaxed in recent years
  • Competitive company tax rates and free trade zones
  • Low crime levels and stable political climate

Steps towards more balanced market

  • Government mandated capped property price growth at rate of inflation
  • Created regulatory frameworks to protect investor interest
  • Enhance transparency and efficiency in transactions

The above are some of the key aspects that investors consider when assessing property, indicating Dubai retains credentials. Its urban expansion plans like Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan further spotlight growth viability.

Property price trends and sales in 2022

Since the pandemic disrupted markets and slowed transactions in 2020, Dubai’s residential sales prices have overall continued to decline at a single digit pace. However prices showed initial signs of bottoming out by end-2021.

As per data from Property Finder, apartment and villa sale prices across Dubai in January 2022 registered -3.5% and -2.4% year on year change. However, prices remained relatively stable compared to 2021 averages.

In specific areas, prices on average were higher in January 2022 over both past quarter and 12 months.

Average change in Dubai area sale prices:

Area Q4 2021 12 month
Palm Jumeirah +3.8% +4.2%
Downtown Dubai +2.1% +3.1%
Dubai Marina -2.7% -3.8%
Jumeirah Village Circle +5.2% +7.1%

When observing property transactions rather than asking prices, market activity has rebounded well from pandemic lull.

  • 28,943 residential sales were recorded in Dubai in 2021 – the highest level since 2009
  • Transactions were up 76.5% over 2020
  • December 2021 saw highest monthly transactions in past decade with over 3,500 registered

Dubai residential units sold annually:

Year Units Sold Change
2019 21,500 +6.9%
2020 16,400 -23.7%
2021 28,943 +76.5%

Signs point to healthy demand from serious buyers. As per Mo’asher, ready properties priced right witnessed bidding wars in 2021 leading to higher value realized by developers.

Withpopulation estimates predicting 6-8% compound growth in Dubai until 2030, demand dynamics look set to strengthen. As long as supply is monitored and market sentiment improves, upside price potential exists.

Government initiatives aiding the market

Proactive government stimulation during market distress has helped avoid severe crash scenarios seen in 2008-2009. Recent initiatives like residency permits, loosened foreign ownership laws, convenient post-handover payment plans, and low mortgage rates catalyzed transactions.

Key initiatives and impact:

  • Allowed foreigners to acquire freehold property in designated zones from 2002.
  • Reduced taxes and fees for first-time property buyers in early 2000s.
  • Introduced 50-year residency visas in 2018-19 for big investors and certain professionals.
  • Increased loan-to-value ratio for mortgages of expat residents in 2018 up to 80%.
  • Extended post-handover payment plans for off-plan purchases to help cash-strapped investors.
  • Reduced or removed certain acquisition fees and taxes for UAE nationals in 2021.
  • Launched retirement residency programs with 100% ownership option.

Such accommodative policies help attract and retain residents. They expand Dubai’s appeal amongst property buyers looking to live or generate rental income.

Many industry experts observe government support has been crucial in enabling otherwise unaffordable investors to purchase housing units in Dubai. While risks remain in case sentiment sours, constructive regulatory environment has helped buffer drastic downturns so far.

Factors impacting Dubai property price changes

Myriad factors determine real estate pricing trends, often working in contradictory fashion. Currently deflationary forces counteracting chronic issues like oversupply seem dominant.

Factors contributing to price softening:

  • Oversupply of off-plan units nearing completion.
  • builders offering competitive post-handover payment plans and incentives
  • Strengthened US dollar increasing cost for foreign buyers
  • Economic instability in feeder markets like Russia and Europe

Factors providing price support:

  • Government stimulus like residency permits and ownership law reform
  • Population growth keeping rental yields attractive
  • Wealthy global investors still eyeing Dubai as safe haven
  • New mega projects like Meydan One in pipeline

On balance, factors causing price declines appear more tactical while supportive dynamics relate to positive secular trends for Dubai. Hence the backdrop still seems constructive for long term property buyers.

Which areas are currently best to buy in?

When assessing good Dubai areas to purchase property, one has to balance affordability, growth prospects, occupancy rates, community amenities and personal preferences.

Top neighbourhood picks

  1. Dubai Marina


  • High rental yields and occupancy
  • Developed community infrastructure
  • Walkable with retail/dining options
  • Close to beach, Marina Mall


  • Prone to oversupply risk
  • Traffic congestion
  1. Jumeirah Village Circle


  • Affordable options compared to central Dubai
  • Newer community with amenities
  • Near Global Village and Al Maktoum Airport
  • Dubai 2040 Plan includes outlying areas


  • Far from main business hubs
  • Relatively scarce entertainment options
  1. Town Square


  • Growing commercial and residential hub
  • Strategic location near Expo 2020 site
  • Trams, metro, road connectivity
  • Community shopping and recreation


  • Mostly high-end options remain
  • Limited occupancy history
  1. Jumeirah Park


  • Established community with green spaces
  • Well-priced villas and townhouses
  • Near Mall of Emirates and Downtown
  • Good connectivity via Al Khail Road


  • Smaller project scale limits amenities
  • Construction ongoing in surrounding plots

Analyzing historical trends, community growth plans and comparing offerings in shortlisted neighbourhoods can optimize purchase decisions tailored to budget and preferences.

Investment risks and rewards buying now

While positive indicators exist currently, risks remain for buyers looking to enter Dubai’s property market at this stage.

Key advantages

  • Attractive valuations after recent price declines
  • Healthy medium-term projections for capital gains
  • Reasonable rental yields help cover payments
  • Currency benefit for dollar-pegged dirham

Risk factors to consider

  • Economic headwinds may sustain price weakness
  • Further supply may limit price growth
  • Rising interest rates can dampen buying power
    *changes in residency and ownership regulations

Investors able to hold 5+ years seem well-placed to realize upside. However, constraints around liquidity or holding capacity require cautious approach. Market corrections cannot be ruled out if negative sentiment takes hold.

Those taking a prudent approach can consider:

  • Preferring established over speculative projects
  • Securing attractive payment plans as buffer
  • Opting for smaller studios/1-beds for easier liquidation
  • Evaluating alternate asset classes like equities

Over long term, Dubai property retains investment merit given urbanization and development trends. But tail risks call for thorough evaluation before committing capital.

Key takeaways

  • Dubai residential property prices fell marginally overall through the pandemic but showed signs of bottoming out in 2021
  • Healthy population growth, government stimulus and secured major events help counter cyclical risks
  • Factors like oversupply and regional economic uncertainty remain price headwinds for now
  • Established communities retain relatively resilient rental demand
  • Attractive purchase terms on completed projects offer opportunistic entry points
  • Prudent risk-management vital despite constructive long term outlook


In summary, Dubai retains strong fundamentals as an investment destination including for property buyers. Government policies have enabled stability through past crises without major crash scenarios. Progress hosting mega-events like EXPO signals capacity to overcome transient shocks.

With attractive valuations currently, low-risk options for long-term investors exist, especially in sought-after neighbourhoods. However broader economic risks call for caution.

Ongoing projects warrant monitoring to avoid excess supply scenarios. New buyers must assess financial buffer capacity before acquiring property amidst uncertainties. An analytical approach weighing near-term headwinds versus Dubai’s growth prospects can determine strategic viability.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much have property prices declined in Dubai recently?
    Across Dubai, apartment and villa prices registered single-digit declines of -3.5% and -2.4% respectively in January 2022 versus past year per Property Finder data. But prices were stable versus late 2021.
  1. Will property prices fall further in 2022?
    While near term risks persist, higher transaction momentum and government stimulus policies could bottom out pricing by late 2022. Upside potential post-stabilization exists but may require 3-5 year outlook.
  1. Is it a good time buy property to generate rental income?
    Income-seeking buyers can explore established areas like Dubai Marina where average rental yields range 5-8%. Investors should assess risk capacity before opting for off-plan speculations.
  1. What was the impact of COVID-19 on Dubai’s real estate market?
    Pandemic lockdowns and economic uncertainty caused Dubai property prices to decline 15-25% between early 2020 and mid-2021. Sales transactions also dropped nearly 25% before rebounding over 75% in 2021 on stimulus.
  1. How many residential property sales were there in Dubai last year?
    Dubai registered 28,943 residential property sales in 2021 – the highest annual transactions since 2009. It represented a 76.5% jump over 2020 sales. December 2021 saw the highest monthly level in ten years.
  1. Which Dubai areas have seen the highest price growth recently?
    Villa-focused areas like Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Hills and District One have outperformed apartment-heavy locations year-on-year. But established hubs like Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina remain sought-after long term.
  1. Who is currently driving demand for Dubai properties?
    High net worth individuals, expat residents in fields like real estate and financial services, and foreign institutional investors focused on long-term rentals remain active buyers in Dubai’s property market.
  1. Can foreigners easily get mortgages to buy property in Dubai?
    Select Dubai banks offer foreigners home loans up to 80% property value. Documentation varies by profession and residency status. Rates start around 2.5% on five year tenures or longer. Government bodies also offer graduated payment schemes.
  1. How much return can one expect on Dubai property investments?
    Target yields vary by project and strategy. Prime area villas may appreciate 10%+ over 5-7 years. Affordable units in emerging zones can earn 8-12% in rentals. But across segments, 5-8% yields appear achievable.
  1. Does it still make sense for foreigners to buy freehold property in Dubai?
    Owning freehold property allows foreigners to secure residency rights, build long term equity and target rental yields. With supportive government policies, no major crash risks apparent yet, merits exist for those with 5-10 year investment horizon capacity.
  1. Which areas offer budget property options in Dubai?
    Areas like International City, Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai Investments Park, and Discovery Gardens offer affordable apartment buying options in Dubai relative to central zones.
  1. Are there any hidden costs involved in buying Dubai property?
    Key ancillary costs beyond stated sale prices are approx 5% registration fees, 4-5% agent commissions. Financing costs apply for mortgages. Post-handover, owners must also budget annual service charges for community/building upkeep.
  1. How much deposit is required when buying off plan property in Dubai?
    Developer payment plans generally require 10-25% downpayment upon off-plan purchase. Further staged instalments apply before final payment at property handover 2-4 years later. Some charge premiums for extended payment options.
  1. Can expats easily repatriate money from Dubai property investments?
    Capital repatriation follows streamlined processes through UAE banks and currency exchanges. As a first step, property buyers must settle any outstanding loans or pay developer fees as per sale terms to secure title deeds and initiate repatriation.
  1. What taxes apply when selling Dubai property as an expat?
    No capital gains tax currently applies in Dubai for real estate profit earned by expats upon sale. Only a 1-4% facilitated land department transfer fee is typically charged. Further, rental income also remains tax exempt in Dubai for foreign individuals.


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