They say a man’s home is his castle but for expats living in the UAE, deciding whether to invest in a property here or in their home country is a bit of a quandary? So how should they decide?


Property should be a key component of any investor’s diversified portfolio. But for UAE expats, choosing where to invest can be a dilemma.

While some will decide to invest in their home market because they feel more familiar with it, they could be missing out on a good investment opportunity here. So which is best? Here are five factors to help you decide:

1.     Are you buying as an investment or a future home?

The most important issue is whether you want to buy a property that will be a home or whether you are making a pure investment.

If it’s a home you are after, then the decision becomes a little easier. If you live here, that’s where you should invest. However, if you only plan to live in the UAE for a couple of years before returning to your home nation, it might be worth investing in a home there. With markets rebounding in many parts of the world, buying now will get you a property at a better price and you can rent it out until you return.

If it’s an investment opportunity you want, then you need to find out which country will give you the best rental return. UAE investors were badly burnt during the recent economic crisis. However, with the market picking up again and massive investment in the economy, it could be a good time to own a property here; the Dubai government, for example, is considering new measures to avoid another property bubble. In 2009, when the last property bubble collapsed, prices dropped by over 50 per cent.

2.     How to fund your property purchase?

The next big factor in your decision must be finding a suitable mortgage. With mortgages in the UAE now offering much more favourable rates than during the boom period, it could be more cost-effective to take out home finance here. Compare all the mortgages options on the market and you will see that reducing rates range from 2.99% to over 9%.

The key to securing a good mortgage is to avoid any traps such as getting locked into a mortgage because of hefty transfer fees or early settlement fees. It’s also worth remembering the UAE Central Bank did try and introduce caps on mortgage lending earlier this year. The caps on how much consumers could borrow were suspended for further consultation after the banks lobbied against them – but those caps could be in place by the end of this year.

Compare the cost of a mortgage here with your home country and evaluate which is more beneficial. As an expat, remember your non-resident status could affect the type of mortgage you secure in your home country; you might be expected to pay a higher rate than those living in the country.

3. Familiarity with the market

The next issue to consider is how well you know your market. If you’ve been tracking it for a while, you will understand its highs and lows. Those living in Dubai, for example, will know that property prices have risen by 20 per cent this year.  Whereas, those more familiar with the home market might know that prices have fallen or have stayed the same for a while and that perhaps now is a good time to invest there while values are on the lower side.

4. Location

Location, Location, Location… is key wherever you invest. So if you decide your money is safer in your home country, pick an area that you know has a strong property market. London, in the UK, for example, is faring much better than other parts of the country where prices are stagnant or only rising slowly.

Location is also key in the UAE too. Villas have always fared better price-wise than apartments – but where those villas are located is also important. Before you go ahead on picking a location, ask yourself who you want to rent the property to.  Would you prefer families, couples or singletons?

To get an instant return you should invest in a completed property in an established area rather than a development that is still being built – and choose a development that has easy access to schools, shopping centres and medical facilities. Proximity to good transport links, such as the Metro in Dubai, is also important. And the location could determine the amount you have to pay in maintenance fees to the developer as that will definitely factor in how much profit you make.

Prior to buying any property make sure you know of any future development plans in the surrounding as this can potentially affect the future valuation of your property.

5. Your risk level

Finally, how much risk are you willing to take? While being familiar with a market is important, familiarity can also see you miss out on sizeable gains. The people who made the most in the UAE’s last property boom took a risk and invested in what was then a very new property market. The difference between them and those that lost a lot of money was that they also predicted the right time to sell up and get out of the market. So, whatever your decision, tread carefully.