Dubai mortgages and home loans: A foreigner's guide

25.08.17
8 minute read
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Dubai is a paradise for expats looking for a luxurious lifestyle in a modern, well developed city state. Not only do professionals move here for a career boost, it can be a fantastic destination for families, too, with a range of activities for all interests and ages. If you’re planning on staying in Dubai for the longer term, you might be tempted to buy a home to suit your individual needs. The good news is that this is perfectly possible for a foreign resident, and mortgage providers are well equipped to deal with expat and non resident mortgage applications, whether you’re looking for an investment or for a new family home.

Whatever your reasons for looking for a property in Dubai, you need to understand the type of mortgages available, and the steps needed to get one set up.

This handy guide covers which banks offer mortgages and home loans in Dubai to non-residents, the paperwork you'll need to get your loan, the legal ins and outs, and what it might cost.

Mortgages in Dubai: What types of mortgages are available?

The mortgage market in Dubai is very well developed. There are dozens of different mortgage providers, from globally known brands to more localised institutions. The range of choice means that you need to do a bit of research in advance to understand how the different products work, so you can make a considered decision about which suits your needs best.

As an expat, you can apply for a mortgage in dubai either for a home you intend to live in, or as an investment property. However, depending on your circumstances, and the specific property you want to buy, the amount of deposit you’re asked to pay will change. Usually if you’re looking for an investment property you’re seen as a greater risk and therefore the bank will ask for a higher initial deposit. Expats buying an investment property are likely to be asked to pay up to 40% of the price upfront as a deposit - and this rises to 50% if you’re buying off plan. However, if you’re looking to buy a home to live in, the deposit amount is more likely to be in the region of 25%.

It’s also useful to know that the amount of mortgage you can legally be offered is restricted. As an expat buyer the full amount you must repay - including both the principal and interest - can not be more than the total amount you can expect to earn in seven years.

The first thing you have to decide is whether you want a fixed rate or variable rate product. Fixed rate mortgages will guarantee the same interest rate will be applied for the duration of the agreement. This is usually in the region of about five years, after which the mortgage will revert to a rate set by your bank. This rate isn’t always the best deal available, so it’s good to understand the small print and know if you can switch if there’s a better offer available after the fixed term.

Your alternative option is to take a variable rate mortgage. Unlike a fixed rate product, these can cost more or less depending on how the interest rates change. They’re a good idea if you think that rates are going to fall within the term of your loan.

In Dubai it’s possible to get an interest repayment only mortgage, but the term of this won't be longer than five years.

Different banks and brokers will offer different products, and not every customer can access all of the loans available. There are often specialist mortgages for first time buyers or investors, for example, which might not suit your needs as an expat buyer. You’ll likely need to take specialist advice to help you understand all the products available to you.

Should I go to a bank or use a broker?

You can choose to arrange your loan directly with a bank or loan originator, or have a broker help you to do so.

A really great resource for finding a mortgage in Dubai is Souqalmal.com. This comparison site allows you to search for mortgages which are suited to your needs as an expat buyer, and generates potential options for you. You’re then able to apply directly to the institution for your loan.

In some cases, for example, where you’re unsure of your eligibility for a mortgage, it might be a good idea to take expert advice from a qualified mortgage broker. This is especially important if you’re new to the Dubai mortgage market and not familiar with all the options or regulations.

What are the legal requirements to get a mortgage in Dubai as a foreigner?

Since a change in the local law in 2002, foreigners, resident or not, can legally buy property in Dubai, and apply for a mortgage. This fuelled a big rise in expats buying homes in Dubai, either for themselves or with a view to renting the place out at a profit.

When it comes to mortgages, individual banks will set their own terms, and not all will work with foreign buyers due to a perception that expat buyers involve increased risk to the bank. Because of this, the banks which do work with foreign buyers insist that investors must pay significant down payments before the purchase can proceed.

How can I get a mortgage in Dubai as a foreigner?

The options open to you for getting a mortgage in Dubai vary depending on your personal circumstances, and the value of the property you want to invest in. Offers vary, so it’s worth talking to a few brokers or banks to see what deals they can offer you.

Paperwork (documentation)

Getting your mortgage arranged in Dubai shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks. It’s a good idea, though, to get an advance approval from the bank to confirm what you’ll be lent. Then once you find a home you like in your budget, you can finalise the mortgage more easily.

The exact paperwork you'll need will depend on the bank you use. However, you can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Copies of your personal identification documents (passport)
  • Proof of legal residence in Dubai, and evidence of your current residential address
  • Documents to prove you're creditworthy (usually bank statements, proof of your wages, tax returns or a letter from your employer)
  • Documents to prove the affordability of the mortgage

All over the world, affordability is an important deciding factor in whether or not you'll be offered a loan. In many countries you must be able to prove that the repayments on the total amount of debts you hold amount to no more than 30% to 35% of your usual income. However, in Dubai the law actually only requires that your debt payments come to no more than 50% of your income, so many banks are more flexible with this than in other countries.

The step-by-step process

To get a mortgage in Dubai, you’ll generally need to follow these steps:

  • Decide if you want to use a broker to explore your options for a mortgage
  • Choose a mortgage that suits your needs, and find a qualified local lawyer to help with the transaction
  • Hand over the paperwork requested to get a finance pre-approval, which is sometimes called a mortgage offer in principle. Your bank will give you a letter confirming what they will lend you
  • Find a property within your budget, and agree a purchase price with the seller
  • Pay your deposit to secure the sale, and agree on a completion date
  • Provide any additional documentation needed to confirm your mortgage, including searches on the specific property you have chosen

Fees

Arranging a mortgage in Dubai will mean you have to have fees to pay such as administrative fees and legal costs.The exact prices of fees applied will vary depending on your circumstances, but when you add it all together, it’s a costly transaction.

In Dubai, when arranging a mortgage, you can also expect to pay a fairly large deposit, and fees including the following:

  • Mortgage registration fee: 0.25% of the value of the mortgage
  • Bank fees including processing fee, property valuation fees and insurance registration fee
  • Loan protection insurance (mortgage life insurance): usually compulsory, the costs vary wildly depending on the value of your property and mortgage, and your personal circumstances

Depending on the situation you might find that there are other costs, both in taxes applied and the costs of arranging the loan. However, the major initial outlay will be the deposit you have to pay to secure the loan and the sale. If you’re buying an off-plan property this could be up to 50% of the total cost.

Whatever your situation, you’ll incur costs, and if your main account is outside of Dubai, you might need to send money to yourself from abroad to pay fees and incidental costs. If this is the case then it’s important to check what you’ll be charged when you make an international money transfer. You’ll probably find that your home bank won’t offer you the best deal. Even if they claim to offer fee-free transfers, you can be sure their cut will be rolled up into a poor exchange rate.

A better option is the use a specialist service like TransferWise, to transfer cash using the same real exchange rate you can find on Google with only a small, transparent fee.

What are the major banks in Dubai providing mortgages to foreigners?

All major banks in Dubai offer mortgage products, with a reasonable choice of loans which are suitable for expats, and non-residents. Check out the fine print of the products offered, as they come with fairly strict terms and conditions.

You might be able to get a local mortgage with one of the following brokers or banks:

  • Global banking giant HSBC has a good range of mortgage products for Dubai, including some which are suited to expats looking to invest in Dubai without living there
  • Mashreq is a UAE based bank which has mortgages for expat residents and non-residents alike
  • Emirates NBD is another good choice for a wide range of mortgage and loan products
  • If you’re not sure what type of mortgage you want, try brokers mortgagefinders.ae for advice and offers from up to 20 different banks

Glossary of important terms

If you’re starting to look for your perfect new place in Dubai, it’s helpful to know that although Arabic is the official language, English is actually the most spoken language in the state. As a result, banks and real estate agents will have English websites and are likely to speak English with no difficulty - however, despite this, the jargon can be a bit bewildering. Here are some important terms to help you:

  • A loan-to-value (LTV) ratio - this is the value of the mortgage expressed as a percentage of the total property value.
  • Repayment mortgages - with a repayment mortgage you pay back both interest and the capital amount borrowed over the term.
  • Interest-only mortgages - here, you pay only the interest accruing on the capital borrowed, with the capital to be repaid in full at the end of the term
  • Fixed rate mortgages - the interest rate is fixed for a set period of time, usually one, three or five years. After this period the product will revert to a ‘follow on rate’ set by the bank
  • Variable rate mortgages - the amount you pay in interest can be changed by the bank.

Buying a new home is a big step, and when you’re buying in a new country, it can be a daunting process.

Many expats have put down roots in Dubai, by buying a family home or investment property. As a result, the local financial services sector is experienced in dealing with foreigners, and as long as you're in a decent financial position, you should be able to easily get a mortgage that suits you as an expat buyer. You’ll need a large cash amount upfront to pay a deposit, but if you do your research, you won’t struggle to get a deal that works for your circumstances. Before you know it, you could be enjoying your new permanent or vacation home in Dubai .

Good luck with buying your new home!

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