Buying vs renting: Why Indians are homing in on Dubai



The Dubai Government passed the law that allows freehold property ownership (which means only in certain areas, deemed ‘freehold’) for foreigners in 2002, but it’s only over the past 10 years that Indians have started to zero in on the property market here. It’s been a real estate purchase build-up that’s exploding today. Chat with a real estate agent and the first thing he or she says is it’s not uncommon for middle-class Indians — who traditionally came to the UAE to earn some dirhams to build a house back home — to consider buying property in Dubai. Home loans, with competitive interest rates, are aplenty. The lifestyle accorded by the Dubai dream, that has been evolving at breakneck speed, holds out the promise of global aspirations. Unlike the US or the UK, Dubai is close to home, so quick and impromptu trips are eminently feasible. And the burgeoning — and upwardly mobile — real estate market is throwing up opportunities for sound returns on investment.

Investing in a property Dubai today ticks all the boxes for “sensible” Indians, the sort who value long-term investments and believe in saving for rainy day… whether or not it pours.

NRIFocus spoke to a bunch of domain experts, and discovered there are many more reasons other than the usual suspects as to why Indians — who comprise the largest chunk of the population in the UAE — are homing in on Dubai.


‘95 per cent of my property sales have been to Indians’

Sheetal Sureen, owner of Marigold Properties, says she’s completed 40 sales so far this year, and 95 per cent have been to Indians. There are interesting revelations. For one, 60 per cent are mortgage buyers and 40 per cent are cash buyers. And then, newer expats, “people who have moved this year itself or last year, are spearheading the plunge to purchase, whereas those who have been here for more than five years are more hesitant”. The reason for the latter’s hesitancy is that they have experienced the volatility of the real estate market in Dubai. “But they do not realise this kind of an influx of people who want to live here post Covid, the opening up Dubai, the introduction of new kind of visas [Golden Visa, freelance visas etc] and the relaxing of norms have all ensured that people are coming here to stay… the volatility the market went through will not happen again.”

Sheetal also explains why it’s smarter to become a homeowner instead of being a renter. “If you are salaried or self-employed, you get [home loan] interest rates between 4.2 per cent to 6 per cent… plus there is the 1.5 per cent of property value, which is the annual maintenance charge. So if you buy a property worth AED 2 million [Golden Visa criterion], it is still more economical as the current rental value will be 8 to 9 per cent.” Buying is actually translated into savings; plus, you get capital appreciation.

Dubai is “rapidly changing into a forever kind of place for many Indians”, Sheetal points out, and adds that people are buying more than they did when the prices were really down. When prices are going down, one doesn’t know how much further they will fall, whereas when prices are up, they hope prices will keep on rising. “Indians are driving the real estate market in Dubai… even non-residents are buying because they are getting better ROI in Dubai plus capital appreciation, so whatever loan you take, ultimately the property will pay for itself and will also go up in value.”


‘The Golden Visa as added to the perks of investing in Dubai’

Rennie Sanger, Senior Off Plan & Investment Consultant, haus & haus Real Estate, points out that Indians, like many nationalities across the globe, initially have a short term view for the UAE: the lure of tax free income is pretty appealing, “but the country has a way of making you feel like home from day one, and you are more often than not spoilt for ‘affordable luxury’ in a sunny climate, a modern style living and a forward-thinking and innovative government that’s always striving to be better”.

Rents are not cheap, Rennie admits, but arguably it’s all relative when you have tax-free income, and you try and put a value on safety. In his opinion, “that’s priceless!”. Having said that, many are now choosing to buy properties vis-à-vis renting, “especially with the ease of mortgages as well as attractive payment plan options in the off plan segment of the market”.

Indians, he says, culturally, “are strong believers of purchasing properties over spending money on rent — they are firm believers in the real estate asset class, as they are of gold”.

Attractive incentives from the government like the Golden Visa — which grants you a 10-year visa when you invest a minimum of AED 2 million in real estate — has added to the perks of investing in Dubai, along with high ROIs, great capital appreciation, no capital gains, no income tax, safe environment, ease of investing, and, of course [for those who residents of India and not even NRIs living in the UAE], a lovely holiday home and/or a place to eventually move to.

Here are Rennie’s top reasons as to why Indians are choosing to buy over renting:

  • Estimated Monthly Installments (EMIs) are often cheaper than monthly rents
  • Build equity in your own property, can later refinance and release equity to acquire more real estate
  • Not at the mercy of being served notice to leave, rental increases
  • Have complete control on any upgrades/modifications to the property
  • Can sell the property in the future and earn capital appreciation, with no capital gains tax in the UAE


 ‘There is a growing appetite for overseas investments among Indians’

Clementina Kongslund, senior client manager, Exclusive Links Real Estate Brokers LLC, notes that, recently, Indians have outpaced British investors, and become Dubai’s leading real estate contributors. This shift signifies a growing Indian interest in both securing the Golden Visa and making lucrative property investments. “The allure of Dubai’s real estate market lies in its strategic location, robust infrastructure, and unparalleled lifestyle offerings.”

Another key factor driving this trend is the ease of doing business in Dubai, Clementina avers. The city’s investor-friendly policies, tax incentives and simplified legal procedures make it an attractive destination for property buyers. “Additionally, Dubai’s status as a global business hub and its proximity to India further amplify its appeal… And the evolving cultural and economic ties between India and the UAE play a pivotal role, with Dubai becoming a home away from home for many Indians, fostering a sense of community and familiarity.”

The growing appetite for overseas investments among Indian investors has also notably driven up luxury real estate prices, specifically in Dubai, Clementina adds. “The availability of a wide range of properties — from luxurious waterfront residences to affordable housing options — caters to the diverse preferences of Indian investors… As Dubai continues to evolve and innovate, it will continue to fuel the increasing trend of Indians opting to purchase real estate in this dynamic global metropolis.”


 ‘Indians remain the strongest investors in the property market in Dubai’

According to Shraddha Barot Amariei, founder, White Window Real Estate, one interesting trend that has cropped up is how Indians who live in India are also flocking to buy property in Dubai. “The UAE and India are very close geographically, it’s just one and a half hours behind, so a trip from India to here is much more convenient — which is why many Indians are considering making Dubai their second home even though they don’t have any immediate plans to settle here full time,” says Shraddha.

Dubai is a destination city, which is what is creating a demand for self-owned properties for many NRIs and Indians. “I have a lot of friends who have invested in properties here as they like to come here for New Year’s or Diwali and even just for a fun shopping and dining weekend… On the business front, the ease that the system offers makes it an ideal choice for many business owners from India to use Dubai as a second base for re-export as well as for tax-free purposes.”

The real estate market is rapidly growing and is showing no signs of slowing down, Shraddha adds. “The UAE is one of the most stable economic markets and investors have seen good results in terms of rents and leases… the country is also at the forefront of technological innovations and world-class hospitality. These are good reasons for Indians to buy offshore property. And the most notable fact remains that during both recession or peak markets, Indians remain the strongest investors in the property market in Dubai showing the belief and trust NRIs have in the leadership of the UAE.” —  Sushmita Bose is Managing Editor of





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