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A place to call home

The UAE is awash with estate agents and developers ready to help you find your new home, and there are properties to suit all tastes and budgets.

If relocating, you will more than likely stay in a hotel (which should be included in your relocation package) until you find somewhere suitable.

Renting is most common amongst expats in the UAE because, on the whole, they are a highly-transient bunch that may only stay a few years. The market and the economy is better set up for renting than buying houses, and with the huge boom in the construction industry seen over the last few years, prices have remained relatively stable in the rental and housing sectors.

However, in 2020, COVID-19 swept across the globe and the price-to-rent ratio — which divides the average cost of ownership by estimated rental cost — for properties outside city centres increased 4.8% between mid-2019 and mid-2020. This suggests that renting is more favourable than buying during the pandemic. Read more in our 2020 Global Housing Market Trends report.

There are no specific restrictions to expats owning a property. That said, research suggests that buying a property should be a long-term plan, only if you have the financial resources to sustain it, long-term job security and a dependable sponsor. If you lose your job, you will lose your residency visa and possibly your home too.

A word of caution

Each of the seven autonomous Emirates will have separate property rules and regulations. So don’t expect the rules in Abu Dhabi to be the same as Dubai, or anywhere else.

Tips on renting and buying

  •  Never accept a rental property without viewing it.
  • Research whether your potential home is next to a mosque. It may be cheaper but will also be a lot louder!
  • Check that your agent is officially registered. In Dubai, ask to see their RERA card.
  • Before renting, check your contract for yours and your landlord’s responsibilities. Check for hidden costs.
  • Before buying a property, make sure you get independent advice before you sign the contract and check that your developer or agency is legitimate.
  • If you already live in Dubai, you can get lower rent by moving from an older apartment to a new one. With new complexes springing up all the time, developers dangle a carrot of cheaper rents to entice you in.
  • Visit this popular property portal.
  • The UK Government has produced a handy (and comprehensive) guide on ‘how to buy, rent or let property in the UAE’.

Where to live

There are seven Emirates: Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah, but expats tend to live in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Sharjah. It’s a good idea to live as close to where you work as possible to avoid long commutes. 


It has a skyscraper-lined horizon, opulent and lavish artificial palm islands, and huge shopping malls. Dubai is the most lively of expat destinations but also the most expensive. On the positive side, it caters for every single taste, hobby and activity. A downside is that the traffic in Dubai can be terrible and one blogger commented that: ‘Even if you take a taxi, it’s a case of not if but when you have an accident’.

There is accommodation to suit all tastes in Dubai. See this Quora discussion on Dubai’s residential areas.

Abu Dhabi

It is the Emirates’ capital city but the second largest city after Dubai. Being much smaller, Abu Dhabi is less congested than Dubai. This makes it easier to travel about and, even though there are no trams or metro, people get around by cars, taxi and bus. It still has the same beautiful beaches, thriving expat community and opportunities for leisure and shopping as Dubai, but the slower pace of life and larger amounts of green space make it more appealing for families.

There are around twenty schools offering a British curriculum and eleven American schools, teaching the International Baccalaureate.

See here for the pros and cons of living in Abu Dhabi.


The third largest city, Sharjah is considered the cultural capital of the UAE because of its historic buildings, various museums, galleries and traditional souks. Like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it has beautiful beaches but with additional views of the Hajar mountains. It is a ‘dry’ emirate; no alcohol is sold here, and the cultural traditions and laws are adhered to more rigidly than in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Wherever you settle, a secure home will require insurance, so contact our expert advisers for a free quote. 

To compare life in Sharjah to Dubai visit Living in Dubai.

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