Renewed scope for retirement communities
UAE visa schemes can favour property owners
100% ownership for expats sweetens the retirement dream
Abu Dhabi: The capital’s real estate offerings, the UAE government’s new retirement visa rules and new laws on freehold ownership for expats in the capital are helping shape the emirate as an ideal retirement destination.
What has changed
Previously, expats in Abu Dhabi could only buy real estate on a 99-year lease.
The new freehold law announced at Cityscape Abu Dhabi in April essentially opens the capital to a whole new segment of buyers and investors in real estate, including those in search of a retirement home. According to this law, foreigners can now own property in specified areas without time limitations, just like UAE nationals.
“Looking at Abu Dhabi as a place to retire makes sense since it is relatively laid-back with a relaxed pace of life and has a cultural touch to it,” says Lynnette Abad, director of research and data at the Property Finder Group.
“It would be interesting to see the outcome of the feasibility studies for retirement communities in Abu Dhabi, such as the very popular Sun City model in the USA. These are master-planned communities for age 55 and above, with all the facilities and amenities one would want when they retire, including a huge social aspect to the community.”
Although Abu Dhabi is surrounded by water, Andrew Covill, director of Henry Wiltshire International, notes that it had been hard to buy a villa on the sea, and virtually impossible as an expat.
The Hidd Al Saadiyat project has changed that.
“It does ticks all the boxes for a retirement home: a relaxing, restful and healthy place to live with a championship golf course nearby and a great range of hotels and restaurants for dining out,” says Covill.
“The first phase is now in the process of completing. It consists of four- to seven-bedroom contemporary villas built on a narrow peninsula, ensuring that no home is more than 300m from the sea, with a lagoon beach on one side and exquisite Saadiyat Beach on the other.”
The community also has retail centres, mosques, a pool and gym complex and a yacht club. “Phase two has just been started and will bring a hotel, apartment buildings, a school and a range of cafés and restaurants,” Covill adds.
"Abu Dhabi was natural retirement choice"
Long-time resident Sami Elias Ghandour, 69, the first expat in Abu Dhabi to obtain a freehold title deed when he bought a six-bedroom villa in Hidd Al Saadiyat, says the UAE capital was a natural choice when he decided to retire. Ghandour and his wife had long planned to retire in the UAE capital; the new freehold law made the decision even more meaningful.
Covill says Abu Dhabi expats can buy property in the investment zones that include Al Reem Island, Al Raha Beach, Saadiyat and Yas Islands and in a few areas on the mainland such as Al Reef and Hydra Village.
“Freehold title is now available for apartments, villas and land to develop your own home in these areas,” says Covill.
“For those looking to buy a house plus land, there are a few options in the recently launched Lea in Yas Island, the Al Reeman project in Al Shamka and Saadiyat Beach Golf Views on Saadiyat Island. This enables the buyer to build the home with their own design and specification, and own the land as freehold.”
Another ideal project for retirement is Azure on Al Reem Island.
“It is well-positioned in Abu Dhabi to deliver the best pathway and ideal conditions for anyone considering retirement in Abu Dhabi,” says Ziad Abou Nasr, director of Al Masaood Developments, which is developing the project. “It is situated in the Island’s most developed and exclusive district, Shams Abu Dhabi. The range of high-quality facilities and amenities allow the residents to enjoy their daily activities in the development, with seafront views and a few minutes away from Abu Dhabi’s largest retail and leisure destinations, The Galleria Al Maryah Island and Reem Mall.”
Opening freehold ownership to foreigners will give property owners greater security, says Abou Nasr. “Retirees or anyone planning for their retirement will be secure in the knowledge that ownership is freehold, fully guaranteed by government legislation.”
Felicia Agmyren, managing partner of Rex Real Estate, believes it is the best time to buy property in Abu Dhabi.
“The prices are the lowest, and add to that the government initiatives that are looking to boost foreign investment.”