With the local housing market at rock bottom, you can snap up a bargain. So here are five top tips for getting your foot on the property ladder.

If you’ve always dreamed of owning your own place in Dubai, 2017 could be your year.

The average house price in the emirate fell by 12 per cent between October 2014 and October 2016, according to property data company Reidin, while Abu Dhabi prices are down 3 per cent over the same period.

What’s more, residential property prices dropped 6 per cent year on year from November 2015 to November 2016.

Real estate experts say the drop is now flat-lining, meaning for those with savings, there has never been a better time to swoop in a pick up a property bargain. So, here’s everything you need to know about buying your own place in the sun.

1. Off-plan is making a comeback

Buying off-plan has been bit of a dirty word since the dark days of the property crash in 2008, when scores of buy-to-flip investors were left out of pocket. However off-plan buying is making a comeback in 2017 – and the good news is there are tighter regulations in place to keep your money safe.

Buying off-plan basically means buying a property before building is complete, and most major developers now have generous payment plans for their projects. In a bid to avoid a repeat of the 2008-2009 crash, there are restrictions in place to prevent an influx of buy-to-flip investors hiking the prices up for the end-user (the people that actually want to live in the property).

For instance, the UAE Central Bank’s rule allows only 50 per cent loan-to-value ratio (meaning you need to stump up 50 per cent of the property value in a deposit). This avoids investors putting down low 10 per cent deposits only to resell the property at a sky-high price at the expense of the person who actually wants to live in the building (i.e. you).

2. You don’t need as much cash as you think

While you will need a hefty lump sum in savings as a deposit, the good news is that this doesn’t always equate to 50 per cent of the property value. In some instances, the cash deposit required can be as low as a 20 per cent initial payment. How? Well, the property developers recognise that not many people have as much as a 50 per cent deposit saved and are coming up with their own payment plans to get would-be buyers a foot on the ladder.

These plans include 30:70 plans where you pay 30 per cent first and the remainder on completion, and many payment plans now allow you to pay in 10 per cent installments as each phase of construction is completed.

3. Off-plan is cheaper than ready property

Buying off-plan allows you to arrange your finances better and means you don’t have to be lumbered with a loan for the whole amount of your property. But there are, of course, advantages to buying a ready property: with house prices down, coupled with tricky off-plan mortgage rules (see point 4), there has been a boom in ready property sales. However, it’s generally cheaper to buy off-plan (up to 30 per cent below market value), and that gap is expected to get bigger as developers work to drive interest in off-plan investment.

4. Reputed developers are back in business

One potential stumbling block would-be buyers may face when buying off-plan in Dubai is that UAE banks will not lend to all off-plan projects. The decision largely comes down to the developer and their credentials. But the big players – Emaar, Akoya by Damac and Onyx by Ishraqah – have all secured mortgage lending for their off-plan projects. Going with a reputed developer that the banks recognise will also ensure your money is safe-guarded from rogue developers.

5. Only legit developers can advertise property for sale

New regulations came into effect in October 2016 which require developers and brokers to get approval from Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) before they advertise property in the media. The new regulation is aimed at cracking down on fake property ads, protecting both buyers and genuine developers.

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Collected and published by Arms &McGregor International Realty® editorial team. Get in touched with us at [email protected]