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Retirement visa and real estate in Dubai

The retirement visa was recently launched by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the visa scheme is nationwide and therefore has implications beyond Dubai.

For a sluggish real estate market attempting to recover from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic, the announcement of the retirement visa was perfectly timed for Dubai. Experts and developers alike agree that the implications are big, with new sub-sectors being created in the property market focused on would-be buyers approaching retirement age.

One of the three conditions through which expats can be eligible for the retirement visa is for them to own property valued at over AED2 million. In its first phase, this visa program is only open to existing residents of the UAE. Real estate developers now have a previously inaccessible market, that of 55 years old and over expats, within their reach.

Dubai Statistics Centre, says there are 170,000 people in Dubai who are over 55 years old, with expats representing almost 92 percent of the population in the emirate. Beyond the number of existing retirees, 12 percent of Dubai’s population is between 45 and 54 years old and so is approaching retirement age.

Another potential market segment of resident expats are those who have set up businesses in Dubai, following the launch of the long-term resident visa, or Gold visa, in mid-2019, there has been a huge jump in the number of new business licenses issued in Dubai from 20,129 licences in 2018 to 38,378 in 2019, it means there are a lot of people who will stay in Dubai for long therm.

Once the retirement visa opens up to non-resident expats, the catchment area will be that much wider. Elderly people from northern Europe or the US who would usually spent their golden years somewhere sunny in the Mediterranean or Florida now have Dubai as an option.

This is a new opportunity for the developers in Dubai, and here people have big benefit from prime locations, easy access to quality healthcare facilities and which offer community living. The availability of well-developed rest homes would be among the criteria they require in a retirement destination, creating an opportunity for developers. They can incorporate specialist clinics, instead of large scale healthcare facilities, within their master plans of properties targeting retirees.

Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah could emerge as the preferred destination for people planning to retire in the UAE. The quality of health care, the availability of good quality residential stock, an established social infrastructure and leisure options are among some of the factors that will drive demand across these locations.

Whether senior citizens choose to spend their golden years in a community condo in Dubai or a resting home in Abu Dhabi remains to be seen. What is clear is that the UAE’s real estate developers now have fresh opportunities to chase.

Patrizia Marin

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