A Guide to the Dubai Off-Plan Market

I am interested in off-plan projects


There are two ways to enter property ownership. That is to purchase a property that is currently under construction or to purchase an existing property.

This section will be talking about buying properties off-plan. These tend to be under construction but they can also be ready properties bought straight from the developer. Off-plan properties suit first time buyers, home movers and investors alike. It is an opportunity to buy property at a much lower price and enjoy the capital appreciation of the property once it has been built to completion. The low entry price especially appeals to first time buyers who may find be faced with limited choices for their budget.

Once their off-plan purchase is completed, buyers have a number of choices. They may want to move in to their property, or rent it for a periodical return on investment or flip it by selling the property at its present market value and enjoy the one off capital gain return on investment.

Some investors flip the property during the construction stage and cash in on their capital gain if, for example, another opportunity has presented itself and there is a need for added liquidity, or if they don't want to take on costs to own a property such as paying maintenance fees etc.

But generally; off-plan property purchases are seen as an opportunity to buy a property at a discounted entry price today, with a projected return on investment being kept in mind using comparable property prices for other existing developments within the same community. 

The off-plan route is also an opportunity for a buyer to ensure ownership of property without having to pay the whole amount, and this can be achieved via a developers' structured payment plan throughout a pre-agreed duration. That duration can sometimes be up to a few years after completion,which we'll go through later on. As there are usually a number of months between these payment dates, those who buy early pay less and enjoy the initial capital appreciation in their properties during periods within these dates as general interest in the development increases. The increase of interest in the development usually stems from good advertising, marketing, word of mouth and from those buyers entering the opportunity at later stages of the development’s construction.

The way it works from the developer’s side is as that during the early stage of a construction project, quick sales are required and at that stage the first batch of properties are offered at the lowest possible price which presents the opportunity to maximise on potential capital appreciation.Typically the larger developers would offer those properties to their private book of investors. Once financial targets have been met, developers increase the price of the remaining batch of unsold units while still keeping them at bargain prices; with the aim to make up for the excess discount that the first batch were sold at.

Buyers entering at the second batch stage still enjoy the potential for decent capital appreciation and they'll also be offered other incentives; a couple of examples being property management services offering to hold the property as preferred stock for quick tenancy, or even offer furniture vouchers up to a certain amount which provides an opportunity for an investor to rent property at a higher return due to owning a furnished apartment.

Some buyers only believe in buying what is already completed and in existence; a property that one can see and touch rather than a property that can be at some stage of construction or even from looking at an artist’s forecast pictures and an architect’s blue prints before the first brick is laid.

But these buyers who purchase at completion will be paying full market price, when they could have saved money buying exactly the same property a little early through a developer’s payment plan that is within their affordability.

For a number of seasoned investors; buying off-plan property forms a sizeable part of their overall strategy in actively managing their complex wealth accumulation portfolio.

As the construction project matures into a developed address, investors would either rent out their property or sell it for a maximum gain while owner occupiers would normally enjoy the fact that they've chosen this property from the early stage and dictate on how they want to live in it for the years to come.

One of the upcoming areas in Dubai that has many off-plan opportunities is Jumeirah Village Circle which is in close proximity to Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina. For more information about the community, please view our Jumeirah Village Circle Buyer Guide.


First thing is first; only when all your questions are answered and you feel connected to the project, should you make your move into purchasing off-plan. There are no such things as bad projects, there are just wrong projects offered to wrong buyers through wrong advice.

Once you have fully communicated with your Engel & Völkers property consultant, and made your choice, the process typically is as follows:

Place a deposit (normally between 5% - 15% of the advertised price) to secure the property.

When a full deposit is paid, an SPA (Sales and Purchase Agreement) will be drawn up between buyer and developer. Until then, there will only be a receipt for paid funds provided and that is often non-refundable.

Go through the Oquood process in order to register the off-plan property under your name.

Follow the developer's payment plan; either through pre-arranged payment dates (usually the big four) or through construction milestones (usually standard Dubai developers) throughout the entire construction period.

Once the development has reached completion and payments are in place, you own the property and are entitled to enjoy the equity growth on it and at no holding cost.

See also: our introduction to Dubai real estate.


Each payment plan varies from developer to developer, but one thing to take into account is that the better the payment plan, the more it makes the property purchase easier to achieve. The bigger the efforts a developer puts to devise a pricing structure, the easier it is to afford to buy a property. Normally developers would link their payment plans according to either timeline or construction milestone until handover, but there are some developers that offer opportunities to continue the payment plan a number of years after completion to make it even easier. One area this is evident in is Jumeirah Village Circle.   

This guide has been prepared by our Property Consultant Jamil Azouri 

PAYMENT PLAN EXAMPLE                        

In the following example, I will go through three different payment plans that could be used to purchase a thousand square foot off-plan apartment within a building currently under construction. In this example, if there was a cash buyer, he/she would be able to buy this apartment for AED 700,000 at AED 700 per square foot.

But for the most of us, the option of a payment plan is better suited and three examples are as below:

1. Two Step Payment Plan: 50% Deposit and then 50% on Completion.

2. Regular Payment Plan: 20% Deposit with 10% paid quarterly (every three months) until a final 20% paid on Completion.

3. Long Term Payment Plan: 10% Deposit and then 2% per month for 45 instalment.

In a lot of cases in payment plans; the easier the plan, the more one will be paying for an apartment.

Taking that into consideration, let’s look at example prices for an apartment with respect to the payment plan order mentioned above.



1. Two step payment plan: AED 800,000 at 1,000 square feet making it AED 800 per square foot.

2. Regular payment plan: AED 900,000 at 1,000 square feet making it AED 900 per square foot.

3. Long term payment plan: AED 1,000,000 at 1,000 square feet making it AED 1,000 per square foot.

As you will have noticed in this example; the easier the payment plan, the more expensive the apartment is per square foot.

The advantage for the developer however, is that they do make it easy for a wide spectrum of investors.

Let’s look at the numbers carrying on with the order in both lists above:

1. Pay AED 400,000 on booking and AED 400,000 when you get keys in hand.

2. Pay AED 180,000 on booking, AED 90,000 every quarter for a total of six instalments and then a final payment of AED 180,000 when you get keys in hand.

3. Pay AED 100,000 on booking and AED 20,000 per month for three years and nine months with keys in hand on completion.

These payback options are all for the same apartment in this example. In deciding on which payment plan to go for, it is advisable to speak to a real estate consultant who could help with your queries, should you wish to decide on investing in such opportunity.

A good advice would be to decide on a payment plan that meets the strengths of your financial discipline. 

This is because, for example; someone who has little financial discipline will be better off  choosing the third option as it is easy to manage even though he/she will be paying more at the end.

However if an investor is structured in his/her savings and has enough to cover the deposit, then the first option can be considered while initiating a savings plan targeting the final payment; because on doing the calculations, the investor can save up to AED 200 per square foot (as per the example above) which is significant.

Through the growing demand in the area, some of the developers we are partnered with will provide payment plans that make it easy to jump on the property ladder. As in the example above, a payment plan would include a deposit, a few construction milestone payment steps, a balance payment on handover of completed project once the owner has keys in hand, or the remaining amount to be paid back through a developers post completion payment plan if that is offered.

Don’t forget that there is also an option to go through a normal bank mortgage if the buyer is an owner occupier and would like to spread payments over a greater number of years. At Engel & Völkers, we are closely connected to a number of reputable Independent Mortgage Advisors who can provide assistance with your financial planning.

The possibility of renting out the property with the tenant's rent contributing most or all of the developer's required monthly amount is one of the better scenarios an owner can be in; having somebody else contribute in buying you a property.

If you are a potential first time buyer and would like to discuss how close you are to being a property owner, either through purchasing existing property or via the off-plan route, or if you know the process as a home mover or investor, please get in contact with an Engel & Völkers off-plan Property Consultant. 

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Nakheel Sales Center, Building 7, Al Sufouh 1 | PO Box 17722 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
ORN: 16081


Nakheel Sales Center, Building 7, Al Sufouh 1 | PO Box 17722 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
ORN: 16081
+971 4 4223500

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