Expectations that the recent decision of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning (MHUP) allowing expatiates to buy property in Oman will boost the real estate market in the country are fat-fetched, according to realtors. They cite the current conditions, specially the unavailabilty of residence visa on purchase of such property, as being inconducive to potential buyers .
According to MHUP, expatriates in Oman can now purchase apartments in multi-storey buildings in the Governorate of Muscat. The decision was taken to create a competitive business environment in the real estate sector and inject cash into it.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Saleem Hassan al Bulushi, deputy director general of Real Estate Development in MHUP, said only expat residents who have been in Oman for more than two years can buy property in Muscat.
“The offer is valid for expatriates from all countries and for people who already have residency visas in Oman. Residency visas will not be transferred to real estate visas,” he said.
Under the new real estate scheme, the minimum price of apartments that expatriates can purchase has been set at RO45,000. Additionally, property bought must be for residential purposes of the purchaser or his/her first-degree relatives.
“The property lease can be for a period of 50 years renewable for a maximum of 49 years upon agreement of all stakeholders,” Bulushi said.
“The property can be inherited during the same (lease) period and after that it returns to the owner,” he informed.
According to the ministry, the decision is aimed at encouraging expatriates to buy property while keeping in mind the demographics of the country.
Under the rules, residential units can’t be sold before construction works are complete. The property must be in a multi-storey residential cum commercial building, must be within the area specified for sale and licensed by the ministry.
“The seller of the real estate residential unit pays a fee of three per cent and the buyer pays five per cent fee on the value of the residential real estate unit upon registration,” Bulushi said.
Additionally, the building must not be more than four years from the date of issue of the building completion certificate.
The number of rooms in the residential unit having utilities must not be less than two in a building having no more than four residential floors.
Following the full set of rules and regulations being made public, real estate experts have voiced their concern that the attached conditions will prove counterproductive to the ministry decision and fail to achieve the desired impact on the sector.
Dr Khalid al Matani, chairman of BBH Group, a nationally recognised real estate company specialising in acquisitions, development and management of commercial properties throughout Oman, said, “Since the decision, all the callers to our office to inquire about the apartments mainly ask if residence visas would be granted on buying the property. When told otherwise, they just say ‘sorry’ and hang up. Without visas, there will be no buyers.”
However, Dr Matani said following discussions with officials at the ministry, he was hopeful that the rules of the decision – especially regarding visa – will be relaxed.
“Other conditions like ownership period are understandable because these are international rules,” he said.
Said al Rashdi, CEO of the real estate company Al Nasr Investment and Development Company, too believed the decision in its current format will not have the desired impact. “For example, if a buyer suddenly loses his job and can’t find another one, he or she might not be able to possess the apartment anymore,” he said.
“Besides the visa, many other conditions are not conducive at all. Authorities need to look into the decision again. Also, setting the minimum value at RO45,000 is not feasible because some apartments in the specified sale area cannot fetch that amount. The rules also stipulate ownership for at least four years before the property can be sold. Many expatriates would be unable to fulfil these requirements,” he added.
Expats’ land ownership deadline extended
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning has announced a one-year extension for non-Omanis for disposal of land and real estate located in prohibited areas. Setting the cut-off date as October 31, 2021, the ministry stated that the decision was taken on account of the exceptional circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.