Muscat: Expatriates can now own properties in Oman outside integrated tourism complexes (ITCs) following a ministerial decision issued by Dr Khalfan bin Saeed Al Shuaily, Minister of Housing and Urban Planning.
The new decisions enable foreign investors to own properties worth over OMR250,000, and is split into two tiers of ownership: Investors who buy properties above OMR500,000 are offered first-class residency, while those who buy properties valued between OMR250,000 and OMR500,00 are given second-class residency.
Explaining this further was Fahad Al Ismaili, the founder of Tibiaan Properties, a real-estate company in Muscat.
“The main difference between these two categories of ownership is that first-class residency enables investors to buy residential, commercial, and industrial properties, but second-class residency is limited only to residential units,” he said.
“Furthermore, the new law does enable expatriates to own properties outside the ITCs, but only if these properties are valued above OMR 250,000,” he added. “Should an expatriate wish to buy a house that costs less than this amount, they can do so through the existing ITC projects or usufruct schemes.”
Ownership rights of expatriates must be in line with Royal Decree No. 29/2018 and Ministerial Decision No. 292/2020, which detail areas where expatriates cannot own property and the executive regulations concerning foreign ownership of real estate.
Non-Omanis cannot own properties within the governorates of Musandam, Buraimi, Dhahirah and Wusta. Furthermore, with the exception of Wilayat Salalah, expatriates are also not permitted to own properties in the rest of the Dhofar region. Expatriates can, of course, continue to buy and own properties in integrated tourism complexes.
The wilayats of Liwa and Shinas are also closed to expatriate ownership, while Masirah, Jabal Akhdar, Jabal Shams and any other landforms such as mountains and islands that are deemed to be of strategic importance are also off-limits. Locations near high-priority installations such as security and military facilities, archaeological and historic structures and areas designated as agricultural land is not open to expatriates when it comes to owning property.
Encouraging long-term residency
Fahad Al Ismaili added that the decision to encourage foreign investors to own properties in Oman came as part of ways to offer long-term residency in the country.
“Less than a year ago, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP) announced packages for foreign ownership and long-term residence across two categories,” he recalled. “In light of this decision, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning (MOHUP) brought out the foreign ownership scheme, because MOCIIP could not issue a decision concerning the ownership of real estate.
“Accordingly, the ability of foreign investors to own real estate was confirmed through the decision of the Minister of Housing and Urban Planning,” he added. “This will no doubt be good for the real-estate market. However, I hope that real estate ownership will soon be allowed for values less than OMR 250,000, because currently, small investors are unfortunately unable to buy property at this rate.
“There will of course be investors who will benefit from this decision, but they will be moneyed people,” he said. “Enabling ownership of properties at lower values will lead to more economic flexibility and attract investment to Oman’s real estate market, allowing it to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Part of economic diversification plan
The decision to allow expatriate investors to own property comes as part of the efforts to make the real estate sector a bigger part of economic diversification, to create a competitive business environment and to expand real-estate development projects.
It is also a continuation of efforts to open more real estate to foreign ownership, which was previously expanded through the usufruct facility, the ability of foreign nationals to purchase property in integrated tourism complexes and the provision for nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council to buy property outside areas prohibited for foreign ownership.