Foreigners lap up houses in tourism complexes

MUSCAT, JUNE 6 – With the opening up of Oman’s real estate sector for non-Omanis, housing projects in Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC) are witnessing heavy demand from foreign investors. While the number of GCC nationals who own real estate properties in Oman increased by nine per cent in 2017, people from many countries in the Middle East, Europe and India are thronging to buy properties. At the same time, experts familiar with Oman’s real estate sector feel that regulations may also be introduced to allow expats to own properties outside the ITCs.

“Foreigners may be allowed to buy properties in areas other than the ITCs along with regulations that the move will not lead to any rise in land prices nor will it affect the Omani tradition and culture,” said Mohamed al Busaidi, Member of Majlis Ash’shura and former chairman of Oman Real Estate Association. The Ministry of Tourism has been pushing ahead with creation of more commercial and residential complexes as part of the government’s efforts to attract more foreign investments to the Sultanate and move away from dependence on oil and gas. According to Al Busaidi, real estate plays a major role in bringing in foreign investments.

“Expats living in Oman for a long time are very familiar with our culture. They may be allowed to own their own homes. They want to feel secure here and they should be encouraged to invest their savings in the country,” al Busaidi said. He said that there should not be any compromise on the rising housing needs of Oman’s young population. Until recently it was not possible for foreigners to own property in Oman.
Royal Decree No 12/2016 allowed non-Omanis to own land and houses in the integrated tourism complexes.
“Any free ownership means, as long as it doesn’t violate the country’s regulations on the subject,” stipulated the decree. The ITC projects, where foreigners can own a house or a flat include Al Mouj, Barr Al Jissah, Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club, Al Siffah Resort, Saraya Bandar Jissah Muscat Bay and Salalah Beach Resort. The Tourism Ministry had earlier announced that 5,000 housing units will be available across the Sultanate for foreign nationals.
With an investment of RO 4 billion, the housing units are being built at Diyar Ras Al Hadd Resort, Omagine Project, Qurayat Integrated Project, Naseem A’Sabah Project and Al Nakheel Project.
According to Business Monitor International, the new law will add further impetus to the government’s efforts to promote economic diversification and stimulate additional demand for residential and tourism-related infrastructure.”
“The planned new units in the tourism complexes are likely to target the affluent international buyers who have fuelled Oman’s emergence as a viable tourism destination over the last several years,” the global agency said.

SAMUEL KUTTY