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Oman eases apartment ownership by expats

Investment opportunities: Non-Omanis can purchase flats in pre-approved areas under a new usufruct system announced by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning
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Muscat: Apartments in residential buildings constructed in pre-approved areas of Muscat Governorate, among other parts of the country, will be open to expatriate residents for outright purchase under a new usufruct system announced by Oman’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning.

The move is key to accelerating investment inflows into theproperty and real estate sector, as well as driving Oman’s economic diversification. It also aligns the Sultanate’s broader investment laws with those in leading economies around the world, the Ministry noted.

According to market experts, the latest initiative builds on an existing scheme centring on property purchases by non-Omanis in Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC), a number of which have mushroomed around the Sultanate. Foreigners can purchase property in ITCs on a freehold basis and obtain in the process, among other things, a residency visa for themselves and their immediate family.

The latest initiative, announced on Wednesday, makes it possible for non-Omanis to own property in the form of apartments in buildings that are not as pricey as those offered in ITCs. By virtue of their design and construction as high-end gated communities featuring, golf courses, marinas and other luxurious amenities, ITCS are generally known to be premium destinations.

The usufruct route outlined by the Ministry enhances the viability of property ownership by non-Omanis living and working in the Sultanate. Nevertheless, a slew of conditions apply.

Under criteria specified by the Ministry, only expatriates of at least 23 years of age and holding valid residency visas of at least two years, are eligible to purchase housing units in buildings located in neighbourhoods approved by the Ministry. Such housing units may be offered for sale on a 99-year lease as part of the usufruct system, the Ministry said.

Significantly, an expatriate can own only one property at a given time. Furthermore, to limit the concentration of any one nationality in a given building, no more than 20 per cent of apartments can be sold to buyers of the same nationality. Overall, no more than 40 per cent of total flats in a given building can be sold to non-Omanis.

Additionally, housing units offered for sale to non-Omanis must be relatively new. In any event, they cannot be more than four years of age from the date of the award of the completion certificate. Such buildings must be at least four floors high, while apartments offered for sale should have at least two roomsper unit.

Besides, flats offered for sale in Muscat Governorate cannot be sold for less than RO 45,000 per unit. The corresponding figure for apartments outside of the capital region is RO 35,000. Once purchased, the new expat owners cannot sell their holdings for atleast four years.

In a series of tweets, the Ministry stressed that the latest scheme will help drive investment in Oman’s real estate sector, which will also have a positive knock-on effect on banking, financial services, construction, and other related sectors. It will stimulate the growth of the real estate industry in general and spur investments into property projects.

By offering expatriates the opportunity to invest in the housing market in the Sultanate, the outflow of funds through remittances will be reduced, it is hoped. This will inject much-needed liquidity into the real estate and property market, as well as enhance the competitiveness of the overall industry, the Ministry added.

(Picture for illustration only)

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