The original foreign buyers of the first properties in Dubai have been quietly registering their ownership this year with the Dubai Land Department which has topped customer satisfaction ratings for a second consecutive year. But the Dubai Government has not issued a new license for cutting keys in five years!
It is ironic that in a city where the system for registering land and property titles is among the most efficient and modern in the world that anybody in New Dubai who needs to get a key cut has to travel back to the heart of the old city because the Dubai Police have kept a perhaps over zealous control on key cutting licenses.
However, this correspondent can personally vouch for the efficiency and simplicity of the Dubai Land Department's title registration system. Indeed, Emaar Properties' buyers have the luxury of an out station based in New Dubai, so that they do not even have to visit Dubai to obtain their title deeds.
The fees for property registration are low by global standards at two per cent, compared with say eight per cent in South Africa. And all the title deed data is securely locked within an electronic database so that if a deed is lost then the owner can obtain a replacement, with his or her passport and a small fee.
The Dubai Land Department will also register mortgaged property, and this is now a standard requirement for obtaining a mortgage in the city.
Clearly keeping a clear track of the legal ownership of property is essential to the development of the local property market. And it is remarkable how many otherwise well informed people still think it is impossible to obtain a legal title as a foreigner in Dubai. This correspondent has just done it on a villa.
However, legislation concerning ownership within apartment blocks is awaited, although this is now imminent and given Dubai's record, there is no reason to think it will not be speedily enacted. Then the Dubai Land Department can proceed with registering the titles of people who have bought apartments.
Global best practice
Apartment blocks with multiple owners require more complex legislation than villas where maintenance of the apartment block is not a problem. But this is successfully done in many global markets and Dubai is set to adopt a mixture of international best practice for its apartments.
It is all a long way from the doubts and concerns of five years ago when Dubai first allowed foreigners to buy property with the promise that a legal title would follow in due course. Those who took Dubai at its word have been amply rewarded in capital growth and savings on rent.
The dilemma for latecomers is that they now have to pay a premium for this legal title, and have a smaller margin to absorb any future weakness in Dubai property prices.