The Shoura Council should revise the current law on expatriate home ownership in the country at its meeting on Monday in Riyadh, says a local real estate developer.
Saud Abdulaziz Al-Gusaiyer, CEO of AMJAL Property, said that the law is unclear about the rights and obligations of foreigners who want to buy homes in the Kingdom. Expatriates should be given more guarantees, he added.
He said expatriates are also disadvantaged by the sponsorship system because they can be deported at any time.
“The Shoura Council might issue a modification of the ownership law for expats. After 2000, each individual expat who carried an iqama was able to own a house, but the house space should not exceed 3,000 square meters. The other requirement is to get approval from the Interior Ministry, which usually takes one month,” said Al-Gusaiyer.
“I doubt if the new law would allow a foreigner, who does not carry an iqama, to own a house in the Kingdom.”
A revision of the law would influence the Saudi real estate market, with more customers demanding to buy houses. He said house prices will increase if there is greater demand.
“But the question that each expat will ask is: ‘Why should I own a house if I don’t know how long I will be staying in the Kingdom, and what would happen if I got fired or deported?’” he said.
According to Al-Gusaiyer, the government should provide guarantees to expatriates. “The system is not clear in this regard, particularly if the expat cannot sell his home if he is deported. Unfortunately, expats are always threatened with deportation,” he said.
He said that in 2005 and 2006 there was a greater demand from expatriates to buy homes. This was especially the case with Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Indian nationals. He said it was logical for expatriates who pay between SR 100,000 and SR 250,000 a year as rent to buy homes.
Banks also provide expatriate owners guarantees, so if they are fired or deported the banks will sell the property and send the money to the owners, he said.
Ashraf Abduljawad, executive manager at a real estate company, said that demand for home ownership increased in Saudi Arabia because of the Arab Spring. “I noticed that the sale of houses to Syrians living in the Kingdom has increased about 60 percent,” he said. “Most Syrians told me that they were saving money to buy homes in Syria, but due to the dangerous situation in their homeland, they prefer to buy a house in a safe country.”
According to Abduljawad, Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese and Indians are also buying houses in Saudi Arabia. “Palestinians are ranked first, followed by Syrians and Lebanese, then Egyptians and Indians,” he said.