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Kuwait - Buying Property

In 2014/15 the Cabinet for the Government in Kuwait approved the principle that foreigners could own property in Kuwait, subject to strict conditions. This overturned a longstanding law which restricted property ownership in Kuwait only to citizens of Kuwait. The move is not popular with many citizens, because prices for land and property are high, and in the country’s current political climate incomers are being blamed for all the country’s ills.

Purchase of a house, apartment or land will not entitle the owner to residency status in Kuwait. The normal conditions for employment and residency status must still be met; essentially this means you must be working in order to remain in the country.

Prospective property owners who do not hold a Kuwaiti passport must never have been convicted of any crime in Kuwait. They must also be long term residents able to prove their income earned in the state. The apartment must be no larger than 350 square meters and must be their only residential property in the country.

The price of property in Kuwait depends on the strength of the oil industry. If you expect to return to your home country in the short or long term then it may be wise to hold other investments in case you sell your home in Kuwait at a point the oil price is a under pressure.

The combination of high, tax free salaries and many newcomers in a country whose customs and practices are different to those in their home country means criminal are attracted to Kuwait for easy pickings. This includes the property market. Regulations can be difficult to understand and check. To avoid corruption, try to find an estate agent with a solid reputation, and a lawyer to match.

Most expats, especially newcomers, will prefer search for the property via an estate agent who has a solid reputation amongst the expat community. It will prevent misunderstandings and ensure you get all the information you need. Two estate agencies in this market areCentury 21 and Saba Real Estate. There are also many independent realtors who tend to work for a very localised market, so find one in the area in which you wish to live.

When viewing properties, try to avoid ground floor apartments which may be vulnerable to break ins and beggars at the door. If the apartment is near a swimming pool, bear in mind that children in Kuwait stay up far later than is normal in the UK or US, which means noise and thrown items may be a nuisance late into the evening. A nearby mosque will call prayers from the minaret five times a day, starting at 5am, so consider how loud it will inside the premises. Shaded parking for your car is important in high temperatures; many apartment blocks are built with only limited numbers of car parking spaces.

Double glazing, air conditioning and heating for the winter are all important but easily overlooked features which will impact your ability to enjoy your new home.

Any property is significantly affected by the neighbours. It is a good idea to visit a property at different times of the day and at different times, even if it is just to drive by and assess the area. Kuwait does not have a western style nightlife, but certain types of resident can become raucous at the weekend. Do not move near to a school if the noise and traffic congestion will bother you.

Check what the charges for communal areas and building maintenance will be, and ensure your notary receives this in writing. You need to be aware how often the costs can go up and if there is a possibility of surprise additional charges.

You will need to pay the building harissa about 5 Kuwaiti dinars a month for taking out your rubbish - which you leave on the stairwell for him to collect - and doing other small tasks such as wiping your car clean. However, this is a customary payment and is small so will not form part of the purchasing documentation.

When buying a property, you will be responsible for all fees. These include the legal fees and the survey fees. The UK government published a list of lawyers in Kuwait who can speak English. You are buying a property in a country which has very little in common with western practices so it is essential to hire the services of professionals who can explain complex situations to you. Your life savings and long term housing security are at risk if mistakes are made. Finding a building surveyor will be difficult and you will need to use local knowledge. The sale of property to foreigners is such a new and small market that related services are not widely marketed in English.

Your lawyer should register the sale with the Property Registration Department.

Once you have moved in, you will need to set up an account with the neighbourhood office for the Ministry of Electricity and Water. You will need to take a deposit of 100 Kuwaiti dinar, and your civil ID. The services of a mandoob will be helpful as he will explain the process and act as interpreter with the ministry staff, in return for a small fee. Once you have been supplied and are using the utilities, you will need to visit the offices to check your due payment as bills will not be posted out.

Similarly, you will need to pay for your phone landline one year in advance, and remember to return a year later to make the next payment, as again bills are not posted out.

The postal service does not bring mail to individual apartments. Instead, you can pay a small annual fee to hire a post office box at the Ministry of Communications. If you trust your company’s mail services, the alternative is to have your mail delivered to work.

The Hungarian Embassy recently issued a warning that criminals in Kuwait were attempting to sell Hungarian properties with the promise that it would give the new owners eligibility for residency in Hungary, which is not true. Complaints were also received about a lack of information and issues about prices. The Embassy is happy to advise anyone considering the purchase of a Hungarian property.

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