Off-plan vs Secondary Properties in UAE: Which to Buy?

When you just start your search for a new property in Dubai, you’ll likely be asked if you are looking for off-plan, primary or secondary properties. In fact, this is one of the most crucial decisions you need to make when property hunting. 

This may be a problem if you’re not quite sure what the difference is or why it matters. That is where this article comes in!

We will break down all these terms and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary properties so that you can make a more informed decision. 

off plan properties

Primary Properties:

As the name suggests, primary properties are new properties built by a developer. You can either buy a primary property directly from the developer’s sales team or through a broker. 

Buying a primary property means that it had no previous owners, and you will be the first to purchase it from the developer. Note that primary properties can either be ‘Off-plan’ or ‘Ready’. 

This is an important distinction to mention, as sometimes the terms Primary and off-plan are used interchangeably. 

To clarify, here is the meaning of‘Ready’ and‘Off-plan’ properties in the Dubai real estate market: 

  • Off-plan Property: The property is still under construction, and the developer commits to deliver it by a set date.
  • Ready Property: Construction for the property is complete, and it is ready to be moved in immediately. 
off plan property dubai meaning

Secondary Properties:

In contrast, a secondary property is one that is previously owned, and the owner (not the developer) is looking to sell it for profit. 

In short, secondary properties are those that are presently rented out or occupied by the owner and are already on the market for rental or sub-sale purposes.

Moreover, these kinds of homes are typically located in established neighbourhoods. However, occasionally an owner of an off-plan property may choose to sell it; hence some secondary properties can be off-plan in communities that have yet to mature.

secondary property in dubai meaning

Which Is Better: Primary Vs Secondary Properties?

Primary Properties:


✓ Latest Designs

Buying a new primary property means you’ll be getting the most cutting-edge designs and amenities. However, beyond the aesthetics, there are many financial advantages to looking into the primary market. 

✓ Lower Market Price

One of the main benefits of buying primary is that their price can be significantly lower than the market price. That is because developers often offer discounts and deals that allow you to get much more value for the money. 

✓ Developer Promotions & Flexible Payment Plans

Some developers offer to cover some legal costs, such as the 4% Dubai Land Department fee, making it even more fiscally attractive. Moreover, many primary properties have flexible payment plans. 

✓ Higher Return on Investment

The above factors lead primary properties to have a healthy capital appreciation (a rise in the unit’s market value) even before construction is complete. 

Essentially, taking advantage of these financial incentives means you can purchase a primary property at a lower price and sell at a much higher price for a significant profit. Hence, primary and off-plan properties in Dubai are attractive investments. 

✓ Low or No Refurbishment Cost

Another obvious advantage of primary properties is that because the units are brand new, you will likely spend very little money on refurbishments. 

dubai off plan property investment


✗ Limited Supply

Currently, the demand for primary properties outstrips the supply. Accordingly, primary units sell out within a matter of days after developers put them on the market. That is why one of the challenges when trying to find primary units is acting fast enough. 

✗ Possibility of Project Abandonment

There is a slight risk if you buy an off-plan property, as developers may abandon the project in case they run into financial difficulties. However, the authorities set strict regulations to protect anyone who buys off-plan properties in Dubai. 

For example, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) and Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) demand developers deposit 20% of the project’s cost into an escrow account. This is just one of the safeguards in place to ensure developers have enough funds to complete the development. 

✗ Delivery Might Not Meet Expectations

Particularly with off-plan primary units, you won’t know exactly what it will look like until construction is complete. Hence, you run the risk of reality falling short of the 3D models shown by the developer. 

That is why it is critical to only purchase from well-established developers that have an excellent track record of delivering high-quality projects on time. 

cons of off plan in dubai

Secondary Properties:


✓ Established Unit and Location

Secondary properties are often ‘Ready’ properties and are located in established neighbourhoods. Accordingly, you will have a better idea of what it would be like to live there, from the maintenance to the amenities and even your neighbours.

✓ Wider Choice of Options

As we mentioned before, the primary market is extremely fast-paced. This means that primary properties sell out very quickly; accordingly, they are much harder to come by compared to secondary properties.  

Therefore the benefit of looking into the secondary market is that you may have a wider choice of options, and you’ll have a bit more time to make your decision. 

✓ Negotiable & Lower Price 

Lastly, despite not having access to developer promos, secondary properties can occasionally be more affordable than brand-new units. Moreover, with the help of a competent real estate agent, you can negotiate the price down so that you get great value for your money. 


✗ Renovation Costs

On the other hand, a downside of purchasing a previously lived-in or leased property is that you may need to carry out renovations. The extent of the refurbishing you’ll need to do will depend on how old the unit is and how well its previous owners maintained it. 

Generally, if the unit is more than 10 years old, we advise that you factor a reasonable amount of money into your budget for any repairs and renovations. 

✗ Older design

Moreover, depending on how long the property has been on the market, you may not get the most modern and cutting-edge designs. 

✗ Less flexible payment plans

In the secondary market, you won’t have access to the same flexible payment plans that developers offer. 

In conclusion, primary and secondary properties each has their advantages and disadvantages. Your choice between the two depends on your financial situation, needs, and risk tolerance.  

Now that you know what to look out for in each market, check out over 100,000 primary and secondary properties for sale on Property Finder. 

If you’d like more advice before you embark on your property-buying journey, check out our top tips for buying property in Dubai like a pro!

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This Blog is made available for educational purposes only, in addition to providing you with general information and a general understanding of its content, including referenced laws and regulations, and not to provide specific legal advice. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent advice from a licensed professional.