Top tips before buying off-plan and signing the sales & purchase agreement


Have you ever been impressed with off-plan project promotions? In order to make sure that you get what you saw, then you need to scrutinize the sales and purchase agreement with a fine-tooth comb before purchasing an off-plan property..

A sales and purchase agreement (SPA) is a binding and legal contract that obligates a transaction between the buyer and the seller. SPAs are typically used for real estate transactions, but they are found in all areas of business. The agreement finalizes the terms and conditions of the sale. Usually, it is prepared by well-versed lawyers to protect the interest of the seller. However, you can always negotiate the terms and conditions, and here are the top tips to consider before signing the SPA. 

You are not buying only the property, but also you are buying the living experience conveyed through the project amenities. So, the SPA should clearly state the included amenities and services, and the developer under no circumstances may change or remove any amenities e.g, it is reported that the proposed rainforest in Akoya Oxygen has been canceled.

After you understand the affection plan of the property, make sure to include these dimensions in the SPA with a clause to cancel the purchase in case of any change. It was reported that some developers narrowed the kitchen doors where kitchen appliances cannot go out of the kitchen anymore. If you are buying a villa or townhouse then make sure to understand how much distance is there between the villas or townhouses rows e.g., in Grand Views villas the distance between townhouses is really narrow and balconies do not even fit a chair.

Especially when buying a furnished apartment or villa for holiday homes investment, ensure that your SPA includes a detailed description of the furniture specifications e.g., The brand, country of origin, colors, quantity... Do not accept generic clauses like "Furniture package is provided". It was reported that a developer canceled the furniture and handed over the properties without furniture and paid owners an unfair compensation; however, the developer was protected because the SPA did not include a clear specifications of the furniture.

Completion date vs. handover notice date  vs. handover date:

The SPA must have a clear “handover date” instead of “Completion date” because completing the project does not mean receiving the keys of your property.

In case the SPA states that you should start paying service charges from the completion date or the date of receiving the handover notice, then make sure to change it. You should start paying service charges based on the handover date i.e., the date on which you receive the property keys.

The SPA should state a clear timeframe between the Completion date and the handover date.

The late handover penalty should be calculated for the period between the proposed and actual handover dates.

Currently, there is a clear law to protect the developer in the case the buyer defaults, but there is no clear law in case the developer defaults or takes unacceptable time to deliver the project e.g., The pad tower in Business Bay has been under construction for 12 years. Also, Prive Tower in Business Bay was 3.5 years overdue. So, try your best to include in the SPA a clear cancellation clause. If the developer does not agree, and you still want to proceed with buying the property, then make sure that you are, at least, satisfied with the penalty clause in case the developer does not deliver on time. 

The SPA must include a clear clause that the developer has no right to change the usage of the property in the future e.g., it was reported that a developer has been pressuring owners to change the title deed from hotel apartments to residential apartments. That change might include a devaluation of your property.


It might become really hard to sell your property before handover because some developers change the SPA terms for the new buyer. So, in order to ensure a seamless selling process, your SPA must include a clear clause that the developer may not change the terms of the SPA when you sell your property.

The SPA must be free from any non-disclosure clauses e.g, some developers inject a clause like, “You may not share the terms of this SPA on social media..”

Keep in mind that, by law the property developer :

Has the right to deliver the property with minus/plus 5% of the original agreed size, and chances are it will be minus 5% without refunding any amount to you.

Can be 12 months late to handover from the date on the SPA.

  1. The late handover penalty should be deducted from the final payment instead of spending efforts and time in courts.
  2. The SPA may NOT restrict you from renting your property or dictates on you who can or cannot visit or enter your property….

Upon the handover, there is a chance that the developer imposes "handover terms" that override the SPA terms where you do not get your property unless you sign these new terms. In this case, you need to file a complaint on the Dubai Land Department website, or you can take a proactive approach by adding a clear clause on the SPA stating, "The developer may not impose or introduce any changes to the SPA, and under no circumstance, the developer may delay the handover after the completion".

Finally, remember that if you do not like the SPA terms and conditions, then you can simply walk away with no regret at all and consider buying a ready property.

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