Dubai Office Space Guide: Renting vs Buying for Start-Ups

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June 4, 2024

Live the Dream – Dubai Start-Up Advice Series by Alpha Pro Partners

Dubai has emerged as one of the most lucrative spaces for start-ups to grow in recent times. Small businesses in Dubai have access to an incredible number of markets as well as it is one of the Middle East's premier business hubs. But when it comes to office space options, where is it best to start? When setting up an office in Dubai, there are a few essential points to consider. Not only are there costs and practicalities, but there are also co-working choices, too. Should you rent or buy an office? Where is the best place for you to set up a business? In this guide, we will take a look at the office space options businesses in Dubai should consider. We'll take a quick look at how you can get started, what you can expect from the area, and more.

Small Businesses in Dubai and Getting Started

When looking for office space in Dubai, you should ensure you have the appropriate business license to be able to work from that particular location. For example, if you wish to have an office at Dubai Marina, you will need to obtain an LLC license as this location is considered mainland. However, JLT (Jumeriah Lake Towers) is close by and is also the location of the DMCC free zone. Therefore if you lived in that area of Dubai and wanted to set up a free zone company, then getting a DMCC license and office space in JLT could be a realistic option. Beyond permissions, Dubai start-ups should be thinking about the size and cost of their space. 

Can you afford to buy an office space outright? Will it be more cost-effective to share an office with another firm? Possibly, but at the same time, you will need to consider your plans for long-term growth. Dubai is at the epicenter of Eastern commerce. Therefore, you should think carefully about where you want to be based and how much money you have to spend on developing your office. Let's take a closer look at your options.

Applying for Office Space for Dubai Start-Ups

With the relevant permissions to hand, it's now time to approach a commercial real estate agent. To be able to rent an office, you may be required to provide certain proofs and documents:

  • You will need to prove that you can legally run a business
  • You will need a business plan to prove your intentions
  • You will need to be able to pay a security or upfront deposit
  • You will need to agree to a term or contract at short notice

Buying an office is slightly different; however, an agent will still need confidence in you. Regardless of whether you rent or buy, you should prove that you can finance the office and that you are legally allowed to operate in Dubai. That may mean sourcing many documents. However, a commercial agent will be able to let you know what they require, and when. Always be ready to have a paper trail or portfolio to back you up.

To Lease or To Buy?

While some businesses have the capital to buy office space outright, renting or leasing space is more common. Renting office space holds plenty of immediate benefits:

  • You have less to pay upfront
  • You have fewer legal and contractual ties
  • You have full access to space without needing to own it outright
  • You can be flexible, in that you can move premises at short notice

However, buying an office holds benefits, too. Having your own office is a fantastic mark of prestige. Small businesses in Dubai may find it challenging to make progress right away. However, with a permanent, prominent office location, you will already be making positive impressions with potential clients. Also, keep in mind that it was maybe beneficial to buy an office space rather than renting in the long term.

Office Space Options in Dubai

If you choose to rent or lease an office space instead of buying outright, there are more choices to consider. These choices may be based on cost, the amount of space you need, or even on the location. You can choose to rent or buy an office outright; however, both serviced offices and co-working spaces are becoming more and more popular. Let's take a closer look at why, and whether or not they might be viable solutions for your business. Also, keep in mind that most offices will require considerable fit-out costs which could mean that serviced offices and co-working spaces may be the ideal short-term solution for some start-ups. 

Serviced Offices

Serviced offices can help businesses hit the ground running. If you run a small business in Dubai, you may not yet have all the resources or staff to handle your operations. Serviced offices take care of this for you. A serviced office is one which you can rent with certain add-ons attached. For example, you may need to hire a temporary receptionist. You may need an in-house IT team to help you get started. You may need a cleaning team to keep things looking great. Companies such as Regus and Serv Corp offer serviced office opportunities across the city other options include The Office Providers. Office servicing is a fantastic option for start-ups. It means that they can focus on getting their firms up and running while still making an income. However, service add-ons will cost additional money. It may not be financially viable for everyone.

Co-Working Spaces

Co-working spaces can be the most cost-effective solution for small businesses in Dubai and elsewhere. These are cozier offices which allow for closer collaboration. They are usually large open plan spaces with kitchens, desks, meeting rooms, and quiet rooms all in one place. The only downside is that you are sharing with other businesses and therefore you won't have your dedicated desk. On the plus side, it can also help businesses who need to collaborate regularly on projects. Rather than rent large spaces and extra rooms, it may make sense for small firms to co-work instead. However, your choice will depend on your needs and long-term plans. 

You’ll be able to find co-working space with NEST, which operates within a popular hotel in Barsha Heights. It’s also worth consulting with them to see what may be available. Another option could be the CoWorking Popup which also offers what they refer to as an ‘incubator’ or co-working space based in downtown Dubai. Many co-working spaces also allow you to operate on a pay-as-you-go basis so you would not need to pay a deposit and you may not even need to pay for a full month if you want more flexibility.

Choose What’s Best for You

There has never been a better time to start a business in Dubai. It is on the cusp of being one of the biggest trading centers globally. For many firms, it's a chance to get up close and personal with lucrative clients and big contracts as well as being a fantastic place to grow. Small businesses in Dubai can rent or buy office spaces across the region. However, the right office space options for you may vary. Discuss options with an agent, and always make sure you have the correct documentation on hand.


This article is written in general terms and therefore cannot be relied on to cover specific situations; application of the principles set out will depend upon the particular circumstances involved and we recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of its contents.

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