Accommodation in Qatar
For the most part, accommodation remains one of the main financial benefits included in packages geared towards luring qualified personnel from all over the world to assist in the emirate's growth. The majority of expats who move to Qatar for work purposes arrive to accommodation chosen by their employer.
Renting housing in compounds in Qatar
Whether lucky enough to have their company organise accommodation as part of a lucrative expat package, or whether the move to Qatar has been made with little or no knowledge of the housing market, expats will quickly realise that the most sought after property is within expat compounds – veritable walled suburbs with 24-hour security and all other amenities required for comfortable expat living.
Families with children often prefer the compounds for the peace of mind that the safe and secure public space can provide. The presence of other families with shared values can also be attractive, and can help to establish easy friendships and a sense of camaraderie.
In many cases, companies often rent complete compounds or sections of compounds to ensure a reduction in rates. Compounds can consist of as few as six, or as many as hundreds of units, and usually have a shared swimming pool and a club house with gym equipment. Some of the larger and more upmarket compounds have luxury facilities, including small supermarkets, tennis courts, squash facilities and, in some cases, restaurants.
Housing in expat compounds in Qatar often comes fully furnished (FF), so it may not be necessary for expats to box up their belongings and ship them overseas. If this isn’t a preferred option, unfurnished (UF) and semi-furnished (SF) options are also available, although those who are interested may want to include an adequate shipping and start-up allowance in
their employment contract to cover furnishing costs.
If the employer is organising the expat's accommodation, they will negotiate the lease with the landlord. If not, expats should expect to pay one year’s rent up front. Most expats choose to make the payment with a number of post-dated cheques; although, those who can afford to pay in one lump sum can often leverage a lower price.
For the most part, utilities are not included although, due to the government’s policy of subsidisation, these costs are reasonable.
Renting apartments and villas in Qatar
While a high demand exists for compound housing in Qatar, renting outside of these insular communities is also commonplace. Both stand-alone villas and apartments are widely available.
Villas typically have four bedrooms or more, and often have a small enclosed garden area. Freestanding villas are not customarily fully furnished, while semi-furnished villas will often contain simple appliances, air-conditioning and registered utilities. Freestanding villas used to be far more expensive than compound villas, but this has changed with shifts in supply and demand.
By contrast, apartments and flats are fairly abundant in Doha. Choices range from small one-bedroom apartments in busy downtown areas to large five-bedroom apartments in upmarket buildings close to the ocean.
The majority of apartments are rented fully furnished, and if choosing an apartment or flat in an older built-up or busy area with dated buildings, expats should proceed with the utmost caution. Broken appliances, furniture and undesirable neighbours can become quite problematic. At very low rents, landlords tend to shift maintenance issues onto often ill-informed tenants.
It’s strongly suggested expats employ the services of a local real estate agent. The tenant of a property pays the agent’s commission which usually equals around 50 percent of one month's rent. In some situations this may lead to a slightly higher rent. But, more often than not, having an individual to negotiate the language barrier and eliminate the time in finding appropriate options is well worth the extra fee.
Otherwise, listings are available in the classifieds section of the English newspaper, the Gulf Times, as well as on supermarket boards and realty web sites.
One year’s rent is expected up front, although payment can be made in the form of post-dated cheques. As with compound housing, if costs can be covered with one cheque, a lower rental price can likely be negotiated.
Expats must make sure that their housing in Qatar is equipped with an air conditioning unit. Temperatures soar in summer, and installing this facility can be expensive. Utilities are normally paid by the tenant.
Residential areas in Qatar
The strong sense of safety pervasive in Doha and the surrounding Qatari regions has negotiated a housing market with very few “bad” neighbourhoods, and largely uniform price ranges.
Eliminating these variables means that expats are free and encouraged to select accommodation based on elements such as proximity to school and work.
There are also upmarket options worth considering for expats interested in living the life of luxury in The Pearl, akin to the Qatar Riviera; and West Bay, rife with embassies, enormous villas and a Western atmosphere.