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Expat accommodation in Qatar ranges from apartments and individual villas to sprawling expat compounds. And though paying rent largely contributes to the overall cost of living, accommodation is one of the main financial benefits included in employment packages to lure in highly qualified foreign personnel. Most expats who move to Qatar for work purposes arrive with accommodation chosen and organised by their employer.
Types of accommodation in Qatar
Expats quickly notice that the most sought-after property is within expat compounds, though standalone villas and apartments are also available.
Many companies who arrange employee accommodation rent complete compounds or sections of compounds to ensure a reduction in their expenses. These compounds resemble walled suburbs with security and a range of amenities required for comfortable living. Some of the more upmarket compounds have luxury facilities, including small supermarkets, gyms, tennis courts, squash facilities and even restaurants.
Expat families with kids may find these complexes perfect with small garden spaces and shared swimming pools. The presence of other families with shared values can also be attractive and can help to establish easy friendships and a sense of camaraderie.
Housing and villas in expat compounds in Qatar often comes fully furnished, so it may not be necessary for expats to box up and ship their belongings over. Otherwise, unfurnished and semi-furnished options are also available and we suggest expats negotiate the inclusion of an adequate shipping allowance.
Standalone villas tend to offer large, spacious housing – often with a hefty price tag attached. These are not part of any gated complexes and typically have four bedrooms or more and an enclosed garden area.
The standard and level of furnishings of these vary, though semi-furnished villas will often contain ready-installed air conditioning systems, large appliances and basic furnishings.
Apartments and flats are abundant in Qatar, especially 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. Many apartment blocks have a gym attached and some offer cleaning and room services.
Most apartments are rented fully furnished. Be aware that if choosing an apartment or flat in an older built-up or busy area with dated buildings, the standard of facilities and appliances may be undesirable. Lower rents in these areas may come at a higher price in the long run, so do fully inspect the flat before making any commitments.
Finding accommodation in Qatar
Most expats living in Qatar are lucky enough to have their employer arrange their accommodation. This takes much of the stress out of the process of relocating and having to get to grips with the property market in an unfamiliar country.
For those that are going it alone, listings are available in the classifieds section of the English newspaper, the Gulf Times, as well as on supermarket boards and realty websites. There are many of these online platforms, including Qatar Living, JustProperty and Property Finder.
The services of a relocation company or local real estate agent are strongly recommended. Having a local professional saves time with finding appropriate options and negotiating. These agencies will charge a fee, so be sure to ask for a quote before selecting the most competitive price and services.
Renting accommodation in Qatar
The Ministry of Municipality and Environment manages all real estate matters while some documents may need to be overseen by the Real Estate and Residences Registration Office. This is where real estate agents play their role in facilitating the transactions.
Expats will be happy to hear that rent prices seem to be stabilising in Qatar as more and more buildings are planned. Still, there are particulars about leases, deposits and utilities that must be considered – particularly that rent is required in a lump sum.
If the employer is organising an expat's accommodation, they will negotiate the lease with the landlord. If not, expats should expect to pay one year’s rent upfront. Most expats choose to make the payment with post-dated cheques, although those who can afford to pay in one lump sum can often leverage a lower price. Rent can also be paid quarterly. Whatever the method, payments must be made timeously.
In the tenant’s favour, rental fees cannot go up within the 12 months designated by the lease.
Leases in Qatar are established in Arabic and expats will receive a copy translated in English so both the tenants and the landlord are on the same page.
Deposits in Qatar are normally a month and a half’s rent. For some expats working in Qatar, this may be part of an accommodation allowance, so do negotiate for it where possible.
Utilities are not usually included, but these costs are reasonable thanks to the government’s policy of subsidisation.
Whatever the type of accommodation, expats should make sure that their housing in Qatar is equipped with an air conditioning unit before signing any lease. Temperatures soar in summer, and installing this facility can be expensive.
A comprehensive inventory should be provided to the tenant which allows both parties to be aware of the level of furnishings and any maintenance issues.
Tenancy agreements typically extend over 12 months. If expats leave before this time, they must give notice and are charged a penalty for breaking the contract. Notice periods as stipulated in the lease are normally two months, and penalties are normally two months worth of rent. In some cases, this could vary and we recommend seeking the services of legal professionals.
Buying property in Qatar
Though most expats rent in Qatar, some may have an eye on real estate market investments. Non-Qataris can purchase land, buildings and sites for construction in approved areas. For GCC nationals, these are in Lusail, Al Khuraj, Thaayleb Mountain, and for all other non-Qatari citizens, these are The Pearl-Qatar, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor Resort Project.
Owning land in Qatar entitles foreign citizens to longer-term resident visas that are otherwise difficult to attain.
These designated investment areas are highly exclusive and expensive and those keen on buying property must seek advice from real estate professionals and lawyers to assist the legal process.
►For information about the best areas in Qatar for expats to live in, see Areas and Suburbs in Doha
"We have a bigger house here than we could ever afford at home. Having said that, gardens are generally small or non-existent, and electrical fittings and plumbing can be a little, shall we say, experimental..." Read more in our interview with Victoria, a British expat in Doha.
"I rate the standard of accommodation 7 out of 10 – though taking care to make note that this is depending on the type of accommodation we are negotiating." Read about the experiences of expat Yogesh Pagar in this interview.
Are you an expat living in Qatar?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Qatar. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
I am a South African travel addict turned global citizen. I love reading, painting and writing. I am passionate about motorcycles and women's rights. Aroma Therapy is a hobby which I turned into a business, and the benefits and power of this holistic healing treatment astound me daily. I believe that the women of the Middle East are slowly coming into their own, and that this is fast becoming a good news story. We can all make a difference if we buckle down and start in our own backyard today.
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