Expat accommodation in Qatar ranges from apartments and villas to sprawling expat compounds. Housing can be rather pricey in Qatar, but fortunately accommodation is often included in employment packages of highly qualified expats. Nevertheless, researching accommodation before moving can certainly help expats with budgeting.
Types of accommodation in Qatar
Expats will quickly notice that the most sought-after property is within expat compounds, though standalone villas and apartments are also available.
Companies that arrange employee accommodation often rent complete compounds, or sections of compounds, to ensure reduced expenses. These compounds resemble walled suburbs with security and a range of amenities. Some of the more upmarket compounds have luxury facilities, including small supermarkets, gyms, tennis courts, squash facilities and even restaurants.
These complexes are perfect for expat families with kids, with small garden spaces and shared swimming pools. The presence of other expat families can also be attractive and often helps to establish easy friendships and a sense of camaraderie.
Housing in expat compounds often come fully furnished, so it may not be necessary to ship belongings over. That said, unfurnished and semi-furnished options are also available, but we suggest expats who choose to ship belongings 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 extent of furnishings vary, though semi-furnished villas will often contain ready-installed air conditioning systems, large appliances and basic furniture.
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 near the ocean. Many apartment blocks have a gym attached and some offer cleaning and room services.
Most apartments are rented fully furnished, but the quality of appliances and furniture may not always be up to an expat’s standards, so it’s important to inspect accommodation before committing.
Finding accommodation in Qatar
For those who are going it alone, listings are available in the classifieds section of the Gulf Times, and on supermarket boards and real-estate websites, including Qatar Living, JustProperty and Property Finder. The services of a relocation company or local estate agent are strongly recommended, as these professionals know the various areas well and can save time researching properties and negotiating with landlords.
Renting accommodation in Qatar
The Ministry of Municipality and Environment manages all real-estate matters while some documents need to be overseen by the Real Estate and Residences Registration Office. This is where estate agents play a key role by facilitating transactions and arranging leases, utilities and deposits.
Expats will be happy to know that rent prices seem to be stabilising as more and more buildings are springing up all over Qatar.
If an expat’s employer arranges their accommodation, the company will negotiate the lease with the landlord. Otherwise, expats can expect to pay as much as 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.
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 translated into English for the tenants and the landlord.
Deposits in Qatar are normally a month's rent. For some expats working in Qatar, this may be part of an accommodation allowance, so are encouraged to negotiate for it where possible.
A comprehensive inventory of the property should be included in the rental contract, so both parties are aware of the full list and condition of furnishings.
Utilities are not usually included, but these costs are reasonable thanks to the government’s policy of subsidisation. That said, expats should make sure their housing in Qatar is equipped with an air conditioning unit before signing a lease. Temperatures soar in summer, and installing one can be expensive.
Tenancy agreements are typically for 12 months. If expats leave before this time, they must give notice and are charged a penalty for breaking the contract. Notice periods are normally two months, and penalties can be as much as two months’ rent.
Buying property in Qatar
Though most expats rent in Qatar, some may have an eye on real-estate investments. Non-Qataris may purchase land, buildings and sites for construction in approved areas. For GCC nationals, these include 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 we recommend that those keen on buying property seek advice from relocation companies, real-estate professionals and lawyers to assist.