House Hunting in Doha
With more and more expats arriving in Qatar every month, one of the biggest challenges you are likely to face as a new arrival is the hunt for your ideal home.
Accommodation can be found to suit just about any lifestyle, however the supply is struggling to keep up with the high demand. Add to that the fact that you're in a new country with its own sets of rules and ways of doing things, and you might find yourself with a bit of a headache.
You need to be prepared, proactive and use every ounce of initiative you have. Here is some advice to help you find your perfect home away from home.
Set your priorities early on
What do I want?
Decide exactly what type of accommodation you are looking for. Ask yourself how much space you need and how deep are your pockets? Do you need a two-bedroom apartment or a four-bedroom villa with a garden? Also, consider what facilities you need. Does compound life appeal to you or would you prefer the privacy of a stand-alone villa?
Decide whether you want fully furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished accommodation. Check whether the costs of shipping your furniture are included in your contract before opting for unfurnished. If you would prefer to avoid shipping costs or getting tied up with furniture purchases, then fully furnished may be the option for you.
Location, location, location!
Decide where you want to live and focus your search on that area.
Traffic is a real problem in Doha, so take into consideration your commute to work and school when choosing a location. Most real estate agents will confirm that the number one requirement for expats shifting home, aside from budget, is their proximity to work and the children’s school. Make this a priority when house-hunting.
What type of lease do I want?
To rent a property in Qatar, there are two lease options. One, your company can take care of the rental lease for you; two, you can sign the lease personally. A word of warning; if you opt for a company lease and you need to leave Qatar mid-contract, your company will still be responsible for the remainder of the rental term and therefore may require full payment from you or for you to arrange someone else to take over the lease. If you sign the lease, and you can produce a termination letter and your cancelled visa, a rental contract can be broken with sufficient notice.
For many though, this decision is out of their hands. Some companies arrange the lease for their employees, whilst other companies require their new employees to personally organise their own accommodation.
Phone a friend or a middleman
Make use of any contacts, friends or acquaintances you have in Qatar before starting your search. However, if you have absolutely no one to help you and need solid, practical advice, hiring the help of an agent may be a good option for you.
Real estate agents can help you maximise your time and search efforts, but they do come at a price. Agents in Qatar generally charge two weeks of the monthly rental cost. You can enlist the help of an agent before you arrive and set up numerous viewings before you even land. The agent will also have sample contracts, they will understand rental laws and be able to supply photos of properties. Reputable agents have websites so you can also view properties from your home country to start getting a feel for the local market before you come.
Sounds perfect, right? There's a catch. Qatar’s real estate market can be competitive, and finding an agent to stick with you can be an uphill challenge. Most expats' main complaint about agents is their lack of follow-up and failure to answer the phone. If your housing budget is at the lower end of the scale, agents will generally be less keen to assist as their commission will be far lower than with clients looking to rent villas or more expensive properties.
Local newspapers can be a useful tool for house-hunting newcomers in Qatar. By simply looking in the real estate listings of the classified sections, you will be able to get a comprehensive list of estate agents and their contact details. It is also a good source of information if you are looking to rent a property directly from the owners. However, the adverts are often vague, not up to date, full of abbreviations, and weeding through them can be a real chore.
The internet & social media
A good way to start looking for a property in Qatar is to use the internet and social media networks. There are numerous useful websites and social network groups available where you can get genuine feedback on properties, landlords and real estate agents and share information easily and quickly.
Communities such as Doha Mums, the Tuesday Ladies Group, Expat Woman and other nation-specific groups (e.g. Russians in Qatar and Canadians in Qatar, both of which have Facebook pages) can be a great starting point to connect with people already in Doha. Here you will have access to a wealth of practical information and unbiased advice on accommodation.
Two other great sources of information are Qatar Living and I Love Qatar. These sites are geared more towards anonymous internet discussions, current events and local news, but they also have classified sections and a forum to post questions. Feedback from such sites is not always constructive, and can be very frustrating, especially when your questions or concerns turn into humorous banter between members.
Read the fine print
- Rental payments are by post-dated cheque with a refundable security deposit equal to one month's rent.
- Contracts are drawn up in English and Arabic.
- Should you receive a contract only in Arabic it is within your rights to request a copy in English.
- Read your contract carefully and ensure that the Arabic terms correlate with the English terms, as the Arabic contract will prevail should there be a dispute.
- Keep the lines of communication going until you have an agreement in writing—a verbal promise isn't enough.
Social media forums, local newspapers and agents are all useful tools to finding your perfect abode, but your most important asset is yourself. Go out and about, meet real estate agents and landlords, make contacts, make friends and put the word out that you're looking for accommodation. Most importantly, don't just sit back and relax—sweet-talk, schmooze, pester, hassle and negotiate until you find your perfect home!
THIS ADVICE WAS PROVIDED BY FUTUREGATE, WHICH PROVIDES RELOCATION & IMMIGRATION SERVICES, ESTABLISHES NEW COMPANIES AND ASSISTS WITH LEGAL MATTERS. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT FUTUREGATE.INFO