15 Sep Location, Location, Desert!
Location, Location, Desert!
Today I am going to talk about the real estate market in Doha. This may be dull for some of you, so click away now…
OK, I think I’ve given them time to do one, so where was I? Oh yeah, property in Qatar, or more specifically in Doha. I’m the kind of nosey parker who receives a daily e-mail from Rightmove, even though I had no intention of moving whilst in the UK, and even now I don’t even live in the UK. I like to keep up to date with property prices in our area and frankly, I love to see what other peoples houses look like. I know, I know. Nosey. Well, recently I have developed the same fixation with the property market here. It’s not as fun because the pictures are usually rubbish and the places empty, but I love to check the prices out. Anyway, the long tall and short of it is that I’m going to tell you what I know about it. Now what I will say is that I’m talking about the property market for affluent expats. The ones who get paid a decent salary and get a decent package. Things are very different if you’re a ‘blue collar’ worker here, but that’s a whole other story.
The property market here is quite different to that of the UK. The vast majority of the residential market is rental for a start. For a family like ours, the main options are to rent a villa in a compound, or to live in an apartment in a high rise. There are other options, like stand alone villas, but those two seem to be the main options. Doha is divided into sub districts, and some are more desirable that others, just like anywhere I guess. For instance, we live in Al Waab. This area is made up of lots of compounds and is near to some of the more popular schools. It’s therefore popular with families. It’s close to the Villagio mall and Aspire Park which is a large green area (rare here as you can imagine). Ok, so its too frickin’ hot to enjoy said park, but we’re close to it! I’d say that this is a middle of the range area price wise. So you can rent a four bedroom villa anywhere from 14,000 QAR up to 20,000 QAR (£2900 – £4200) per month.
It depends on the compound, what its equipped with, what the landlord is like etc. Most compounds will have a pool, a gym and a communal area for socializing. Oh, and a squash court. That’s essential here for some reason. Larger compounds may have their own shops, hairdressers, a cinema, dry cleaner and so on. This is also true of apartment towers. Some of the posher ones will have all of the above amenities. Some won’t. The more stuff there is, the higher the cost. Obviously you usually get less space in an apartment. In our area, villas tend to be four bed as a minimum. That’s because one room will be classed as the maids’ bedroom! Another essential requirement apparently! Some places come partially or fully furnished, especially at the higher end of the market. There’s onsite maintenance at most places for when things go wrong in your homestead. And things do go wrong….all the time.
If you want to get more bang for ya’ buck, then areas like Al Gharafa and Old Airport seem to be the cheaper areas of town. Those area’s are considered less desirable nowadays, and the housing stock generally older. These areas are not as easy on the eye, and all this is reflected in rental costs. So there you can pick up a 4 bed compound villa for about 12,000 QAR (£2,500). Still expensive in my book!
More salubrious area’s of the city include West Bay, West Bay Lagoon and of course The Pearl. West Bay is basically the city slicker area of Doha. That’s where all of the sleek cosmopolitan towers are. It’s the Doha metropolis. There you can enjoy fine dining and more importantly a swanky cocktail whilst surrounded by the beautiful people. Ok, so maybe the beautiful people is an exaggeration. Most rental properties in West Bay seem to be apartments. It’s more pricey to live there. Two beds seem to rent for 12-14,000 QAR (£2,500-£3,000) and a larger 3 bed will be around 16 -18,000 QAR (£3,300 – £3,700) per month, maybe more. West Bay Lagoon has some swish towers too but also lush compounds and if I could, that’s where I’d be. Overlooking the sea, sipping a cocktail out on the deck, shortly before collapsing with heat stroke. A bargain for 25,000 (£5,200) riyals a month!
If you want to rub shoulders with the elite, hob nob with the millionaires, then the Pearl is where you want to be. This is a manmade area of the city build around an impressive looking harbour. A lot of the accommodation here is apartment living, but there are townhouse style properties and some villas. The prices, well, they’ll make your eyes water (I’m sure they’re watering already. I have a little cry each time I’m reminded how much our rent is.) You’re looking at 16,000 QAR for a nice two-bed apartment and I saw the most gorgeous 4-bed villa for rent by the beach. It had its own infinity pool and everything….but at 70,000 QAR (£14,700) per month I can only dream!
The Pearl is very impressive, even if large parts of it are still under construction. There’s the beautiful sweeping promenade around a large harbour containing lots of boats, and of course the requisite super yachts. You’ll find countless restaurants, and high-end shops for the more well heeled! It’s the kind of place where you’d strut along in your oversized Chanel sunglasses, Hermes handbag swinging on your arm while you carefully navigated the paving in your Louboutins. (I do not and will never own any of those things!) The only thing that lets it down is that The Pearl is not licensed for alcohol. It would be a perfect place for supplying a glass of fizzy, but alas, it’ll just have to be perrier!! Also, nowadays it’s a touch ghost-townish to the point where they try to create an atmosphere by piping music out along the promenade. Last year saw the abrupt end of a lot of contracts here as the oil price fell, and thus the departure of the more well heeled. Last time I was there, I hardly saw anyone, and to make matters worse I had to endure a panpipe version of ‘My Heart will go on’ by Celine Dione!
I doubt many ex-pats would be looking to buy property. I’m not sure even your average affluent Qatari does. The minimum price I have seen to purchase a villa has been around the 4 million mark. That’s a cool £8.4 million. Yikes. I imagine that property isn’t seen as a long-term investment in Qatar. A building is considered to be old once it reaches 10 years old and has a compulsory demolition order placed on it after 40 years. Most of the UK would’ve been razed to the ground by now! Doha has grown massively in the last 30 odd years. In 1976, the population of Qatar stood at around 170,000. Today it’s 2.3 million. This rush to expand is undoubtedly reflected in the build quality of most of the housing stock…and beyond. When you pay the equivalent of £3K a month to live somewhere you expect perfection, but you quickly discover you have to lower those expectations sharpish if you want to maintain your sanity. Believe me, there are enough challenges to your sanity here as it is!
There are lots of ‘quirks’ in our villa. For instance, if you want to turn the landing light on, you have to use the switch inside Olivia’s bedroom. Not ideal when that room contains a rabid teenager. In our old villa, we had loads of switches that just didn’t do anything. Although there is the possibility that as we were flicking them on and off the house across the street were thinking they had a major problem with their electricity as their lights flashed! And don’t be expecting your doors to hang straight and not allow dust in. That’s just silly talk.
So the headline here is that it’s not cheap to rent in Doha, although there is a rumour that prices are beginning to fall. You get more value for money out of a villa, depending on where you live. There is no real mortgage market as far as I’m aware. (I could be wrong). There was an article on Doha News recently reporting that two out of every 100 people in Doha are millionaires. When you consider that Qatari nationals make up roughly 12% of the population here, a further 5-10% making up more affluent expats and the remaining 78% being blue-collar workers, you can guess where that wealth really lies. (These are approximate figs. based on some online data.) I imagine that they would just buy a property outright. If you do happen to have 4 million riyals knocking about and you decide to buy a villa, don’t be upset when your windows fall out and your roof falls off, cos’ that’s the way it is.
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