Finding suitable accommodation in Doha is a priority for expats moving to the city. The task of manoeuvring one's way through the bureaucracy of a foreign property market can be challenging, and the accommodation scene in Doha is developing rapidly in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Areas are constantly changing and accommodation is being upgraded – it can be hard to keep up, even for Doha residents.
Types of accommodation in Doha
Expats living in Doha will have a choice of accommodation options available for them depending on the neighbourhood or area they prefer. From villas and apartments to housing on sprawling, fully equipped expat compounds, new arrivals will be sure to find something to suit their individual needs.
Compounds are great for families to make friends with neighbours who share garden spaces and a swimming pool and can get to know each other. While some compounds offer standard and basic amenities, upscale luxury facilities abound in others, from gyms and tennis courts to restaurants.
Demand for compound accommodation is high, making it difficult to secure, but expats may find villas and apartments equally attractive. Freestanding villas also have a homely feel to them and those who can afford all the luxuries of living in Doha can enjoy a large house with a decent-sized garden. Additionally, apartments are often suitable for single residents and young professionals, though some have multiple bedrooms.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Most accommodation in Doha comes fully furnished, which saves expats from having to ship their goods to Qatar. If this isn’t a preferred option, unfurnished and semi-furnished options are also available. Those who are interested may want to negotiate an adequate shipping and start-up allowance in their employment contract to cover furnishing costs.
Finding accommodation in Doha
For the most part, accommodation remains one of the main benefits included in the lucrative expat employment packages. This takes much of the hassle of manoeuvring the property market out of an expat's hands.
Before moving, expats can familiarise themselves with available property and living options through online realty websites and platforms such as Qatar Living, JustProperty and Property Finder.
Expats who don't have the luxury of their employer's assistance in the search for property should enlist the services of a relocation company and a local real estate agent. These professionals have an intimate knowledge of Doha's property market and are often in a position to alert their clients to potential options before they are publicly advertised. Agents also help foreigners negotiate any language barrier in Qatar and can have any necessary documents translated.
Renting accommodation in Doha
Most expats rent accommodation, rather than buy in Doha. Both the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and the Real Estate and Residences Registration Office oversee and manage matters on leases and land investments in Doha. When renting accommodation in the capital, expats must enlist real estate agents who will ensure the necessary documents get certified and registered through the correct governing body.
One of the main things to understand is Qatar’s culture. This influences the local way of living as well as its laws, and as such, couples cannot live together unless they are married (though in practice, many do). When looking into renting in Doha and the move to Qatar, do consider this.
If the employer is organising an expat's accommodation, they will negotiate the lease with the landlord. If not, expats may have to pay one year’s rent upfront or in quarterly instalments. The majority of expats in Doha choose to pay rent with post-dated cheques. Over the stipulated lease period, rent cannot increase.
Rental contracts in Doha are drawn up in Arabic and expats will receive a copy translated in English or their home language.
Deposits are normally a month's worth of rent. For some expats working in Qatar, this may be included in an accommodation allowance, so do negotiate for it where possible.
Tenants are normally responsible for paying utilities.
It's essential to receive an inventory detailing the standard of facilities and the available utilities in any rental. This ensures landlords and tenants know who is responsible for utility fees or general maintenance issues and it helps to avoid any conflicts when at the end of the lease period.
Expats must usually give two months' notice but face high penalties for breaking a tenancy contract. When negotiating with a landlord, make an effort to understand what happens in the event of early termination.