So my previous post about Private Schools in Qatar turned out to be a huge success. I’m honestly overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback as well as the number of downloads!
Today, I’ll cover another topic very close to our hearts: house-hunting in Qatar! During the 7+ years spent in Doha, we have lived in 4 completely different places, including an apartment building, a flat in a partitioned villa, and a compound villa (100% of it, hallelujah!). We’ve also set all kinds of rental budgets, depending on our financial situation, starting from below QAR 3500 in 2012, finishing at QAR 11,000+ in 2018.
And now, with our move back to Qatar imminent, we are bound to start our search all over again.
In this post, you will find a bunch of useful tips and lessons which we have learned (sometimes in a hard way!) throughout our house-hunting journeys. I will also share a link to a free downloadable checklist, at the bottom of this guide.
First and foremost: what to consider before starting the actual search?
1. Distance, distance, distance…
- To work.
It goes without saying that looking for a place in Lusail while your office is located in Al Wakra, is not the best of ideas. In your search, aim for areas near your work, unless of course there’s a reason to look elsewhere, such as…
- Your kid’s school.
There is an ongoing battle of opinions: should you look for a house close to a school, or for a school close to your house? 🙂 Since the number of good schools (and available spots there) is significantly lower than the number of places for rent in Doha, I’d say looking for a house close to school makes more sense.
- A metro station.
Not all of us are lucky enough to own/rent a car. Sometimes spouses share one vehicle, sometimes there’s no vehicle at all. The newly opened Doha Metro provides a perfect alternative. So, if for any reason you’re not driving in Qatar, look for a place close to a metro station, or at least to a metro link bus!
- Other places of interest.
Each one of us has their own priorities. For some, it will be easy access to a mosque, or a mall, for others it might be the proximity of a park, a gym or a playground. Whichever it is for you, while you’re house-hunting in Qatar make sure all the places you’re considering are located nearby.
2. The traffic situation in your area of interest.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this. You might find the loveliest place, but you will spend a ridiculous amount of time in your car, stuck in a traffic jam during peak hours. This is one of the reasons why certain neighborhoods are cheaper than others. Our first place was in Al Sadd and the traffic there was pretty bad! While house-hunting later on, we made sure that the place is well-connected to at least one of Doha’s highways.
3. Ongoing and upcoming construction projects in the area.
That’s a tricky one! As a rule, construction in Doha can go on round-the-clock (except Friday prayer time I guess). I’ve heard lots of people complaining that they can’t sleep at night because of some drilling activities outside happening after 10pm. You could try to complain to Baladiya, but chances are that the company responsible for the project got all the necessary approvals to carry on full time. It is also wise to dig a bit deeper and find out whether anything WILL START HAPPENING close to the place you like, in the nearest future. Especially if, for example, there’s a big, suspiciously empty plot of land right next to the property.
4. Plans for the neighborhood in the nearest future.
When a friend of mine decided to move to Al Kheesa a couple of years ago, I thought he’s crazy. It’s in the middle of the desert! “Just wait!” – he told me. Now he lives right next to Festival City and a stone throw from many reputable private schools. Also, he pays really low rent as he wisely signed his rental contract for many years, back when the area was not desirable at all. When I grow up I wanna be like him. 🙂
So, how does one look for a place to rent?
When we embark on a house-hunting journey in Qatar, we use a variety of tools to look for places, depending mostly on how desperate we are and how much time we have on our hands. 😉 What worked best for us so far? What are the upsides and downsides of each way to search?
1. Websites/Apps (Qatar Living, Propertyfinder, OLX, Mubawab etc.).
Looking for properties on websites (or in their mobile apps) will provide you with tones of results. More than any other way of property search.
Unfortunately, you will spend a lot of time filtering the available info. Some properties might have been rented already, some agents are notorious for not picking up their phones, many ads don’t include any photos or photos don’t reflect the actual condition of the place. The list goes on…
2. Facebook local groups.
After you join the groups, you don’t have to do literally anything, properties for rent just keep popping on your Facebook news feed. 😉 Also, you are able to post your requirements on there, for all the agents to see and you might get some offers directly to your inbox.
Not great when it comes to the “search” option (no filters etc). Those kinds of groups also tend to be spammed by individuals endlessly offering their “shifting & moving” services…
3. Driving around the area which interests you.
A perfect way to see the property and facilities with your own eyes, before you contact any agent. Also, you get to check out the neighborhood and the traffic situation. On top of that, it usually means cutting out the “middle man” and therefore no need to pay anyone any commission!
It will eat up a lot of your time! And it’s a hit or miss unless the building/compound has a “for rent” sign clearly displayed. It might turn out that all units are occupied, or that there’s nobody available to show you around.
4. Asking friends / family / colleagues.
A much better chance that the property is a good one, since a person who recommends it to you knows you (at least to some extent!). A lease takeover becomes a possibility, which again means that there’s no agent to pay commission to.
You have to be very lucky to find a property this way, if you are set on the details (the area, type, no. of bedrooms, etc) and not willing to compromise.
Ok, you have found a promising property. Or have you…? What to ask the landlord/agent?
There are obviously many questions that need to be asked before we commit to a particular house or apartment. Most of them can be answered either by an agent who showed you around or by the landlord. Those are mostly pretty straightforward things, but some can turn out to be dealbreakers for you, so be sure you don’t forget anything!
1. The basic: does the price include utility bills, or wifi, or both?
This should be the very first question anyone would ask. These days Kahramaa loves to spontaneously hike prices for the non-Qatari residents, so it is much better to have utilities included in your rental agreement. And if they are not and there’s a room for negotiation, instead of asking for lower rent, ask for the Kahramaa bill to be included in it. Many apartment buildings also offer complimentary wifi.
2. If the answer to the previous question is “no”: did the previous tenant clear his Kahramaa account? (VERY important!).
So this happened to one of my ex-colleagues: a few days after moving to a new apartment with his family, they experienced a power cut. In the middle of the summer, with a small kid at home. Ouch. Upon enquiring, it turned out that the previous tenant left his Kahramaa bill unpaid and disappeared. There was no way to track them and no way to clear the account without payment (landlord refused to do anything, typical). Basically, my colleague was left with a choice: pay someone else’s bill, or move again. Spoiler alert: he moved, cursing his luck. Don’t be like him, always ask! 🙂
3. How old are the appliances and furniture? And how often they’re serviced or replaced?
This is no joke. A couple of years back a baby was rushed to a hospital with severe burns after an AC unit in the nursery malfunctioned, and basically exploded! We, too, faced a minor AC-related fire once, luckily the room was empty and we reacted fast. And so did our neighbors, who unfortunately lost most of their living room furniture. Make sure that all the appliances in your new place are maintained yearly, and ACs twice a year (before the summer and right after it). Also, if you feel that anything needs to be replaced, request it before signing a contract – it will be done much faster.
4. What kind of maintenance is included in the rent?
Also important. They might maintain your appliances on a regular basis but could ask you to cover all the costs. Also, things like broken pipes, leaking toilets, peeling paint and all that jazz. Once you report it, who will be charged for fixing or replacement? And while you’re at it, ask how long would you usually have to wait for the maintenance team to arrive? (within the same day would be perfect).
5. Will they readily assist you with attesting and registering your rental agreement?
These days, you will need an attested rental contract to get many government-related matters done. For example, it’s one of the documents needed if you’d like to issue a family visit visa. To be honest, not many landlords would agree to do the whole procedure from their side, as it’s quite costly (between QAR 250 and QAR 2500, depending on how much is your rent), it never hurts to ask though. 🙂 The whole thing can be done online now, but still, there’s quite a lot of paperwork involved, so having your landlord’s support is crucial.
6. Is there a designated contact person in case anything is wrong with the place?
Like, one that answers their phone and doesn’t try to brush you off with “someone will come tomorrow, Inshallah”. Ideally, you will need an English speaking concierge or security officer or a caretaker (or whatever else they call him), available on-site. Also, a second contact point would be good (for emergency situations, if the concierge is for any reason not available).
7. What is the minimum duration of the rental contract, and payment terms?
If you scroll through property rental pages, you will find many properties listed at a suspiciously low price. It might happen that once you enquire they’ll tell you that the minimum duration of your contract is 2 years. Sometimes they also write “1 month free”, but the contract is actually for 13 months, not 12. So basically once you complete 1 year (paying full), they’ll give you a free month 😉 When it comes to payment terms, usually post-dated cheques are required, and this is fine. If you prefer to pay cash, you need to make this kind of arrangement with your landlord upfront.
8. How would they deal with a situation where you’re forced to move urgently?
A typical rental agreement states that in case you have to terminate it before its finishing date, some sort of penalty is due. This, however, can be negotiated. A lot of people don’t do it, because they simply don’t know that’s an option. To give you an example, we had 2 months of penalty mentioned in our last contract, but ended up paying only a small amount of money, because we managed to find another tenant to move in our place, and we handled the villa maintenance (painting the walls, cleaning, etc.) ourselves.
9. What’s the parking situation?
Another thing you would definitely want to know is: are there any parking spots assigned to the apartment (and how many)? This is crucial in areas such as Mansoura, Al Sadd or Najma, where finding an unoccupied street parking is usually a hassle. The answer “there’s a parking, but slots are not allocated to apartments” shouldn’t satisfy you. There are often situations when someone goes on vacation and blocks a random parking spot for a month or longer. And they might not even live in the same building! You need a space assigned to your apartment, preferably on a parking lot accessible only to tenants.
And finally… Things that the landlord won’t mention: what to check by yourself?
The other type of questions are those to which the agent (landlord) might either not know an answer, or they might hesitate to answer truthfully. Those are usually more serious matters, most of which end up being dealbreakers for anyone looking for a place to rent.
1. The condition of walls, ceilings, and floors.
In other words: check the property for mold. If it’s there, try to find out the reason why. Did the neighbors upstairs forget to turn off the water and the apartment got flooded? Or is there a bigger issue, such as a leaking water pipe? This might cause you a big headache and cost you a lot of money. Not to mention that it’s certainly not good for you. During summer months, you’ll spend most of your time indoors, so make sure that the environment inside the property is healthy. If you ask the agent whether there’s a problem with mold, they would surely deny it (possibly because they wouldn’t even know). That’s something you’d have to investigate yourself.
2. Any sign of those vile cockroaches, or any other nasty bugs?
We’ve had a really bad experience with cockroaches in the first apartment which we’ve rented. Once those buggers show up, it’s bloody hard to get rid of them. They lay eggs everywhere and soon you will have a cockroach nursery in your kitchen. Ew. Check not only for alive bugs but also for the dead ones (someone might have sprayed the place with insect killer, but that’s just a temporary solution!). Apartment with even a single dead cockroach inside is a big no-no for me. Also, if the place is fully-furnished, check for bed bugs on the mattresses – better safe than sorry! I might be paranoid, but with so many properties out there taking the risk is simply not worth it.
3. Any damage in the property which you might later be held responsible for?
Learn from our mistakes! As it turns out, you have to inspect absolutely everything before you move in, because if you report it later, you might be held responsible for it. Even for the most ridiculous stuff. So what happened? Shortly after we moved in, we’ve faced some issues with water pressure – we knew that the water tank on the roof of our villa was at fault. As it turned out, not only was the sensor inside was broken, the tank was also missing a cover. Guess who had to pay for both? The landlord said that we should have gone on the roof and reported the missing tank cover before we moved in… 😉
4. What about the neighbors?
When you come to visit a property, have a look at the neighboring units, for any signs of potential future disturbances. Are they excessively loud? Is there a bad smell coming from a next-door apartment (laugh all you want, this is real!)? What is their background? I’m not against anyone, the reason I would check would be to know whether their mindset is similar to mine so I could hope to make new friends. Also, would my kids have any peers to play with?
5. How are the windows placed?
This might not be important for everyone, it certainly is for us. During the summer months when the heat makes it impossible to go outside, having a place with plenty of natural light is a lifesaver. I wouldn’t want to spend a whole day at home feeling like I’m living in a cave. Check which rooms get light at what time of the day, also is there anything outside that would prevent the light from coming in (such as a tall building).
BONUS: are the previous tenants available for a quick chat?
Do it if you can! It could be the most helpful thing during this whole process. Nobody will be able to give you better information about the property and its management than the previous tenant. Is the landlord reacting fast to maintenance issues? Does the property have any hidden flaws? If you vibe well with them, you can casually ask another important question: “why are you moving?”. This can give you a lot of insight! The most desirable answer would be something in the lines of: “We decided to look for something bigger/smaller.”, or “I changed my job and the location is not convenient anymore.” However, you might also learn that: “The neighbors are too noisy!”, “The elevator is never working!”, or “We keep on facing power cuts, despite paying bills on time!”.
There you have it: the most important points to consider while house-hunting in Qatar. Know someone who’s about to move here and would benefit from knowing this? Do share! And now, please scroll down for your free download. 🙂
WHEW! YOU’VE REACHED THIS FAR!
FREEBIE TIME! 🙂
A checklist of all points highlighted above:
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