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Should you rent or buy?

Many expats live in properties provided by their employer, but if this is not an option for you, or you choose to buy, there are a number of things that you need to consider.

The Sale of property to foreigners is a controlled activity in Qatar. The list of areas in which you can buy includes The Pearl-Qatar, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor Resort Project. However, it’s worth doing your research and there’s plenty more information about this on the Hukoomi and Life in Qatar websites.

In Doha, the price for a two-bedroom apartment in Porto Arabia will be in the vicinity of half a million pounds (or roughly $610,000), slightly cheaper in Al Sadd at around £355,000 (roughly $432,500).

Monthly rental prices around Doha for a two-bedroom apartment will typically range from QAR 10,500 to QAR 18,500 in West Bay (£2,200 PCM to £3,900 or $2,900 to $5,000). A four-bedroom villa a little further out may cost around QAR 22,000 per month (£4,600/$6,000).

However, according to our 2020 Global Housing Market Trends report, renting may be a better option than buying, at least during the COVID-19 pandemic. Price-to-rent ratios, which divide the average cost of ownership by estimated rental cost, saw notable increases between mid-2019 and mid-2020. For rental properties outside the city centres, there was almost a 15% increase.

If you do decide to buy a property in Qatar, you need to have a continuing right to residency for a minimum of five years in order to purchase. Find your property, make an offer, and if that’s accepted, you progress with the legalities of the transfer and registration of the purchase. There is no property tax in Qatar but, on top of the purchase price, you will be expected to pay a transfer fee, and any other costs such as parking, maintenance, and other miscellaneous fees that might be involved. It’s wise to use a good lawyer and establish all the costs involved in the property before you buy.

Before entering into any legal arrangements, do a check on the property, and ask other expatriate buyers for a recommendation. You’ll find most are willing to share tips on the best lawyers and agencies to use, and any pitfalls to avoid. 

Caution would be the biggest barrier to buying property in Qatar, because if you sell and have no other visa, you must leave the country. Some expats report having bought property and made a very satisfactory profit from their investment. Others are less happy, but this seems a balanced and familiar outcome with real estate investments. Service charges do get mentioned on expat discussion boards as being a point of vulnerability — always do your homework before buying.

Making significant investments requires confidence and a sense of security. Contact Aetna’s specialist advisors for a conversation about life insurance and looking after your family should the worst happen. Make sure they’re able to cope with the expenses, the legal concerns and the estate issues, by taking out life insurance especially designed for those living overseas.

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