by Sahar ElKabbash
Landlords and real estate agents in Doha are increasing their efforts to survive in an uncertain, fluctuating market.
Doha’s real estate businesses have taken a hammering during lockdown following the closure of small and medium enterprises, and the return of many residents to their home countries.
Thanks to the exodus of residents, more apartments, villas and studios in the residential and commercial sectors have flooded the rental market. And in response, real estate agencies and private landlords have been forced to offer increasingly competitive deals to attract more potential renters.
Doha News spoke to Property Finder, one of the largest real estate websites in the region dealing with both sales and lets. According to Property Finder’s Country Manager, Afaf Hashim, the website has recorded a 3% increase in the number of listings between February and June 2020 along with a 4% increase in leads between February and May. Afaf says:
“This is testament to the fact that, while things have been turbulent, people are still actively searching on our site, and brokers and developers continue to promote their units.”
She added that the market has been “somewhat slow” since the beginning of lockdown, but the pace is gradually picking up.
Extra deals offered by struggling landlords
Property owners have had to become more flexible with their deals, offering free months’ rent and including utilities in the rental price, for example. These attractive offers in both residential and commercial sectors have been vital to companies attempting to secure deals with tenants. But, essentially, the deals have helped both parties: owners keep their units full, and tenants receive more for their money.
“There has also been an increase in sales, with buyers taking the opportunity of a dip in the market to invest. While COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of life, it’s imperative to note that people will always need a home and a place to run their business,’’ adds Afaf.
Tough times for tenants
Many tenants have been struggling to afford rent after layoffs and salary reductions. The most recent blow came when Qatar allowed employers in government-funded entities to deduct up to 30% of their non-Qatari employees’ salaries.
Consequently, some people are moving into cheaper or smaller properties, while others are negotiating with their companies to cover housing or with their landlords to lower the rent.
Qatar resident Omar K. rents a house with his family in the Umm Al Amad area. He says:
“After talking to my landlord, who was very considerate of the rough times everyone is facing, we reached an agreement to reduce the rent by a thousand Qatari riyals due to our inability to pay the original amount.”
Engi Zakaria, another Doha resident, does not receive housing allowance from her employer. She showed her rental company papers proving that she and her husband’s salaries have been reduced during the COVID-19 outbreak, making it nearly impossible for them to fully pay the rent along with their living expenses and her children’s tuition fees.
“After providing the required papers, the accommodation management company agreed to give us a free month, resulting in approximately QAR 1,000 overall reduction in the monthly rent for the renewed contract.”
Despite the availability of deals and the willingness of some landlords to negotiate, residents remain apprehensive about their future in Doha. And while uncertainty lingers over the continued presence of expats in Qatar — who make up some 85% of the country’s population — instability looms over the real estate market. As lockdown begins to ease and companies get back to business, many are nervously waiting to see if doors begin opening in the housing sector again.