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Property consultant Asteco reports that the Quatari residential property market is now showing signs of stabilization after two years of largely uninterrupted falls. Qatario oil money and lax rules regarding foreign purchase of property helped drive prices up until 2008 when property prices plummeted as much as 40% in some areas. The approach of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022 is already helping generate more interest in properties, and the continued ability of foreigners to buy in massive freehold properties is also adding a boost to the market. Experts believe the country faces a slowing of economic growth, however, which means the market may need a little more help. For more on this continue reading the following article from Global Real Estate Guide.

After two years of house price falls, property prices in Qatar have been stable during 2011, according to property consultant, Asteco.

At Viva Bahriya-Pearl, whose 29 towers are located in The Pearl-Qatar:

  • The average sales price of new apartments was QAR15,500 (US$4,254) per sq. m. in Q4 2011, unchanged from last year, but down by almost 28% from two years ago.
  • In Q4 2011, the average price of existing apartments was unchanged from the previous year, but down by around 15% from Q4 2009 to QAR14,500 (US$3,979).

At the Porto-Arabia Pearl, the first phase of The Pearl-Qatar, which has a total of 31 towers:

  • The average apartment sales price in the primary market was QAR13,500 (US$3,705) per sq. m., the same as last year, but down by 16% from two years earlier.
  • In the secondary market, the average apartment sales price was QAR10,750 (US$2,950) per sq. m., down by 7% from two years ago.

At the Lagoon Plaza, an extravagant twin towers complex in Doha:

  • The average sales price of new apartments was QAR12,500 (US$3,430) per sq. m. in Q4 2011, down by 17% from the same period two years ago.
  • For existing apartments, the average sales price was QAR9,500 (US$2,607), down by 24% from two years ago.

Qatar issues permanent residence visas to foreigners buying freehold properties, under Law No. 17 of 2004, which permitted foreign freehold property ownership for the first time.  A property boom followed, fuelled by Qatari purchasing power and by an influx of expatriates, triggering a property price surge from mid-2000s to early-2008. 

However, property prices declined sharply between Q4 2009 and Q2 2011:

  • In 2009, house prices dropped by as much as 40%, according to estimates.
  • In 2010, house prices fell by about 4%, according to Saudi-based banking firm, Samba Financial Group.

Positive long-term outlook

Consumer and investor confidence is now rising again, due to Qatar’s spectacular economic growth.

"With prices having stabilized for the fourth consecutive quarter, there is now strong evidence to suggest that prices have finally bottomed out and will not decline further," said Jed Wolfe of Asteco Qatar.

Three areas have been set aside for this visas-for-sale scheme: the Pearl-Qatar, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor Resort.  The visa remains valid as long as the foreigner keeps the property in his name. Foreigners and expatriate residents account for about three-fourths of the population. About 82% of the population lives in Doha and Al Rayyan, according to the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA).

Demand for residential property in Qatar will rise in the coming years, according to the investment bank Alpen Capital, because the population is likely to grow at compound annual rate of 4.7% (CAGR) between 2011 and 2016.

Land price variations

Massive construction developments in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup are already affecting land prices.  Al Shamal, home to the proposed Al-Shamal Stadium—one of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, experienced the highest increase in land prices in October 2011 - about 20% up on the previous month, according to Century21 Qatar. It was followed by Umm Salal (19.5%), Al Khor (19.1%) and Al Rayyan (14.6%).

But other areas have seen land price falls over the same period—Doha (-18.7%), Al Wakra (-8.4%), and Al Da’ayen (-1.1%).  Doha has Qatar’s most expensive land, at QAR538 (US$148) per sq. ft.

CHANGES IN AVERAGE PRICE OF DWELLINGS (%)

MUNICIPALITY
AVERAGE LAND PRICES
(QAR PER SQUARE FEET)
AVERAGE LAND PRICES
(US$ PER SQUARE FEET)
M-O-M CHANGE (%)
Doha
538
148
-18.7
Al Rayyan
282
77
14.6
Umm Salal
196
54
19.5
Al Khor
181
50
19.1
Al Da’ayen
180
49
-1.1
Al Wakra
174
48
-8.4
Al Shamal
138
38
20.0
Source: Land Registry, Ministry of Justice, Century21 Qatar


Housing demand and supply

There were about 259,066 housing units in Qatar as of April 2010, according to QSA. About 193,376 units were apartments, while the remaining 62,496 units were villas.  Of the total housing units, about 81.4% (or 210,955 units) were occupied.

Of the total value of real estate transactions in November 2011

  • 43% or QAR988 million (US$271 million) were in Doha.
  • 17% were in Al Rayyan 
  • 16% in Al Da’ayen
  • 14% in Al Wakra.

Source: Century21 Qatar.

More than 74,000 residential more units are expected to be completed by 2020, according to Asteco. Of which, about 66,000 units will be apartments and the remaining 8,000 units, villas and townhouses.

Foreigners can buy in massive freehold areas:

  • The Pearl-Qatar

The Pearl, in which Qatar offered its first freehold properties, is a QAR36.4 billion (US$10 billion) Riviera-style development, on a vast man-made island off the coast of Doha, the capital city.  It will provide over 40 kilometres of new coastline, linked to the mainland by a 4-lane, palm-tree lined highway. Doha´s international airport is only 20 km away.

Developed by the United Development Company, The Pearl-Qatar offers 16,000 villas and 25,000 apartments.

  • West Bay Lagoon

West Bay Lagoon is a 2 million sq. m. private beachfront compound, centred on the Zigzag Towers. At the northern tip of Doha’s West Bay district, it is surrounded by artificial lagoons.

  • Barwa - Al Khor City

The Barwa - Al Khor project is a complete city, including seafront chalets, villas and elite apartments, covering 5.5 million sq. m. in Al Khor, 57 km north of Doha. The QAR30 billion (US$8.24 billion) Barwa Real Estate development will house 63,000 residents in 24,114 elite residential units.  It will also have hotels and sports facilities.

Phase 1, with a total cost of QAR7.3 billion (US$2 billion), is expected to be completed in 2013.

No less than 18 leasehold areas for foreigners

Foreigners can alternatively buy leasehold property for 99 years, renewable, in 18 designated areas, including the multi-billion dollar Lusail project, under Cabinet Decision No. 6 of February 2006.  Foreigners can use the properties commercially or residentially, transfer the lease to another party, and sublet or rent.

Lusail City is an QAR18 billion (US$4.9 billion) waterfront community on the northern coast of Umm Salal, 15 km north of Doha. It is expected to house over 200,000 residents in 10 hotels, 3,000 villas, 12,000 apartments and retail areas.

Developed by Qatari Diar, Lusail will cover an area of around 21 million sq. m. This mega project, in 16 zones, will contain an Energy City costing QAR9.5 billion (US$2.6 billion), and an Entertainment City, costing QAR5.5 billion (US$1.5 billion). It is expected to be completed in 2014.

Another mixed use development project is Al Waab City, owned by Nasser Bin Khaled Group, which will cover about 1.2 million sq. m.  Incorporating “green strategies” and sustainable design principles, it is expected to cost QAR13 billion (US$3.6 billion). This development is slated to be finished in 2015.

Another notable development is Asia Towers, which will have four 55-storey towers near West Bay. Each tower will contain about 1,600 residential apartments. Developed by Ezdan Real Estate Company, it is estimated to cost QAR2.5 billion (US$686 million).

Other leasehold property developments in Qatar:

  • Musheireb (Area #13)
  • Frij Abdul Aziz (Area #14)
  • Doha Jadeed (Area #15)
  • Ghanem Al Qadeem (Area #16)
  • Al Rifa Al Hitmi (Area #17)
  • Al Salata (Area #18)
  • Bin Mahmoud (Area #22)
  • Bin Mahmoud (Area #23)
  • Rawdat Al Khail (Area #24)
  • Al Mansoura & Bin Dirham (Area #25)
  • Najma (Area #26)
  • Umm Ghuwailina (Area #27)
  • Al Khulaifat (north and south) (Area #28)
  • Al Sadd (Area #38)
  • New Mirqab & Al Nasser (Area #39)
  • Doha International airport (Area #48)
  • Al Dafna & Onaiza & Al Qitar (Area #60 & 61 & 63)
  • Al Kharaij & Jebel Thiya (Area #69 & 70)

Interest rates slashed

The benchmark overnight lending and repo rate was cut by 50 basis points to 4.5% in August 2011, while the overnight deposit rate was slashed by 25 basis points to 0.75% over the same period, a move to support private sector credit growth.

Qatar National Bank (QNB), the leading financial institution in the country, offers home and land financing at rates as low as 4.35%. For expatriates, the maximum loan amount is QAR3 million (US$823,280) with a term period of not more than 15 years.

The size of Qatar’s mortgage market is estimated at about 14% of GDP. To further develop the mortgage market, Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry is now drafting the country’s first mortgage law, according to The Peninsula, a local English newspaper.

There are a total of 14 banks in Qatar. Seven are Qatari-owned, two are Arab banks and the rest are branches of foreign banks.

The rental market is stabilizing

After a two-year fall, rents for residential properties have already stabilized across all locations in Qatar, according to property consultant, Asteco.

Average rents were almost unchanged during 2011. In the wake of the global crisis, residential rents dropped about 25% during 2009, according to Century 21 Qatar. In the Pearl, rents have fallen by as much as 50% over the same period.

In Q4 2011:

  • The average rent for one-bedroom apartments ranged from QAR3,000 (US$823) to QAR10,500 (US$2,881) per month
  • Three-bedroom apartments rent for QAR6,000 (US$1,647) to QAR17,500 (US$4,802) per month
  • Five-bedroom villas rent from between QAR10,000 (US$2,744) and QAR30,000 (US$8,233) per month

The number of residential leasing transactions slightly increased in Q4 2011 from the previous quarter.

The Pearl-Qatar offers the most expensive rental properties in Qatar, with an average monthly rent of QAR9,500 (US$2,607) for one-bedroom apartments and QAR16,250 (US$4,459) for three-bedroom apartments. In contrast, Al Muntazah, located in Doha, has the cheapest with an average monthly rent of QAR3,500 (US$960) for one-bedroom apartments and QAR6,250 (US$1,715) for three-bedroom apartments.

Currently, gross rental yields in the country stands at around 10%, based on a report published by Alpen Capital, an investment bank.

In 2012, residential rents are expected to increase, which will also result into a rise in rental yields, according to Alpen Capital.

About 59% of all occupied housing units in Qatar are rented, according to QSA.

Economic growth to slow

Qatar’s economy grew by 16% p.a., on average from 2006 to 2008. Then in 2009, real GDP growth rate slowed to 11%. But the economy bounced back with 18.7% growth in 2011, after 16.6% growth in 2010.

In 2012, Qatar’s growth is expected to slow to around 6%, due to a self-imposed moratorium on new hydrocarbon projects - still the GCC’s highest growth rate.

In 2012, inflation is projected to be 4.1%, up from 1.2% in February 2012, according to Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA).  Consumer prices fell by an average of 3.6% per year from 2009 to 2010, but from 2006 to 2008 annual inflation was 13.5%.

This article was republished with permission from Global Property Guide.