“There is continuous improvement in terms of movement of enquiries about units in these areas,” said Al Asmakh Real Estate Company. In its Q3, 2014 report on Qatar’s real estate market, Al Asmakh said the sector has been witnessing strong growth and is poised for a quantum leap in the coming years as mega development projects are launched and state spending on infrastructure development has been on an upswing.
`Local investors’, in particular, are making enquiries in increasing numbers about residential units in the 18 designated areas where foreigners have the right to take houses on long lease (for 99 years renewable for a similar period), as also in those areas where they can straightaway buy residential units on freehold basis.
The 18 areas where non-Qatari investors can take residential units on long lease include Msheireb (the project is underway), Old Ghanem, Fereej Abdul Aziz, Doha Jadeeda, Bin Mahmoud, Lusail, Al Dafna (including West Bay Towers), Najma, Umm Ghuwailina and Salata, among others Foreigners are allowed to buy freehold residential properties at The Pearl-Qatar, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor Resort.
The average price of apartments available for long lease in the 18 designated areas according to Al Asmakh’s report has reached QR1 mn for one bedroom, QR 1.2 mn for two bedrooms and QR 1.3 mn for three-bedroom apartments.
“Prices vary from area to area and depending on the size and location of an apartment within a building,” said the report. An apartment with a sea view may, for instance, command a higher price.
The rates per square metre in residential apartment buildings in these areas range from QR 10,000 to QR 11,000. In the West Bay Towers, the per sq. metre rate hovers between QR 10,000 and QR 12,000, according to the location of the apartment and the general view from the tower.
As for The Pearl-Qatar, the rates for new apartments range between QR 14,000 and QR 22,000 per sq. metre.
Market operators, though, say that since rental charges of residential units have been going up amidst rising population and a surge in demand for housing, developers in the designated areas are not quite eager to offer their properties for long-term lease to foreigners. Bqdoha, however, could not independently confirm this.
Qatar did not permit foreigners to lease or buy real estate until 2004 when a law was passed (No 17 of 2004) giving them the privilege in certain areas and housing projects. The law gives a foreigner the right to sell his lease agreement or pass the property to his heir. In the case of freehold property, it can also be sold. In both the cases the properties can also be let out for regular rental income.
In 2006, Qatar passed Law No. 2 that entitled foreigners buying freehold properties or taking leasehold real estate to entry visa and residency permits along with their wives, children and parents. The visas are issued subject to conditions. And, if market operators are to be believed only those who have leased or bought a minimum 80 sq. metres of space are entitled to such visas and residency permits.
In 2002, Qatar opened the doors allowing GCC nationals to own properties for residence and investment.