Everything in Qatar is different than home and the process of finding and securing a new place is no exception. A few months ago, the company that I work for gave everyone the option of taking a housing allowance or be moved to a different accommodation. Since we arrived we have been living in a very nice compound that is approximately a 15 minute drive to work. This is very good for Qatar, since traffic can get extremely hectic. I was a little nervous about being moved too far away and having a long commute to work. So I considered taking the housing allowance. I also took this as an opportunity to save some money, since the housing allowance is a nice amount and I was optimistic that I’d be able to find a place below that amount. On the other hand, I didn’t really want to bother with renting and all that comes with that, that I know about, and all that I don’t know about in a foreign country. In the end, money won, as well as other reasons, and I took the allowance. (without knowing everything first)
I haven’t had to look for a place to live in over 16 years. I own my house in Philadelphia and I had forgotten how stressful it could be. I haven’t had to look for a place alone in over 21 years. At least I wasn’t the only one looking. On top of this, the compound that we lived in, that we loved so much, had been sold and the new management turned off our wifi and our company knew nothing about this until I brought it to their attention. I won’t bore you with the particulars, besides I just want to forget about that whole ordeal. It was very stressful in the beginning but like everything you learn to cope. In the midst of searching for a new place, I actually got to navigate thru Doha and see some interesting accommodations. The way they build some of these buildings makes no sense. I saw one apartment where there were on-suites to both guest bedrooms but no connecting bathroom for the master bedroom. I’ve seen shower heads with no bathtub or shower wall or door and kitchens so small that the refrigerator and stove were located some place else. I’ve seen apartments with high floors, a kitchen as soon as you walk in with the bedrooms in the rear and no other way out if there was a fire in the kitchen except plunge to your death or be burned alive. I’ve seen structural cracks being caulked over. I’ve also seen huge houses with a kitchen outside and multiple rooms with no purpose, beautiful apartments across the street from slums, and places a stone’s toss away from a beach. I think you get the point.
It came down to two places for me. A beautiful newly built apartment with a 5 minute drive to work or a not so brand new beautiful apartment with a 30 minute ride to work. Would it surprise you to know that I didn’t pick the obvious choice?
Both apartments had pros and cons. The first one was newly built with all new furniture and appliances and it included twice a week maid service. It was literally 5 minutes away from work and much less expensive with all utilities included. I could save over $1,000 a month in housing allowance alone, if I chose to. But it had no frills. Five minutes away from work meant at least 30 minutes away from everything else, like malls, restaurants, Ed City, etc… It did not have a gym or pool. All the neighboring fitness centers were for men only and hubby and I love to work out together. The kitchen was a closet with tin drawers and no dish washer. The bathrooms were even smaller closets, and well, here is a picture of what was supposed to be the shower.
Yeah I couldn’t get passed the showers. And new in a Doha does not always mean better; there is nothing to go on so you never know what you will get. The other apartment is more expensive and electricity and water is not included. This cuts my savings from my housing allowance more than half. But the apartment is bigger and more modern with an open kitchen concept and a dishwasher. It includes a bathtub, actual shower and washer and dryer. The complex has a pool, steam room, gym and club house. Everything that I enjoy about Doha is literally within a 15 minute drive. Parking is underground and I like the furniture. I guess it came down to preference and to me, me and my husband’s comfort in a foreign country is very important. When I come home from work, my home is my solace and refuge. Also, I know quite a few people who currently reside there, so I had something to go on.
Accommodations in Doha are expensive. I will be paying about $2400.00 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom, approximately 120sqm apartment, compared to about $800 in rent that I would have to pay in Philadelphia and the $750 I paid in mortgage monthly. Crazy, right. Our housing allowance is about $3,000.00 a month.
Most rental companies require the first month rent and one month security deposit due upon signing the lease. Some even require a commission fee which is usually an additional half month. This is because a lot of companies use realtors to show their place and the commission goes to them. Also you will be required to give post dated checks for each month until the end of the contract. Basically, I gave the rental company 13 checks, two current months and 11 future months. Here’s the kicker, I don’t begin to get my housing allowance until I have completely vacated my current property. So I had to pay the first month and security out of my pocket because I can’t move without having a place to stay. (I didn’t know that before I decided to go with the housing allowance). Lesson learned: find out all the info before accepting anything.
Anyway, I signed my lease starting June 1. The landlord is nice enough to allow me to move in one week sooner. This way I am sure to vacate before June 5th and hand over my keys, therefore meeting the deadline to receive my first housing allowance in my June pay. This is what is supposed to happen, but this is Qatar and things usually don’t go like you plan, so fingers crossed.
I’ve moved. You won’t believe how much I’ve accumulated in one year. It’s definitely a downgrade from that big ole villa I had but home is what you make it, right? Here are some pictures of my new apartment before I decorated it.