Qatar’s housing market is weakening again, amidst falling demand coupled with an oversupply of available properties. During the year to Q1 2023, the real estate price index fell by 2.69%, following a y-o-y increase of 5.09% in Q4 2022 and a decline of 3.86% in Q3 2022, according to figures from the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). When adjusted for inflation, the price decline is more severe, at 6.44%.
Quarter-on-quarter, prices dropped 4.9% (-2.51% inflation-adjusted) during Q1 2023.
Qatar’s house price annual change
Demand is falling sharply. During 2022, the total number of residential sales transactions fell by a huge 25.5% from a year earlier, based on a report released by Cushman and Wakefield, in sharp contrast to strong growth in 2020 and 2021. The downward trend continued this year, with transactions plunging by 36.4% in the first quarter of 2023 as compared to the same period last year, according to ValuStrat.
In addition, the oversupply of residential properties in Qatar continues to pull down prices. The availability of properties in the market increased significantly last year as major new residential projects were completed ahead of the 2022 FIBA World Cup held in November 2022. The total number of apartments in Qatar exceeded 230,000 units in 2022, while the stock of villas increased to 130,000 units.
After experiencing a cumulative house price fall of nearly 26% (-16.4% inflation-adjusted) from 2016 to 2020, the housing market improved dramatically in the past two years, buoyed by the introduction of more liberal foreign property ownership rules and after the Saudis agreed to end their sweeping economic and political blockade against Qatar in January 2021, restoring the air, land, and sea links to the emirate that were severed in June 2017.
Qatar’s housing market is projected to remain weak in the medium term, amidst a slowing economy. The Qatari economy is expected to expand by 2.4% this year and by 1.8% in 2024, following annual growth of 4.2% in 2022 and 1.6% in 2021, and a contraction of 3.6% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Housing boom and bust
In preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatari real estate boomed for three glorious years 2012-15, fuelled by rapid population growth and a construction boom:
- In 2013, the real estate price index surged 20.74% (16.45% inflation-adjusted).
- In 2014, the real estate price index soared by 34.67% (31.81% inflation-adjusted).
- In 2015, real estate prices rose by 14.39% (10.75% inflation-adjusted).
However in 2016, the value of real estate transactions plunged by about 50%, and prices fell by 4% (-5.15% inflation-adjusted). Real estate prices fell a further 9.9% (-10.4% inflation-adjusted) in 2017, by 2.6% (-2.4% inflation-adjusted) in 2018, and by another 8.1% (0.6% inflation-adjusted) in 2019, as Saudi Arabia’s hostility adversely affected Qatar’s economy. In 2020, the housing market continued to struggle, with prices falling further by 8.1% (-4.9% inflation-adjusted), amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
In October 2020, the Qatari government responded by loosening its foreign property ownership rules, in an effort to attract more expatriates, foreign buyers, as well as real estate funds.
Then in January 2021, the Saudis agreed to end their sweeping economic and political blockade against Qatar, began four years ago. Qatar’s politics are more liberal, which irritates the Saudis. In addition Qatar, like Turkey, maintains support for the pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, abhorred by the UAE and the Saudis, and maintains links to Iran, with which it shares a major oil field. The new deal restores the air, land, and sea links to the emirate that were severed in June 2017.
These factors have resulted in improved economic, as well as housing market conditions. House prices rose by 7.4% (-4.8% inflation-adjusted) from 2021 to 2022, in sharp contrast to the cumulative decline of 25.9% (-16.4% inflation-adjusted) in 2016-20, thanks to increased property demand. However recently, the Qatari housing market seems to be weakening again.
Sales transactions are falling
Residential demand is now falling rapidly. During 2022, the total number of residential sales transactions fell by a huge 25.5% from a year earlier, based on a report released by Cushman and Wakefield, in sharp contrast to strong growth in 2020 and 2021.
The downward trend continued this year, with transactions plunging by 36.4% in the first quarter of 2023 as compared to the same period last year, according to ValuStrat. Though on a quarterly basis, transactions increased 9.6% in Q1 2023.
In The Pearl and Al Qassar, the volume and value of transactions plunged by 30% and 17% y-o-y, respectively.
Al Khor, Muaither, and Umm Karn recorded the highest volume of transactions of residential houses during the latest quarter, according to ValuStrat.
In Q1 2023, the median ticket size for residential units was QAR 2.8 million (US$769,000), up by 7.6% from a year earlier but down by 1.8% from the previous quarter.
Supply continues to rise
In recent years, Qatar has been grappling with excess supply following the construction boom tied to the 2022 soccer World Cup. The country has currently an estimated excess supply of more than 80,000 units.
During 2022, the total residential stock reached 335 units, up by 8.8% from a year earlier, according to ValuStrat. This was an acceleration from annual increases of 1.7% in 2021, 1.8% in 2020, 2.7% in 2019, and 1.4% in 2018.
Then in Q1 2023, another 1,500 units were added to the market. Of these, about 58% were apartments while the remaining 42% were villas. The newly built stock primarily came from the following notable projects:
- The Grand Zone at the Mall of Qatar – 1,023 new apartments completed
- Al Darwish Residential Tower in West Bay – 160 new apartments completed
- A residential building in the Waterfront District of Lusail – 150 newly built apartments
- La Mer Villas in Qetaifan Island North – 71 residential units
- Blossom Residential Tower in Al Erkhyah Lusail – 112 apartments
Around 11,700 units are in the pipeline for 2023, 52% of which are concentrated in Lusail and The Pearl, according to ValuStrat.
Rents moderating; good rental yields for apartments
In Q1 2023, the residential median asking rent in Qatar stood at QAR 9,250 (US$2,541) per month, up by a modest 3% as compared to a year earlier but actually declined by 5.1% from the previous quarter, according to ValuStrat.
APARTMENT AVERAGE ASKING RENTS (QAR), Q1 2023
|Fereej Bin Mahmoud||5,000||5,700||7,000|
Over the same period:
- For apartments, the median asking rent increased by 2.6% y-o-y but fell by 5.4% q-o-q.
- For villas, the median asking rent rose by 5.1% y-o-y but dropped 3.1% q-o-q.
VILLA AVERAGE ASKING RENTS (QAR), Q1 2023
|West Bay Lagoon||19,000||20,500||24,500|
“The average quoted rents for apartments in Lusail and West Bay experienced the highest quarterly depreciation of 8% and 9%, respectively,” said ValuStrat. “Although asking rents for apartments in Lusail, West Bay and The Pearl depreciated quarterly, median rents in these areas are still 11% higher on average compared to Q1 2022.”
About 59% of all occupied housing units in Qatar are rented, according to QSA. The average expat household in Qatar spends more than a third of its annual income on rent, according to Colliers International.
Gross rental yields for residential properties in Qatar averaged 6% in Q1 2023, with 8.3% for apartments and 4.9% for villas, according to ValuStrat.
Size of the mortgage market shrinking, amidst rising interest rates
Qatar Central Bank has recently raised its overnight lending rate by another 25 basis points to 6% in May 2023 – a cumulative 350 basis points rate hike since May 2022. Likewise, the deposit rate and repo rate were also raised by the same percentage points, to 5.5% and 5.75%, respectively.
The central bank’s recent move was in an effort to rein in inflationary pressures and in line with the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy given the long-standing currency peg to the US dollar.
As a result, the size of Qatar’s mortgage market contracted to about 22.6% of GDP in 2022, down from 24.6% in 2021 and 29% in 2020, based on Global Property Guide’s estimates. Though, it was still far higher than the 7.2% of GDP fifteen years ago.
Yet in terms of value, real estate loans continue to rise strongly. In Q1 2023, the total amount of real estate loans outstanding, which include land purchases, property developments, and residential and commercial buildings, rose by 14.9% to about QAR 185.2 billion (US$50.9 billion) from a year earlier, according to figures from the QCB.
Expats can borrow up to QAR3 million (US$824,000) with a maximum tenure of 15 years. The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is typically 70%.
Foreign property ownership eased
The new law introduced in October 2020 includes two important changes:
- It increases the number of locations where non-Qataris can purchase real estate outright
- It introduces a two-tiered residency program that rewards large investors with government-provided services
Earlier, the Qatari government approved Law No. 16 of 2018, which increased the number of freehold zones in Qatar from 3 to 10 effective last March 2019. Aside from The Pearl, West Bay Lagoon, and Al Khor, foreigners are now allowed to obtain freehold ownership in Rawdat Al Jahaniyah, Al Qassar (Area #60), Al Dafna (Area #61), Onaiza (Area #63), Al Wasail (Area #69), Al Khraij (Area #69), and Jabal Theyleeb (Area #69).
Foreigners who buy in designated freehold zones are automatically granted permanent residency, which extends to the owner’s family, for the whole duration of the ownership. Those qualified include:
- children of Qatari mothers who are married to foreigners;
- people with special talents "needed by the state";
And other individuals who extended notable services to the country.
Foreign investors who buy a property valued above US$ 1 million will be eligible for permanent residency, which comes with government benefits such as education and health care (previously limited to Qatari citizens and long-time permanent residents). With the new law, semi-permanent residency status is now open to buyers of property worth US$200,000, who can obtain renewable residency permits for themselves and their families without the need to be sponsored by an employer.
Permanent residents of Qatar will be treated like Qatari nationals and enjoy benefits such as access to healthcare and education systems, priority (after locals) for military and civilian public jobs, and will have permission to operate commercial activities without a local partner, and permission to own a property.
Three-fourths of Qatar’s total population of 2.67 million are foreigners, according to the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA). About 82% of the population lives in Doha and Al Rayyan. In addition, the Ministry of Justice has recently launched a special section on its website for non-Qatari real estate ownership. The page lists the areas in which non-Qataris may own and benefit from real estate, and the procedures, terms, and conditions for real estate ownership and use. The page also answers the most common questions about real estate ownership in the country.
Qatar’s Ministry of Justice has also established an Office for Non-Qatari Real Estate Ownership, according to Cabinet Resolution No. 28 of 2020, which is mandated to provide foreign nationals who want to reside or invest in Qatar with all the necessary requirements for the purchase and sale of real estate, including residential units and office.
However, citizenship will still be off-limits to foreigners.
Qatar National Bank (QNB), the country’s leading financial institution, offers home and land financing at rates as low as 3.5%. The maximum loan offered to expatriates is QAR3 million (US$824,000) with a term of not more than 15 years. One can borrow up to 70% of the value of the property.
Freehold areas for foreigners
Foreigners can buy in massive freehold areas:
The Pearl 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 provides over 40 kilometers of new coastline, linked to the mainland by a 4-lane, palm-tree-lined highway. Doha’s international airport is only 20 km away. It was here that Qatar offered its first freehold properties.
Developed by the United Development Company, The Pearl-Qatar has 16,000 villas and 25,000 apartments.
West Bay Lagoon
West Bay Lagoon is a 2 million sq. m. private beachfront compound, centered on the Zigzag Towers. At the northern tip of Doha’s West Bay district, it is surrounded by artificial lagoons. The district is known for its luxurious waterfront villas, which are some of the most expensive in the country.
The villas cost about QAR 7,321 (US$2,011) per square meter (sqm) to purchase. On the other hand, villas can be rented for an average of QAR 11,083 (US$3,044) per month, according to The Pearl Gates.
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 also has hotels and sports facilities.
In March 2019, Law No. 16 of 2018 was passed, which effectively increases the number of freehold residential zones from 3 to 10.
The additional freehold areas include:
- Rawdat Al Jahaniyah
- Al Qassar (Area #60)
- Al Dafna (Area #61)
- Onaiza (Area #63)
- Al Wasail (Area #69)
- Al Khraij (Area #69)
- Jabal Theyleeb (Area #69)
“The recent reform to change freehold ownership law will contribute to a positive transformation of the real estate sector which will now embrace its cultural diversity through new initiatives designed to encourage investments and positively change business perspectives to ultimately result in overall economic growth,” said Pawel Banach of ValuStrat.
There are also 16 leasehold areas for foreigners
Foreigners can alternatively buy leasehold property for 99 years, renewable, in 16 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 a QAR164 billion (US$45 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 covers 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). The Lusail Iconic Stadium is also expected to be built in the city. Construction for this massive development started in 2006 and is expected to be completed by 2025.
Another mixed-use development project is Al Waab City, owned by Nasser Bin Khaled Group, which covers about 1.2 million sq. m. Incorporating “green strategies” and sustainable design principles, it is estimated to cost QAR13 billion (US$3.6 billion). The development includes 2,411 residential units, 232,715 sq. m. of commercial space, and a 425-room hotel complex. Phase 2 is due to be fully completed by 2025.
Other leasehold property developments in Qatar:
- Musheireb (Area #13)
- Frij Abdul Aziz (Area #14)
- Doha Al Jadeed (Area #15)
- Ghanem Al Qadeem (Area #16)
- Al Rifa Al Hitmi (Area #17)
- Al Salata (Area #18)
- Fereej Bin Mahmoud (Area #22)
- Fereej Bin Mahmoud (Area #23)
- Rawdat Al Khail (Area #24)
- Al Mansoura & Fereej Bin Dirham (Area #25)
- Najma (Area #26)
- Umm Ghuwailina (Area #27)
- Al Khulaifat (Area #28)
- Al Sadd (Area #38)
- New Mirqab Al Jadeed & Fereej Al Nasr (Area #39)
- Doha International Airport (Area #48)
Qatari economy to slow again, but government finances improving
Qatar’s economy grew by a robust 4.2% during 2022, a sharp improvement from annual growth of just 1.6% in 2021 and a contraction of 3.6% in 2020, according to the IMF, propped up by strong services sector amidst the FIFA World Cup hosting in November to December of last year.
The country’s economy had already been struggling even before the Covid-19 pandemic due to Saudi’s economic blockade that lasted for about four years. The participating Gulf-based Arab nations cited Qatar’s support for Islamist groups, violating a 2014 agreement with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as one of the main reasons for the blockade. Qatar was also criticized by its neighbors for its amicable relations with Iran.
The four Arab nations issued a list of 13 demands on June 22, 2017, which included curbing diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down Al-Jazeera. Qatar refused to comply, stating that it would not agree to measures that threaten its sovereignty. In a surprise move in December 2018, Qatar ended its nearly 60-year membership of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – the oil cartel dominated by Saudi Arabia.
As a result, the Qatari economy contracted by 1.5% in 2017 and posted meager growth of 1.2% in 2018 and 0.7% in 2019. Then the pandemic aggravated the country’s already ailing condition, causing the economy to shrink by 3.6% in 2020.
In January 2021, the Saudis agreed to end their economic and political blockade against Qatar.
Before the pandemic and the economic blockade, Qatar’s economy had been growing strongly by an annual average of 16.5% in 2004-11 and by 3.8% in 2012-16.
Economic growth is projected to slow again to 2.4% this year and to 1.8% in 2024, based on IMF estimates, amidst weaker global demand and higher domestic interest rates.
The country’s finances are gradually improving. Qatar registered a current account surplus of 26% of GDP in 2022, an improvement from a surplus of 14.7% in 2021 and a shortfall of 2.1% in 2020. It also recorded a balanced budget last year, from a small surplus equivalent to 0.2% of GDP in 2021 and a deficit of 2% of GDP in 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance.
As a percent of GDP, Qatar’s government gross debt narrowed to 46.9% in 2022, sharply down from 58.4% in 2021, 72.6% in 2020, and 62.3% in 2019. Debt is expected to fall gradually to 45.5% of GDP in 2023 and to 42.9% of GDP in 2024, based on figures from the IMF.
In May 2023, the overall inflation rate eased to 2.6%, the lowest reading since June 2021, thanks to the central bank’s successive interest rate hikes. Inflation surged to 5% during 2022, sharply up from an annual average of just less than 0.5% in 2015-21.
- Real Estate Price Index (Qatar Central Bank): http://www.qcb.gov.qa/English/Publications/Statistics/RealEstate/Pages/RealEstatePriceIndex.aspx
- Quarterly Statistical Bulletins (Qatar Central Bank): http://www.qcb.gov.qa/English/Publications/Statistics/Pages/Statisticalbulletins.aspx
- Qatar loosens restrictions on foreign property ownership (Al Jazeera): https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/10/6/bbqatar-loosens-restrictions-on-foreign-property-ownership
- Qatar (International Monetary Fund): https://www.imf.org/en/Countries/QAT
- Qatar - Real Estate Review Q1 2023 (ValuStrat): https://valustrat.com/products/qatar-real-estate-review-q1-2023
- Quarterly Report Qatar Q4 2022: Residential Market Overview (Cushman Wakefield): https://www.cushmanwakefield.qa/press_release/quarterly-report-qatar-q4-2022-residential-market-overview/
- Qatar: New Cabinet Resolution Regulating Real Estate Ownership by Foreign Nationals (Library of Congress): https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-01-05/qatar-new-cabinet-resolution-regulating-real-estate-ownership-by-foreign-nationals/
- Ministry launches special section on the website for non-Qatari real estate ownership (The Peninsula Qatar): https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/07/10/2020/Ministry-launches-special-section-on-website-for-non-Qatari-real-estate-ownership
- QCB Interest Rates (Qatar Central Bank): http://www.qcb.gov.qa/English/pages/interestrates.aspx
- Qatar records a 4.75% increase in interest rates since January 2022 (Zawya): https://www.zawya.com/en/economy/gcc/qatar-records-475-increase-in-interest-rates-since-january-2022-lu4rozs5
- World Cup hosting lifts Qatar’s real GDP growth to 8.0% YOY in Q4; slower growth ahead (S&P Global): https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/mi/research-analysis/world-cup-hosting-lifts-qatars-gdp-growth-q4-slower-growth.html
- Qatar to see fiscal, current account surpluses this year and in 2024: World Bank (Gulf Times): https://www.gulf-times.com/article/659011/business/qatar-to-see-fiscal-current-account-surpluses-this-year-and-in-2024-world-bank