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Finding, Buying and Renting Property for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: October 2015

Many immigrants have their housing arranged by their employers, and so do not need to look for accommodation. If this is not true in your case, your sponsor may be able to help you to find a suitable place to stay.

Finding Property

The internet is an invaluable tool for searching for property while still in your home country and after you have emigrated. Some popular property websites for both rental and purchase are given below:

Once you have arrived in Saudi Arabia, if you can read Arabic, you will be able to look in local newspapers, read bulletin boards on the streets and in supermarkets and walk around the area you want to live looking for available properties. If you struggle with the language, you will need to rely on bilingual friends or estate agents who are local to the area.

Estate agents help with house-hunting by looking for properties, arranging viewings and negotiating with the landlord or owner on your behalf. Otherwise, networking with other expats is a good choice. Note that there can be long waiting lists for expat compounds and you may have to stay outside for a few months in the meantime.

Renting

Almost all expats in Saudi Arabia are on short-term employment contracts of typically two or three years. As there is no point in buying property (and it is also very difficult to do), expats overwhelmingly live in rented accommodation. Many expats have their accommodation paid for them by their employers. For Westerners, this typically means living in a gated compound, in which most of their needs are catered for. Though living in such an ‘expat bubble’ is not pronouncedly different from living in one’s home country.

There is a lot of accommodation available for rent in Saudi Arabia, though prices are generally from expensive to exorbitant. Most of the rental property available is fairly new. Rather than finding you accommodation, some Saudi companies may instead give you a housing allowance, though this is becoming rarer. You will need a residence permit (iqama) and proof of your identity to be able to rent in the country. It is important to get a certified translation of the tenancy contract into your language.

Accommodation is generally unfurnished. Property tax is payable in some areas. Contracts usually run from one month to one year. The initial outlay for renting a property is among the most expensive in the world. You may be expected to pay a full year’s rent in advance. In some parts of the country, such as Jeddah, you will also have to pay a month’s deposit.

Buying Property

As mentioned above, there is very little incentive for expats to buy property in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, expats have only recently been permitted to purchase Saudi property, and it remains very difficult for them to do so. Any purchase is subject to licensed approval from the Ministry of the Interior and other licensing authorities.

Your wealth and current job will be taken into account in assessing the approval and a minimum purchase price is payable. Property can only be bought to live in or run a business from, that is, property speculation is not an option. Land can also be bought, provided there is a plan to build property on it – and the project is worth a minimum of US$8 million. Note further that property rights are not very well protected, and that the full purchase of property in Mecca and Medina is prohibited to all foreigners, even Muslims.

Once a purchase price has been agreed on, you need to go to the local sharia court. They will make checks to establish the veracity of the vendor’s claim to own the property, then authenitcate and record the transfer of the deed. Registering a purchased property takes around a week to do and there are five procedures connected with it.

 

 

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