Ultimate guide to renting and buying in the Kingdom

You’ll find a new home with ease if you follow this simple guide

Ultimate guide to renting and buying in the Kingdom

One of the first things you’ll need to sort out after touching down in Bahrain is also one of the most overwhelming: finding somewhere to live.

If you’ve never visited the Kingdom before, you’ll have no clue about the rules and regulations around renting – let alone buying – or where the best areas are across the country.

There are too many factors for us to definitively say where to live and how to go about it, but we can at least give you a head start.

First off, rental and sales prices for property across the Kingdom are far lower than in other Gulf States, so you won’t find yourself overwhelmed by sky-high prices.

The introduction of Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) rules is also helping to bring renting in Bahrain in-line with other international markets, meaning renters have a lot more power than before.

Aditi Hariharan, Associate Partner at Cavendish Maxwell said, “Residential prices and rents in the Capital, Northern, Southern and Muharraq Governorates of the Kingdom have generally declined. Demand for affordable properties has also shown an uptick with developers acknowledging this need and introducing options.

“With sales and rents continuing their decline across areas, buyers and tenants have increasingly more options to choose from which may have previously been out of their budgets.

“Investors can get attractive payment plans from developers whilst tenants are in a favourable position to negotiate rent-free periods, and a multiple cheque payment system as per their requirements.”

Choosing a property
Much like the rental market you encountered at home, there are plenty of factors you’ll want to consider before choosing a property to rent.

On average, expats living in Bahrain spend around 30 percent of their salary on rent, which should give you a reasonable springboard to helping you find areas you can afford.

Again, like other markets, you can choose between furnished or unfurnished properties. If you have a fixed-term contract, it may be best for you to choose furnished so you don’t face the hassle of shipping your furniture home or the mad dash to sell it before you leave at the end of your contract.

Furnished properties usually are inclusive too – meaning your landlord will pay the electricity and water bills, as well as the municipal rental tax, which is ten percent of your rent.

If you choose an exclusive property to rent, you will have to set up an account with the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA), and register your address with the local municipality, and pay these bills yourself.

When looking for a place to rent or buy, there are plenty of websites you can check. Top sites include propertyfinder.bh, weetas.com, and bahrainpropertyworld.com.

Alternatively, you can either head to a real estate agent in person, or check out expat Facebook groups where expats will post rooms available in their flat, or apartments they are vacating.

Deposit, fees, and cheques
In Bahrain, the person renting the property pays the estate agent fees, so beware any that attempt to charge you.

Your landlord can ask for up to three months’ rent in advance – one of which will serve as your security deposit, and you will receive back in full at the end of your contract, provided you do not damage the furnishings or property.

After paying your deposit and first few months’ rent, you can choose to pay it monthly, quarterly, or even yearly.

Your contract will usually be either a year or two years long, and you cannot be evicted from your property by the landlord for the duration of this lease unless you break any part of the tenancy agreement.

By law, you are required to give your landlord three months’ notice if you wish to leave before the end of your lease.

Top locations for renting
Renting in Bahrain for expats is far more flexible than buying, as there are restrictions on land purchases by non-GCC nationals.

According to Cavendish Maxwell, the most popular areas for renting apartments are in Juffair, Amwaj Islands, Seef and Reef Island. For villas, the top spots are Amwaj Islands, Saar, Riffa, and Janabiya.

Juffair, a district in Manama, plays host to the American Navy Base, meaning it’s an extremely popular destination for expats. Juffair is also extremely close to Adliya, a trendy neighbourhood that’s chock-a-block with restaurants and bars.

Amwaj Islands is a group of artificial islands built in the early noughties. The area boasts a beautiful lagoon with all kinds of bars and restaurants alongside it, offering up the best views (particularly at night).

Amwaj Islands also has a number of hotels, spas and salons and even a shopping mall, meaning you won’t ever need to leave if you don’t want to.

Seef, at the top of Bahrain, is Manama’s commercial district. Here you’ll find one of the capital’s best malls, Seef Mall, and some of the best restaurants like NOMAD Urban Eatery, Bushido and Cantina Kahlo at The Ritz-Carlton.

The area is one of the most expensive in the country, thanks to the number of expats who want to live close to work. Seef also has the public beach Karbabad, or The Ritz-Carlton’s private beach if you want to splash out.

Reef Island is another artificial island, this time just 2km from downtown Manama. The $1.5billion project has a number of housing developments and lots of beachfront.

Riffa is the second largest city in Bahrain and is split into East and West. As such, it has a huge restaurant and bar scene meaning you’ll never miss the capital Manama.

Because it’s further out than some of the other areas mentioned, rent prices are lower and villas are more commonly available.

Saar and Janabiya are also further out from the city, this time to the west of the island. Both these areas are great for people who need to commute into Saudi Arabia thanks to their location near the King Fahd Causeway.

Top tips for tenants
Ask for a diplomatic clause in your contract. As previously mentioned, if you want to leave your property before the lease is up, you’ll need to give three months’ notice, and you will be liable to pay that rent whether you’re living there or not. If you get a diplomatic clause, you can give just a months’ notice if you lose your job or need to leave Bahrain.

Keep an eye on rent increases. Thanks to new restrictions, landlords can only increase the rent two years from the start of your lease, or from the date of the last increase – and this can only go up by five percent on residential properties.

Check the paperwork. As with any contract, make sure you read everything. Keep an eye out for auto-renewal leases, and if you’re renting an inclusive flat, see if there’s a cap on the fee your landlord will pay for the water and electricity bills. If there is, and you go over this, it will be added to your next rent payment.

Make sure there’s an inventory. Before moving into a property, a landlord should have an independent inventory checker come in to check the status of the walls, floors, and furnishings in the property for any damage by a previous tenant. You should both get a copy of the inventory, and flag any problems at the start, to make sure you don’t face a hefty fee for something that was already broken. Inventories may or may not include meter readings, which are handy to have in case you get slapped with a bill for electricity or water you didn’t use.

Pay your debts. This seems like an obvious one, but in Bahrain this can have some serious consequences. In Bahrain, writing a cheque that bounces because you have insufficient funds is considered a criminal offence, and you could wind up with a hefty fine or a jail sentence. On top of this, you may be slapped with a travel ban preventing you from leaving the country until you settle your debts.

If you’re planning on staying in Bahrain long-term, buying can be an attractive option. Although prices in the region are cheaper than in other Gulf States, Bahrain is working to attract foreign investment through the tourism and business sectors,which could help boost house prices, making this a good investment.

Where to buy
Bahrainis and GCC nationals can purchase property anywhere in Bahrain, but there are restrictions on where everyone else can own land. Expats will need to choose a property in a foreign free-hold area, which are located in Juffair, Seef, Reef Island, Durrat Al Bahrain, Amwaj Islands, and Bahrain Bay.

Durrat Al Bahrain is an artificial development lying in the very south of Bahrain, meaning it is not super convenient for anyone who doesn’t drive.

The exclusive development has a number of beaches – including Bahrain’s first rock-free beach – as well as restaurants and shops. Building work is still ongoing in the area.

Bahrain Bay is a highly sought-after area because of its location – it lies across from the diplomatic area of Manama and is well connected to the airport.

Bahrain Bay also plays host to the iconic Four Seasons hotel and new restaurants are popping up in the area all the time.

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