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Moving to Bahrain soon, advice on housing

Hi all

I have been reading the forum for a couple of months. Thanks to all the posters who have helped so many expats (and soon to be expats) like myself. If it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t have reached this stage.

I am an IT professional from London with around 12 years of experience. I have been offered a job in Bahrain with my current company. The job will be based in Al Muharraq area. The intended start date is flexible but I am targeting end of April or start of May. They will pay for relocation, medical for my family and a generic fixed allowance (rent, etc.) on top of the salary. I am married with two kids (7 and 5). My kids are in Year-2 and Reception respectively. My wife is a primary school classroom practitioner/ teacher assistant.

I will post multiple questions instead of one giant post. I think this will help others who are interested in one of my questions hence avoiding unnecessary noise. This question is regarding accommodation.

Based on the fixed allowance, I have budgeted BD800 for rent. I am looking to find a property somewhere close to St Christopher’s and British School of Bahrain. I was wondering if someone here can help me with the following questions.

Based on reading forums and my own research, I am inclined towards Saar. I have also seen some concerns around the area from other expats. I don’t have any detail but I have been told to avoid few areas of Saar. Can anyone please tell me if this is true? Should I avoid Saar altogether?

Is Al Muharraq commutable from Saar on a daily basis?

Is BD800 a good budget for a 2-3 BR villa in Saar or an area close to the schools? I am not after luxury but a safe place with some garden space and shared gym/ pool is what we desire.

Are there any other areas I should consider?

Should I consider compounds only? How safe are villas that are not part of a compound? I have two kids who love to run around A LOT.

How negotiable are house rents from their propertyfinder.bh adverts? Am I looking to pay exactly what it says on the website?

How does advance/ deposit work in Bahrain? How much I am looking to pay before I move in?

Usually, how long are rental contracts? What if I want to move halfway through the contract?

Really appreciate your help and looking forward to the responses. Thanks,

Visi

My comments

Can anyone please tell me if this is true? Should I avoid Saar altogether?
A lot of people live in saar and have no issues.  It's only some areas and at some times. Depends on your comfort level really

Is Al Muharraq commutable from Saar on a daily basis?
Commutable yes.  But with traffic, location of office, proximity of exits; you are looking at easily 30-45 minutes one way every day.

Is BD800 a good budget for a 2-3 BR villa in Saar or an area close to the schools? I am not after luxury but a safe place with some garden space and shared gym/ pool is what we desire.
It should be fine.

Are there any other areas I should consider?
Relatively near to BSB.  Hamala.  You can find smaller villas for the price range above

Should I consider compounds only? How safe are villas that are not part of a compound? I have two kids who love to run around A LOT.
Bahrain is generally safe.  However compounds have facilities that single villas generally don't such as gym, pools etc.

How negotiable are house rents from their propertyfinder.bh adverts? Am I looking to pay exactly what it says on the website?
Everything is negotiable.  Don't know about the site but you don't house hunt here just from sites.  It's not like the UK with all listings online and so on.  You need to work with a good agent and do some leg work of your own.

How does advance/ deposit work in Bahrain? How much I am looking to pay before I move in?
Most cases, the deposit is equivalent to one month's rent.

Usually, how long are rental contracts? What if I want to move halfway through the contract?
Majority of contracts are for 1 year.  There are notice clauses in the contract but unless you are utilising the diplomatic clause (redundancy etc requiring you to leave the country), you will lose a few months rent in penalties.  It varies from landlord to landlord also.

Can anyone please tell me if this is true? Should I avoid Saar altogether?
Saar is fine. Yes sometimes they will burn tires on the road. You don't have to worry about this. Often they will move the tires to let you through, or you will need to turn around and take a different route. The famous place is Charcoal road, or BBQ Corner this is how the expats name the road.

Is Al Muharraq commutable from Saar on a daily basis?
Do able. Without traffic 20 minutes, with traffic 35 minutes

Is BD800 a good budget for a 2-3 BR villa in Saar or an area close to the schools? I am not after luxury but a safe place with some garden space and shared gym/ pool is what we desire.
Check bahrainpropertyworld.com my prefered website, you should find something for your budget in Saar especially if you're not looking for luxury. Hamalah or Janabiya but I find those areas just a little bit more expensive.
Be aware of the municipality tax. If you rent a property for BD800 exclusive you will need to pay 10% municipality tax so that would be BD880, also electricity is not very cheap, especially now the prices have gone up 100% again. In the hot summer months you will be having your A/C on full blast, depending on villas size you could expect BD300 per month on electricity, of course the cooler month less and 'winter' it won't be on at all.

For your energy you also have to pay EWA deposit. This is either BD300 or BD1000, you will get this back. You have to ask the real estate agent to contact the landlord what the deposit is.

If you find a property that is inclusive, you don't have the municipality tax and the electricity is included but a cap. If you go over the cap you have to pay extra. When you stay under the cap, you usually don't get anything back.



Should I consider compounds only? How safe are villas that are not part of a compound? I have two kids who love to run around A LOT.
Yes, if you have kids that like to run around a lot, please only consider compounds. You and the kids will be much happier. The kids will also meet lots of friends on the compound. There are small compounds where very few kids live, so look for a big compound.


How negotiable are house rents from their propertyfinder.bh adverts? Am I looking to pay exactly what it says on the website?
I found that prices are not negotiable. The landlord would rather have the property empty for months than taking a bit less, but having a tenant in it.

How does advance/ deposit work in Bahrain? How much I am looking to pay before I move in?
Often 2 months. Sometimes 3 months. This can be a problem if you don't have so much upfront. If you move in on say the 1st of January and you have 2 months deposit, you have already paid for January and February, so the next time you pay is in March.


Usually, how long are rental contracts? What if I want to move halfway through the contract?
Contracts are ussually for 12 months.  Move half way is not possible. Except sometimes if you move on the same compound. Or sometimes the landlord is the owner of a different compound, maybe then it's also possible.

Forgot to mention.

If you are looking for a school for your kids. Please get your kids on a waiting list asap.

Unfortunately it's not very easy to get your kids into school very quick.

Thanks XTang and RedTornado. These answers are super helpful. So far, in my naivety, I have been thinking websites only. After reading your posts, it occurred to me that things will work much differently there. I didn't know about the inclusive concept, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Also, I was only budgeting 100BD for electricity. It looks like I should prioritise inclusive properties. My only concerns are; if the cap size big enough and if Internet is included, will it be good enough?

I don't see any mention of gas bills. Is natural gas provided as utility and/ or used in Bahrain?

RedTornado, thanks for pointing out the benefits of a big compound. You are on the money here, our social lives here revolve around kids and other families with kids of similar age. It will be great to have friends in the same compound. Appreciate your comment about schools, I am aware of the situation. This is our biggest worry so far. I have created a separate question for schools, I would love to receive your feedback on it. Link below:

http://www.expat.com/forum/viewtopic.ph … 82#4025449

Go for inclusive properties.  For villas, they will generally have an upper cap on electricity e.g. 720 BD a year or 60 a month.  Municipality fees is usually covered.  Internet varies from compound to compound.  Most don't cover it.

Gas is used but in most places it's cylinders which are put outside and linked to kitchen.  A gas delivery services replaces them when you call.  A big cylinder is usually 2 BD or so and lasts a month or so with daily use.

Great. Thanks.

live in riffa not manama for cheap and availability of parking

Cheers ronywell.

Riffa and Hamad town is the nearest to the area you needed and both are cheap

If vila not apartment you can get around 500 to 600

If flat you can get great one for 350

Electricity would be 150 if you are using Electricity much

Regards
AFA

Inclusive or exclusive.

I think it all depends on what you find.

For example, I found a nice villa which was inclusive (BD950), but the compound was small and no kids, so I knew my kids would not be happy there.

In the end, I choose for BD1000 exclusive in a big compound with lots of kids. The villas is a bit older, but it felt much better.

I guess it all depends on budget and priorities. Location, big compound, kids and feeling had a higher priority with me than price. But of course that is a personal thing for everyone.

I used a few agents to look for a property. Take your time!
When looking for a property and you see the house and walk in and it doesn't feel right, just tell the agent so you can quickly go to the next property. The agent will not be offended and will only be happy if you tell them straight away if you don't like the property. Usually, they have a lot to show you so it saves time.

Lots of luck in finding your new home!

Thanks RedTornado for the detailed response. I feel a lot better now.

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