There are lots of housing options in the entire Eastern Province. For purposes of brevity in this article and the next, I will be focusing only on Al-Khobar in the Eastern Province with reference to compound living or housing accommodations for new expats. I will also be discussing living options in Dhahran and Dammam as well in the coming posts.
As the title suggests, this will be a multi part article listing out considerations and options for new expats to ease into and help them out there to sieve through various options should one choose to move to Al-Khobar.
Of course if one is moving with the Aramco, the Saudi oil company, the company shall provide accommodations and housing for its own employees. In other cases, compound living is most generally preferred in the Eastern Province among oil expats. By that I mean anyone working or being married to someone who works in the general oilfield service sector or allied services or product line ups.
Again I will also be discussing general accommodation areas for those expats who prefer apartments and low tier housing options as well. The list is by no means, exhaustive and is only curated by me based on my research on various platforms, social media and word of mouth references.
If one wishes to add any more that you find suitable out there please do feel free to drop me a line or two and I shall connect with you as soon as possible.
So any starting point for a good real estate search is the real estate agency correct? Wrong. Your priorities. How far is it from your workplace(s) or your spouse(s)? How far is it from your children’s school options or would be if they were going to one? How far from general medical services? How far from grocery stops etc? Approach-ability via car and everything in between, because trust me Al-Khobar isn’t a very pedestrian friendly city having been based on the system and model of oil cities in the west.
With regards to Al-Khobar the good thing is that any destination is at a maximum of 20 min from the starting point unless there is an unforeseen delay in traffic such as an accident etc.
Let’s start with compounds in general. A good rule of thumb while choosing a compound is not just the general checklist above but the one below can be included as well. The top 10 points to consider while choosing a compound are:-
- House – How old or new are the houses? How is the furniture? Long lasting, sustainable or old and worn? What is their policy should you decide to move with your own furniture? Is there an expense if you choose to return their furniture? I know I am leaving you with more questions as a reader than with answers, but these are more specific depending on which compound you are asking or your company’s hr to tell you their policy on housing and accommodation. Also couple of sub-points to consider are electrical outlets 110 or 220? Usually they are old or new American outlets but some of the newer compounds do have European style outlets. Safety regulations in the houses, do they have a fire safety policy and how often do they come by for general and specific maintenance of issues related to plumbing, appliances etc? The answers to these again would definitely depend on the word on the street. The next blog post that is coming shall have a curated list of compounds so do read on so I can help you have an idea of which ones might be better than others.
- Backyards, Frontyards – Do you want one or both or none? Are you low-key, low maintenance, wouldn’t prefer to have one hence apartment living might suit you better. I will be including those options in the coming posts as well. Or perhaps, you are a bit like me and love to garden, grill and just generally hang about your lawns a bit more. Do you prefer an old American look or a more manicured one? Again personal preferences at play, also do check if they allow hoses in those yards you’re looking at since you’d have to wash the cars and just generally keep everything looking clean and tidy. (or at least trying to, since it is the desert and therefore dusty!)
- Pet Policy – Perhaps you love pets and perhaps you hate them, do check before on the compound having a pet policy as well before you move in. Perhaps you didn’t have one before and now wish to get one because of those yards. (Surprise! Its the Saudi air again!) Whichever it is, most compounds would have stray cats wandering, my personal two pence, if you don’t like them shoo them away quite vociferously and they will move away from your house, but if you wish to welcome them, well! ahlan wa sahlan!
- House Help– Most compounds have a labor workforce for their maintenance and therefore are okay either clearly or by being indifferent to their workers working for you on their time off. Do check if that’s the case. There are also labour agencies designed to help you with certain requirements for nannies, house help, drivers etc. Some of the more popular ones are SMASCO, ERC. Do check with the accommodation or compound management on their policy allowing workers from outside to help you at home. They mostly would let them pass through provided they can show them their Iqamas or national residence permits or identity cards for verification.
- Facilities – General facilities such as a gathering area either outdoors or indoors or both, a pool, a gymnasium, a party hall, a safe play area for the kids of all age groups. Also the usual necessities such as Internet (fibre optic – how good is the service, etc) and bus services. The nicer compounds do have a restaurant, a mini market, a sauna, a salon and a choice of party halls or activity rooms for various activities.
- Bus Services – This, of course is getting redundant by the day as many people either prefer to drive or get taxis. Me, I usually prefer the bus, a) it helps one familiarize routes in a new town or city, b) you just meet more people of your community that way. If the compound offers a bus service or two, do take it to see if it is a viable option for the days that it is difficult to get a taxi or drive.
- Nursery or Creches- Again a priority for families with young children, having a nursery or creche area in the compound you are planning to stay is helpful since you wouldn’t be paying the transport costs of the same, although if the fee is exorbitant and the transport is cheaper to another nursery outside that’s a cost one needs to look at.
- Activities– An important one for all us expats for the days we are really at our wits end what to do with ourselves or our kids. Activities ties into point 5 which is facilities. Do the facilities enable activities for adults and children alike? What is the community like?
- Schools – This section I agree deserves a more detailed look and a post all by itself but for now there are several popular schools in the Al -Khobar area and depending on the one you choose you might need to prioritize your compound on the area.
- General upkeep and maintenance– This relates again to the maintenance upkeep and general well-being of the compound. Some compounds had fallen on hard times but now are picking up the pace to keep up their real estate location.
Well that’s the top 10 points for consideration for compounds, if you aren’t tired read on to the next post where I detail the top 20 compounds in Al-Khobar. There will be a post detailing the points for apartment living as well coming right after that!