House Hunting in Bahrain: Gulf Views From a Fish-Shaped Isle for $1 Million6 min read
A Three-Bedroom Villa on a Bahrain Island
$1.03 MILLION (390,000 BAHRAINI DINARS)
This three-bedroom waterfront villa sits on an artificial island in the Persian Gulf, part of a massive resort development called Durrat Al Bahrain, off the southeastern tip of Bahrain Island, the largest island in the archipelago of Bahrain.
The modern-style, concrete-and-brick villa was built circa 2009 on a 0.18-acre lot and completely refurbished last spring, said Jacqueline Maxwell, a senior sales and leasing agent with Savills Middle East, which has the listing.
With about 3,200 square feet of living space, the house includes rooms for a maid and driver. The interiors were designed by Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, an artist and member of the Bahraini royal family. Furniture is included in the asking price.
Outside, there is a new swimming pool and a new 32-foot jetty into the Persian Gulf, along with a fully equipped outdoor kitchen and barbecue area, Ms. Maxwell said.
The front door opens to an entrance hall with a guest bathroom and the maid’s quarters to the left. Straight ahead is the open-plan living and dining area, with a ceiling of timber fluted panels and integrated lighting. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open to the pool terrace and views of the Gulf.
There are two kitchens; the main one has a breakfast bar opening to the living area, Corian work tops and stainless-steel Bosch appliances, Ms. Maxwell said.
A timber staircase with a glass balustrade ascends to the three en suite bedrooms, each with French parquet flooring and built-in wardrobes. The primary bedroom and an adjacent bedroom have access to a large balcony overlooking the water. The primary bathroom is finished with Vietnam white marble, while the other bathrooms are finished in different types of marble, terrazzo and Burmese teakwood.
The 22-by-15-foot swimming pool was redone with custom Art Deco-style tiles, and the decking comprises ceramic tiles designed to resemble parquet. Off the pool area is a separate structure with a bathroom, pump room and the driver’s quarters.
The property is landscaped with Washingtonia palm trees, along with various shrubs and plants that can tolerate heat and salt, Ms. Maxwell said. The villa’s carport is covered by new Ferrari parking shades, she said.
The property is on an island called Petal 2 in Durrat Al Bahrain, a resort development of 15 artificial islands, some shaped like fish or atolls, connected by causeways and bridges. The reclaimed lands, planned to accommodate up to 60,000 residents and 5,000 visitors upon completion, are home to thousands of villas and apartments, along with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, promenades, sports facilities, spas and a marina.
White sands trim the various islands, and the villa is about 1,100 feet from a beach. While there are services like groceries and mosques in Durrat Al Bahrain, hospitals and the international school are about a 30-minute drive away in Riffa, and the villa is about an hour south of Manama, the Bahraini capital, and the international airport, Ms. Maxwell said.
The Kingdom of Bahrain, an archipelago between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that comprises the main Bahrain Island and dozens of smaller islands, has grown in popularity with foreign retirees and investors, due in part to the allure of a safe and quiet lifestyle, the low cost of living and a cosmopolitan population.
Considered more liberal than nearby countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Bahrain, for instance, allows women to work and drive. And while Arabic is the national language, English is widely spoken.
For many foreigners introduced to the region through their employment, “whether it’s Americans or Brits etc., honestly you can’t get them out of Bahrain,” said Taimur Khan, the head of research for CBRE Middle East and North Africa. “They actually love it. It’s a very enjoyable lifestyle for them.”
Despite increasing population growth and an influx of foreign residents, Bahrain has experienced a softening residential market in recent years due to an oversupply of housing, brokers said.
“A high volume of apartments and villas have entered the market over the past three years,” Ms. Maxwell said. “Also, purchase is mainly for investment, and given the tepid demand in the rental market, there has been a consequential impact on the sales market.”
Apartment prices fell 9.5 percent in the first quarter of 2022 from the first quarter of 2020, and villa prices dropped 3.5 percent over the same period, she said.
“The travel restrictions, quarantines and drop in tourism naturally impacted the residential market due to restrictions that limited viewings,” Ms. Maxwell said. Now, with the restrictions lifted and buyers returning, “the numbers are on the way to returning to prepandemic levels,” she said.
During the past year, apartment prices have increased about 2.3 percent, Mr. Khan said. In the first quarter of this year, average apartment prices were at 878 dinars a square meter ($215 a square foot) for mid- to high-end two-bedroom properties across Bahrain, compared with 831 dinars a square meter ($203 a square foot) in 2021, according to CBRE’s Bahrain Market Review Q1 2022. The price of villas also increased by about 4 percent, he said.
“We’ve seen the market return to price growth in most segments of the market,” Mr. Khan said. “There’s still a bit of supply within the market, so there’s fragmentation in how areas are performing, but I think there’s optimism in terms of where the economy’s heading and some of the structural reforms the government has put in place.”
Last year, Bahrain’s government introduced a Golden Residency Visa, enabling certain nonresidents to obtain long-term visas, including those owning a property worth at least 200,000 dinars ($527,000), said Bader Nass, the founder and managing director of InfoReal Estate, in Seef. “We’re seeing an effect,” he said. “It has increased the demand from foreigners who got the Golden Visa.”
Foreigners in Bahrain are limited to buying in the freehold areas, which tend to be islands and reclaimed areas, and include Durrat Al Bahrain, as well as Seef, Reef Island, Juffair, Amwaj Islands, Dilmunia Island, Diyar Al Muharraq and Riffa Views, brokers said.
New construction continues in Bahrain — much of it in Diyar Al Muharraq, a complex of seven artificial islands located near Manama — with about 9,000 new units expected by 2026, likely further depressing rents, Mr. Khan said.
Currently, average residential prices across Bahrain are roughly half those of comparable properties in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. “So there’s a considerable discount as such,” Mr. Khan said. “And the cost of living in general is cheaper than most places within the Middle East.”
Who Buys in Bahrain
About 75 to 80 percent of the sales transactions in Bahrain are made by people from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, mostly from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Ms. Maxwell said.
Many of the remaining buyers are British, Indian and Pakistani, Mr. Nass said.
The process of buying a home in Bahrain is fairly straightforward, with the only restriction on foreigners being that they must buy in one of the freehold zones, Mr. Nass said.
With a system of government and private notaries to transact sales, a lawyer isn’t necessary, Ms. Maxwell said.
Government registration fees come to 1.7 percent of the sales price if paid within 90 days, and 2 percent thereafter up to one year, she said. The buyer and seller each pay a 1 percent commission to the broker.
Several banks and finance companies in Bahrain will offer mortgages to foreigners, monitored by the Kingdom’s single regulator, the Central Bank of Bahrain. “Most banks in Bahrain provide up to 80 to 90 percent financing to purchase villas, apartments or lands for Bahrainis, although this amount is lower for foreign buyers, closer to 75 percent,” Ms. Maxwell said. “The bank lending rates in Bahrain fall in a range of 5 to 7 percent.”
Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority: btea.bh
Bahrain national portal: bahrain.bh
Kingdom of Bahrain Survey & Land Registration Bureau: slrb.gov.bh
Languages and Currency
Arabic; Bahraini dinar (1 Bahraini dinar = $2.66)
Taxes and Fees
There are no annual property taxes, though yearly homeowner association and service charges for a villa this size are approximately 1,700 dinars ($4,480), Ms. Maxwell said.
Jacqueline Maxwell, Savills Middle East, 011-973-6697-6679, savills.me
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