In 2007, dozens of expats jumped at the chance of investing in an upcoming manmade city off of the coast of Qatar, which was being developed by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company.
Drawn by the rare chance to buy residential property in the Gulf state, many put down deposits on apartments in an area that Dubai-based developer Damac Properties was involved in: The Piazza, in the residential area of Fox Hills.
Now, seven years later, most of the investors have paid off all but the final 20 percent of the property’s worth.
But promised deadlines for finishing the apartments have come and gone several times, and these residents still don’t have the keys to their new flats.
Speaking to Doha News, Saad Hussain Ali, an Irish engineer who has paid some QR1.6 million so far for two flats in Fox Hills that were supposed to be ready in 2010, said:
“I am getting concerned. I have just celebrated my 60th birthday. We are trying to think of retirement. This money was our pension, but it has just gone into a black hole.
It has taken nearly eight years. I just want someone to give me a straight answer – when will our properties be properly ready – when will they be finished and when can we have the deeds and the keys to them.”
Meanwhile, other developers are announcing the launch of impressive new schemes at Lusail this year, prompting investors like Ali to worry their plight will be forgotten in all the excitement.
As per Damac’s website, the Piazza was initially marketed as a development of 14 buildings that would provide a “high quality living environment by combining well-planned residential, commercial, hospitality, mixed-use and entertainment districts, balanced with open spaces and parks.”
According to investors, Damac is now claiming that the properties – which have been scaled down to include eight buildings – are complete and is demanding the final payments.
During a recent visit to the site, Doha News observed that while several apartment blocks have been erected, the style and finish of the buildings did not quite match up to that promised in the original marketing material.
The complex still resembles a building site with hoardings around the perimeter, scattered construction waste and heavy machinery standing nearby.
Aside from an completed road network, the supposedly exclusive environment of Fox Hills is presently nothing more than empty stony desert dotted with huge spoil heaps.
The Piazza is the only obvious development in what otherwise resembles a moonscape.
When asked for comment, the Qatari Diar referred all questions to Damac. Despite three weeks of repeated requests, the developer has not responded to Doha News’ questions.
Meanwhile, investors like Leon (not his real name) are still trying to figure out how to proceed. The Qatar resident told Doha News that he spent all of his savings on a deposit, and then took out a mortgage to cover the rest of the payments for the apartment.
“I feel humiliated by the whole experience. None of us who bought into this scheme is a big-time investor. We are just little people who worked hard here and saved our money. We are citizens of Qatar and wanted to put our money back into the country to help it develop.
I just want an answer from Damac now. When will my apartment be finished and when can I get in?”
As he looked around the empty ground surrounding his flat, Leon added: “Although even when I get it, I am not sure what I am going to do with it. How can I rent it out? There is nothing else here. Who would want to move here?”
A prolific developer in the UAE, Damac is also responsible for the Burj Damac Marina – a 20 story luxury hotel apartment tower in the heart of Lusail marina.
As the Piazza saga continues, Qatari real estate developer Barwa announced this week plans to sell property at its own development in Fox Hills – Dara.
The 176,000sqm residential-led scheme is slated to have 56 buildings with more than 1,000 apartments.
Work is expected to start in less than two months, with apartments selling for prices between QR10,000 and QR12,000 per sqm, depending on the associated facilities, the Gulf Times reported.
At the same time, United Developers has unveiled details of its QR5billion Place Vendome “luxury, lifestyle and leisure destination,” also planned for Lusail. It is set to comprise up to 400 shops, two five-star hotels, serviced apartments and entertainment facilities.