So here we are, schools about to start up again and the usual end-of-school year exodus happened over the summer, but it appears that a number of us expats (sorry for those of you reading this blog who are Omani)(!) have not returned, or been replaced, yet. This coupled with the never-ending number of twin-villas and high-density apartment buildings that have been popping up all over the city has led to what I assume is an over-supply in the housing market at the moment.
Yet it seems that landlords (or estate agents) are still asking for the traditional rents found in each area. My advice to you if you are looking for a new place to live here in Muscat is to discount heavily (more than the traditional 100-150 rials a month) your offers for a place. I'm told that one can get a 5 bedroom villa in North Ghubra at the moment for as little as 750 rials, yet they're still be advertised for 1000-1200 rials - a bird in the hand is worth more than 3 in the bush it seems. Not only are the rents really coming down, but the payment terms are being revised as well. Gone it seems are the traditional 12 month rent payments, the "norm" these days appears to be at the very minimum 6 month payments, with 3 month payments being more and more popular. I even have a few friends who are renting apartments on a monthly basis.
Times have changed, and it seems, that at least some landlords, acknowledge this. I'm hoping to renegotiate my rent soon too, wish me luck!
But what about the bigger issue behind this housing over-supply? Yes it could be argued that the over supply is due to a significant increase in the supply of housing (eg new places being built) but also, the demand appears to have dropped too. For me, in my personal social network, I've seen an awful lot of friends leave in the last 6 months, with more on their way out every month too.
Now, I wonder how many of my friends that are leaving are being replaced by people who will command the same salaries that they had? I wonder what the knock on effect that will have on luxury spending in the retail sector - how many specialist cake shops (for example) will continue to remain open in the coming months?
Have you renegotiated your rent with your landlord? Scored a good deal? Have many of your friends left town too?
Hard times ahead I think, but we already knew that didn't we?!