Normally your employers will provide you with housing in a compound they already have a contract with. However, as there are now a larger number of ex-pats coming to KSA more employers are providing the employees with a housing allowance instead. The main reason for this is lack of availability on their chosen compounds and also the personal preference of the employee and family.
The cost of housing depends on the city you are living in. An example of cost in Riyadh (in the best compound (Al-Hamra)) for a huge 3 bedroom villa is around US$ 70,000 a year. This rent includes all utility bills and this is just an example of what some rents can be if you choose to live in a compound. Note this is just an example and may differ if in a contract with a company. A private residence often much bigger in size will be considerably cheaper. The rents are high because of the facilities within the compound!
There is a waiting list for most compounds, the reason behind this is due to most housing including apartments already being taken in contract by foreign companies such as Ericsson, Pepsi, STC, Samba Bank, Al Marai dairy etc. Some of these properties may well be empty but unless you work for one of the companies that already has the property it will be virtually impossible to get in.
If you have a housing subsidy and have chosen a compound but there is a waiting list, the best thing to do is to become friendly with the compound manager. Call them regularly, ask how they are and make chit chat before asking about availability. If the compound manager is an Arab then a good, polite and professional manner can go a long way!
Take note - always negotiate your rent but don't be too hard. They will always have other people waiting to get in who will be willing to pay a little bit more then you. So good polite conversation is the key. Telling them how wonderful they are always helps!
When choosing a compound look around and consider the following;
What facilities do they have? A recreation centre? Pools? Tennis Courts? Squash Courts? A supermarket? Dry-cleaning? Salon? Shopping buses?
Is the compound within a reasonable distance of the school?
Do they have any dress codes? I.e No hijab allowed inside compound? (yes, some compounds have this rule!)
Within Riyadh there are a number of new compounds being built. However below is a list of some with some star ratings where known.
Arabian Homes - **** Also operating in Jeddah.
Eid 12 Villas
Al Hamra Oasis Village Compound ***** - Joins onto the British International School and rated as the best.
Cordoba Oasis Village Compound *****
Kingdom City *****
Al-Waha Garden Compound
Al Jazeera Bader
Green City Compound
Arizona Compound ***** Has a golf driving Range and a small city farm.
Fal Compound ****
Finally, ask around for input on compounds. Keep your ear to the ground on colleagues who may be leaving KSA within your company and if HR has already assigned their housing to another employee.