Nancy Muthoni is the executive producer and host of The Property Show, a real estate programme that airs on KTN every Sunday. She is also the CEO of First Avenue, a real estate consultancy firm that offers solutions to investors. The property expert explains to us some of the basic issues that prospective buyers should be aware of.
1. GET APPRAISED
When you're looking to buy a house, start by going to a bank to get an appraisal. This will tell you what you can afford. They will look at your earnings and advise you on how much mortgage you can get. Even if you are using your savings, the appraisal will give you a proper idea on where to invest.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION!
Most of us want to live in the upmarket, yet that is not where we can afford and that is not where we should start. Sometimes we need to lower our expectations and go where we can afford. Go on a shopping spree as many times as you need to. Understand the terrain and look at what is available. Do not just pick the first house you find. The next house could be slightly better.
3. DOES THE PROPERTY SERVE YOU WELL?
Perhaps you are a mother or you work late. Consider what transportation you require from work to your home. Do they have nurseries and schools around there for the children? Do they have shops that you can buy my basics from nearby? Do they have a market I can go to? Is there a mini-mall in the neighbourhood so that you do not need to shop in town? Are there hospitals? Look at the big picture before committing.
4. READ THE FINE PRINT
Before you sign on the dotted line, understand the payment modality and involve a lawyer. Get the documentation that you require and really study it. You need documents from the mortgage company, legal documents, sale agreement, lease agreement etc. Understand them and consult legal guidance if need be to understand what you are buying. I meet many people who tell me "I am buying this house" and when I ask them how much it is, they are quick to tell me the cost but when I ask about the payment plans, they have no idea.
5. DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE CON GAME
Home ownership has become a fashion statement. Because of this, there are many dishonest people selling ghost houses to gullible home buyers. People do not understand what one requires, so someone can come up with a story and many will believe it. Buying property should not be rushed; sometimes you are just not ready and sometimes it is not the right property.
You must visit the site before you commit to buying the property. Whether you are buying it off-plan or buying a house that is under construction, or a ready one, you need to see it. This is before you make any payment. If someone is asking you to pay an amount to go and see a house, that should be the number one red flag. You can even go to the site without the seller, because if the seller is dishonest, you may just uncover some lies on site.
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6. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Due diligence is getting your documents looked at by professionals. You must get a lawyer to do a search, to ensure that the property is free from any encumbrances. That means it was not built on a road reserve, it is not grabbed, and the owners have paid any dues charged – you can trace the title deed back to the very first owner.
7. CHECK OUT THE DEVELOPER
Check out your seller. If it is a developer, have they done any existing developments? If they have not, do they have all the approvals required?
After double-checking that the developer has all the approvals required, check the sewer details. Who is handling it? Where is my water coming from? After that, understand the financial model the developer is using. Is he building with your money? Because if he is building a whole estate with your money, that project will stall along the way. Is he somebody with means? Is he getting a bank to finance the project? Where is he getting his money from? If you feel like, for example some windows are too small; get an architect who will tell you if that ventilation will work.
8. GET A VALUER
You will need to get a valuer to value the property. If you are taking a mortgage, the bank's valuer will also double-check that property. If you are not sure about the pricing, let a valuer come and double-value it for you. If it is land, you should get documents supporting where the beacons are held. When buying off-plan, take caution because the documents for that are different. Understand the documentation. The payment models are different too so it is important to understand the payment model.
10. GET A GREAT AGENT
A good agent is who you need when making a sizable investment. If anything, a good agent will often come highly recommended by previous investors. Still, you need to go to reputable agencies. Agents are now registered at the Ministry of Lands. Check if the agent has an office. Understand the agent. Double check the agent.