Buying a house - like buying land, requires a great deal of caution.
It almost borders on paranoia, especially if the house has been put up for sale and was not in the buyer’s crosshairs.
The buyer is required to do thorough due diligence and assess options with lots of attention to detail.
These very basic needs should come to the fore; the space one needs, the money one has set aside to spend and how to get funding if they do not have enough money to make the purchase.
The property’s location, which Mizizi Africa Homes Chief Executive Mr George Mburu terms crucial should come to the fore when seeking to buy a home.
“Location is all about the surroundings, and in this regard, accessibility (to the house and amenities) and security. Are there hospitals, shopping malls, schools, in the neighbourhood? Are you living in an area that is prone to bandit attacks?” noted Mburu.
The location of a home has been one of the main reasons people keep on relocating. Mr Clive Ndege, the head of sales at Superior Homes, says an ideal house should be located in a serene environment.
This, he notes, helps reduce the inconveniences of time and distance (from places they frequent) significantly. “If you have children, you do not want them waking up at four in the morning so they can start commuting to their school,” says Mr Ndege.
“You also do not want to spend three hours in traffic every morning going to work and another three in the evening going back home because you live that far from work.”
Nairobi, notorious for choking traffic gridlocks - is responsible for people getting late to work and even missing crucial appointments.
A home in an ideal location would be a panacea to some of these problems.
However, Mr Ndege says one has to sometimes contend with the pain of long journeys and many hours if they can find comfort in another location altogether.
Given an option to buy a standalone house or an apartment unit, Mr Ndege advises buyers to go for standalone units if they can afford.
Often, such a house will only be available in the outskirts of the city - the suburban areas and the satellite towns.
As such, one might have to do longer distances to work but will derive more comfort from living in a spacious house, in a serene environment.
“You are looking at the possibility of having a kitchen garden, which you will not have in an apartment,” he says. “You have children who want to have a space in which they can play, and this is not going to be possible in an apartment.”
In recent years, there has been a trend of people willing and able to buy houses, preferring to look outside the city.
Land sellers in areas such as Ruiru, Kitengela, Ngong, Athi River and Ndenderu, which are some way out of the city’s central business district (CBD), have seen good business in those years.
As a result of constantly rising demand of space in these areas, prices of property have shot into the sky.
Mr Ndege observes that the buyer’s size of family, and plans for the future should also be a main consideration when buying a house. This as the house is not a possession that one can dispose of whenever they want; it needs proper planning.
“Consider the size of family that you intend to have. How many bedrooms will you need, eventually? Bathrooms? The kitchen area? Parking spaces?” he says.
Guests, for those that have a lot of them visiting, should also be considered and extra room created for them.
But Mr Ndege says the price of the house is everything. Location and size and type of house will not mean much if one is unable to afford it.
“The purchase price influences every decision that you make when buying the property. There are many ways to acquire that house. You could go for a house that you can afford from your savings, or you could take a mortgage,” he says.
“It is also important to note that one may end up incurring more than they intended on the house due to other fees such as service charges, legal fees, stamp duty.”
Mr Mburu says buying a ready house does not attract as many risks compared to other ways of owing a unit such as constructing one. The main risks in ready units is the quality of materials used in construction and the cost that one may incur as the seller intends to make the most out of the property they are disposing of.
“The seller may have taken loans in the construction of the house and will be intending to pay that. They will also want to recoup their money used in operations, and to make a profit on top,” he says.
For quality of materials used in construction, which may boomerang on an enthusiastic buyer who does not commit to due diligence, one is encouraged to use the services of professionals such as engineers.
“The property has a ready title (registration of title document), you confirmed that the materials used are strong and durable, and you love it; you can now pay,” Mr Mburu advises. However, he warns against paying full amount, saying an honest seller will allow the new buyer access into the building even if the buyer has not paid in full.
This caution while paying gives an allowance for other claimants to the same property to come out and challenge the buyer. Mr Mburu says there are many cases of double allocation in property markets.
While one should involve lawyers in the transactions when buying the house, Mburu says the buyer should ensure part of the money is paid by the bank.
“If you leave a portion of the money to be paid by the bank, you will hardly get conned in the sale. The bank will want to conduct due diligence as it does not want to lose its money. For that Sh8 million house, you could pay up Sh7.5 million and let the bank pay your remainder - money you are sure you can comfortably pay back to the bank,” he says.
For those going the off-plan way, Mburu says buyers should ensure they do a due diligence to know how reliable that developer is.
“Check out the history of the developer. It is good to check the validity of the title, visiting the registry and even accessing the green book, but it is even more important to go the extra mile to check just how dependable the developer is. Many fall into shady deals and then change names to dupe new customers,” he says.
The lighting of a house should also be a considered. A house with as much allowance for natural lighting as possible should be a choice house for anyone as it reduces the cost of electricity.
The available plinth area is also necessary to check out.
At the height of the pandemic, as people started moving into bigger spaces after realising they had been living in small spaces now that everyone was restricted to indoors, many had to rightsize.
They were mostly looking for bigger space, but there was also a number that wanted to do away with space that they were not using.
Good planning ahead of buying a house will prevent regular, unnecessary movements either up and down, or the pain of living in a neighborhood that offers neither peace nor security.