This Real estate industry continues to grow rapidly, evidently so from the ongoing and recently completed developments such as low cost housing projects in Athi River, Mlolongo, Kitengela and Thika, the never – ending availability of commercial space in Westlands. Not forgetting the stunning high –end town houses in the lush and green suburbs of Karen, Nyari, Runda, Lower Kabete, Kitusuru, Spring Valley and Gigiri to name a few and the recent increase in hotel construction.

What are the “Dos and Don’ts” while house hunting? How does one go about getting the correct market price for their property on sale? What does a property valuation entail? What do real estate terms such as “free from all encumbrances”, “collateral”, “transfer of ownership” “freehold title” and “service charge” mean? Want to get away for a while for a relaxing holiday but have no clue about how to begin your search? All your real estate prayers will be answered. Never fear, it’s all property here!

First of all, let us dive right into it and find ourselves a new property to rent shall we? Whether you are “moving on up” and currently in search of a more comfortable den for your family, or you have recently relocated to Nairobi, the last thing you need is to find yourself scrutinizing a house with specifications far from what you had discussed with the so called “reliable agent”, who also just happened to disappear into thin air after demanding a “legal fee” for taking you on a property viewing.

Here’s the real deal – properties to let in the market are plenty and agents are even more plenty! The most hassle free solution would be to take a day or two and do some research on which real estate organizations are registered and reliable. Consider selecting one or two that you would like to work with, in your search for a new home. Speak to friends, colleagues; go on the internet, thank goodness for Google search as information is available at all times for free! Leading real-estate organizations will always have a website, usually updated so browse their property listing and make notes.

We are not done yet, plenty of narrowing down required! Once you have identified a few reliable agents from registered real estate companies give them as much detail as possible of exactly what you want such as the location, the number of rooms required, a pet friendly environment (if that’s one of your requirements). Be very clear about your budget range and the duration for which you require the property. Would you like your home to be close to your children’s school or your office? Don’t be shy or uncomfortable with your questions and comments regarding your inquiry, be specific, – “MUST have a swimming pool”, “budget of 250,000 Kshs, MAXIMUM. “NOT MORE THAN 12 apartments in a compound” and so forth.

Are you looking for a house with modern finishing or do you want a lovely colonial style home? Be precise about what type of dwelling you require, is it a stand-alone i.e. a bungalow or a double story house on a private compound? A luxury apartment? A fully furnished guest wing? A town-house or maisonette? What is the difference between the last two, is what you are thinking, correct? Told you, never fear, all property here!

Maisonettes are houses that are attached to one another in a large compound; each house may or may not have a private garden. Town houses are larger detached houses, each has its own boundary walls/fencing, with a private entrance but is in a gated community where a service charge covers facilities such as 24 hour security, garbage collection and maintenance of common areas such as the gardens, swimming pool, club house, drive ways and payment of utility bills.

Request your agent to send you details and pictures of properties that fit your requirements then confirm their availability before a viewing to avoid disappointment, as properties are available one day and not the next – True story! One of the reasons why this happens is because a certain property could be given to two or more reliable agents to advertise, sell or rent, although some land lords prefer to take the sole agency route – this is when a landlord signs a sole agreement with an agency and relies only on them to handle his property.

Landlords in some cases do not inform all the agents on time about his/ her property not being available in the market anymore after a sale or rental has taken place. Resulting in the website still showing that the property is available when in actual fact it is not. Note to all landlords; please keep all your agents informed on the availability of your property to avoid disappointment.

This is going to be your new home so persevere with the strenuous hunting process, and be sure to look at several properties before making your final decision. If you are open to living in two or more areas, it would be wise to schedule viewings geographically, for example, all Kitusuru viewings on the 5th, all Loresho viewings on the 6th and so on. However, some agents are under strict instructions from landlords that their properties can be viewed only on certain days and certain times so try not give your agent a hard time if the situation is so.

Once you have identified your dream home, the agent still has more work to do. He should now liaise with you and the landlord with reference to the Lease Agreement; this is a legal contract between the landlord and the tenant stating who the contract has been drawn between, the lease period, payment terms, rent increments if any and the tenant’s and landlord’s responsibilities.

All real estate contracts must be in writing, signed, legitimized by two competent witnesses, If required by either party be notarized i.e. acknowledged before a court representative or advocate and recorded in conjunction with the laws of the land, in order for the contract to become effective and valid. A contract can be terminated by either party providing adequate notice is given. The time frame is always clearly indicated in a contract.

Once both parties are satisfied the lease is signed and payments are made, the rent is usually paid monthly, quarterly or yearly along with a refundable security deposit – either one month’s or two months’ rent. All payments are made directly to the landlord in most cases, however, some agents are authorized to receive the rent on the owner’s behalf, and this very important instruction should be given to you in writing. Most rents are paid via cheque or bank transfer. The owner or agent must issue a receipt for every payment you make during your lease period.

Before signing the lease, scrutinize the house, make a list of any areas you want attended to such as paint-work, plumbing, broken door handles, mirrors, tiles, windows etc. the list could be endless, but there are properties out there that will require minimal or no repairs. Ensure that all jobs are done before occupying the house.

Legally, the agent receives all commissions from the landlord and never the tenant. How many properties you have viewed and how many days you have spent with an agent should be of no relevance to you as the tenant with regards to commission. It is not ethical for an agent to request for a fee to view a property, or after you have chosen a house and signed a lease, do not entertain it, better yet, be very clear from the word go and find out if there are any hidden charges for viewing a property. If the answer is yes, you are definitely in the wrong hands. Run Forest Gump, Run!

Remember, like in all of life’s scenarios, this too is not a one way street, be honest with your agent. If you do not like a property or you have already seen the one he wants to show you so desperately, be upfront with him. Do not give agents false hope, their time is just as precious as yours, and as tempting as it may be, when your agent says we can view the house tomorrow, be patient. Stop yourself from ignoring his requests and driving to that amazing house in Muthaiga, jumping over the gate and getting the owners contact number from the gardener busy trimming the Kai-apple fence. Respect your agent; wait for tomorrow.

So finally, you are all settled now in your new abode! Yes, we are finally there. Enjoy your stay, build your memories but remember to pay your rent and utility bills on time to avoid disappointment! Work on having an amicable relationship with your landlord as well as agent. Try not to push it with your demands and please admit to setting the guest wing on fire – you know it was you! Mistakes happen, we are all human. Don’t falsely accuse the landlord and fabricate situations.

One’s search for office space should be carried out in the same manner, be clear about your requirements – request for the rental price per square foot if you want space in a commercial office block, ensure all licenses are in place. Is it a brand new building that will be handed over at a “core and shell”, that is, a stage where the tenant is responsible for completing flooring, ceiling and install fittings and fixtures or is it a building that will be handed over with a complete interior? Will there be enough parking spaces for your business if it is one that will require ample parking? Has all the internet cabling been done, what is the service charge and what does it cover?

If the available office space is a house, confirm that the change of user from residential to commercial has been done. The last thing you want is to have your receptionist interrupt your million dollar deal meeting with a client because the City Council officers are at the front desk demanding an explanation as to why you are running a business in a private house that is strictly meant to be used as a residence and not an office.

In an ideal world, prospective tenants need to be super specific about their requirements and sincere with their feed back to agents after viewings. Landlords should ensure that the quality of the property is worth the price and continuously work in harmony with the tenant and agent to maintain the standard of the estate and have happy tenants on his property. Let us not forget the agent who brought the two of you together. Were you happy with the service he provided? Then refer him and his organization to as many people as you can. On the other hand if you did not conclude a transaction with an agent who showed you several properties or marketed your property, be kind; inform him, so that he ends his search on your behalf. It will take only a few seconds… In an ideal world that is!

Onwards and upwards, “the best investment on earth is earth” said Louis Glickman, an American real estate business executive. Are you currently looking to buy or sell your plot? What are your thoughts on this? Do you want a valuation on your property? Would you like to know how much you should pay for that half acre you just saw in Karen? Please send all your real estate inquiries in order for us to personalize our blog and share what you want to really see! So until the next one, keep it all real, your lives and your homes…….

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