Rent a house in Nairobi: relocation tips for expatriates
When an expatriate plans to rent a house in Nairobi, the house search is a critical stage. For any expatriate relocation, it is indeed the moment where you identify your new home, sweet home. It shall then become your safe haven when your expatriation mood cycle may be down.
In Kenya, you may find real estate agents who offer their assistance for free. They are actually brokers who get commissioned by landlords to find tenants to occupy their properties. Even if the offer seems attractive, you will end up wasting a lot of time visiting properties that do not match your criteria. And if you visit an interesting one, then you might engage into a lease agreement without any advice or support because the agent will not be on your side.
To avoid any disappointing experience when you rent a house in Nairobi, we strongly suggest that you seek the help of mobility professionals. They will assist you with a clear mandate where you will be able to define your criteria. One of the first criteria you need to clarify is the type of property you are looking for.
Choose the right type of accommodation
We can identify 3 main types of accommodation in Kenya : apartment, townhouse and stand-alone house.
The apartment is the most competitive in terms of pricing. You can find nice and spacious apartments in very modern towers. The main advantage will be the shared amenities, such as the pool, gym, etc. On the other side, remember that the weather in Nairobi is amazing so very soon you may miss a small garden to invite your friends for a BBQ. In terms of location, you can find good options in Kilimani, Riverside, etc.
The townhouse is a house located in a secured compound. This solution is usually more expensive than an apartment but not by much. Mainly, the townhouse will have more bedrooms than an apartment and you should be able to get a little garden. The townhouses are usually spacious and modern, even though some of them are ageing a bit fast. Make sure to do a comprehensive house inspection before moving in. Privacy is not always at its best with a townhouse so good neighbours will be a big plus. You can find nice townhouses in Westlands, Lavington, Kileleshwa.
The stand-alone house are more traditional houses with a large garden. You are alone on your plot so there is no issue with privacy or intimacy. The stand-alone is a bit older therefore it requires regular maintenance. It is also a bit more expensive because you need to cater for the property costs by yourself, while they are shared in the case of apartments or townhouses. They are less and less stand-alone properties in Nairobi because many of them are transformed into compounds for several townhouses. Result being that houses become more modern but private gardens are becoming a scarcity. You can find stand-alone properties in Karen, Loresho, Gigiri.
Pick the right location
In Nairobi, the best places to seek for international standards’ house or apartment are clearly identified. There is a growing expat community in Nairobi areas including Lavington, Kilimani, Westlands, Kileleshwa or Karen. These neighbourhoods have developed in ways that would accommodate foreigners residential demand.
When you rent a house in Nairobi, house search is very much impacted by the congested traffic. It is a strategic insight to consider as it can determine your working hours, the school for your kids, the household logistics, etc.
When choosing the location, you need to consider security, traffic jam, accessibility, proximity to a shopping Centre, hospitals, schools and noise. These factors will affect your everyday life when living in that apartment/house.
Runda and Gigiri are close to the UN Headquarters, but a bit isolated from the rest of the city otherwise. Westlands and Kileleshwa offer competitive real estate rates while having several decent infrastructures. Kilimani is an interesting neighbourhood as it is very dynamic and central. It is a nice area to stay upon arrival or on a short-term stay. It is ideal for consultants, VIEs, interns, etc. Unfortunately Kilimani is also quite noisy and polluted becasue of traffic and construction sites. Very green areas, Lavington and Riverside are more upper-class with many expatriates and embassies. With less density, Karen offers plenty of space in the middle of nature. With the bypass, it is ideal for people working on Mombasa Road.
Check the amenities
Before you rent a house in Nairobi, make sure to check the amenities of the property. Fundamentally, it is important to live in a place with a borehole because of the issue of water rationing that affects Nairobi. Another example, shared pools in apartments are usually not heated. They are just a selling point but no one will swim there because with the altitude the water remains too cold.
Regarding electricity, choose an accommodation with an inverter rather than a generator First, inverters do not require any fuel. Second, generators are very noisy. Third, inverters pick up automatically on the back-up channel if there is a power cut, you have nothing to do.
Check also the surroundings of the property to avoid any surprise after some time. A contiguous empty plot brings security issues and also a possible construction site to be. Light, odours, noise, etc. These elements ensure safety and healthy lifestyle while living in the house or apartment.
Review the lease carefully
Once you have identified a suitable option, request a draft lease agreement from the landlord/landlady or the property manager. Peruse it cautiously and make inquiries on any aspect you don’t understand to your agent. Review the contract by checking each clause, including termination clause, the expected responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord/landlady, the service charges, possible extra costs, and any other related details.
With proper support you should be in position to negotiate some clauses of the lease agreement. In case that the proprietor reveals something orally that is not in the rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing in the agreement. Bear in mind that your rental is not confirmed until the lease agreement is signed by both parties and payment of the deposit made.
Note that you should not make any payment before both parties have signed the lease agreement. Finally, Kenyan law is very favorable to owners in the event of litigation, it is therefore just as important to choose its owner well as its housing.
Schedule a house inspection
When renting a house, whether new or old, see if there are any cracks in the walls or any light brown spots on the ceiling covered with paint that would be revealing a leaking roof. List any broken glass, make sure there are keys on every door, test the lights and the taps, etc. If the apartment is furnished, you need to make an inventory.
The house inspection must be done before the tenant moves in the preferred house. Regarding repairs requested by the tenant during the lease signature, time is the essence. Make sure timely repairs are completed to avoid any inconvenience once you have moved in. Verify also what you are paying for and what the property owner had agreed to fix.
It is important to be guided by a certified agency to ensure that the quality of the house meets the provisions of the government policy. Particularly under the Nairobi City County Inspectorate Act of 2017. Important features of consideration during inspection include performing the inspection with the presence of an agent, client, and the landlord/landlady or the property manager.
Hidden costs: service charge or utilities?
Service charge is the amount used by the property management company to sustain the extra services available in addition to the house/apartment services, such as cleaning, security, lifts, and gardening. One thing to note about service charge is that the more features the property has, the higher the service charge will be. Properties with gym, sauna, swimming pool, children play area, and garden security guards are likely to attract relatively higher charges. It is good to ask the property management so you can anticipate clearly the amount being charged and whether it is worth it.
The utilities are the costs that you will attract by using the property. For example internet subscription, water and electricity or garbage collection are utilities. These costs are on you and they can’t be related to your landlord. You need to check the meter readings when you rent a house in Nairobi to ensure that the previous tenant settled the bills before leaving.
Don’t bargain with security
Some of the insecurities that can be seen in Nairobi include : terrorist attack, car-jacking, home-jacking, mugging etc. Therefore, you should do a security analysis check for several features, including CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television), electric fence, security guards, and security patrol vehicles.
Moreover, it can be a good idea to consider security dogs, alarm systems, and panic buttons as these are the most efficient solutions today to curb this vices. Westlands, Kileleshwa, Karen and Lavington are renowned for developing rental houses and apartments that prioritise such state-of-the-art security measures.
It can be a challenging process for an expatriate to rent a house in Nairobi. There is a lack of information about the potential areas of residency. Also expatriates do not know beforehand what features are necessary for assured comfort, safety, security, and convenience in Kenya. In this case, get a reliable agent who will be on your side to find a house or an apartment meeting your criteria.