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Finding a home in Kenya

Is it best to buy or rent in Kenya? And how do you go about finding your new home? We have the answers.

Kenya has some very strict property rules for expats and because of these most tend to rent rather than buy. If you do buy, you cannot own freehold, you’ll have to lease and the tenure only lasts for 99 years. Non-Kenyan citizens cannot extend this lease beyond the 99 years. Expats can invest in land for commercial purposes but not to ‘generate personal rental income’.

If you are thinking of buying a property in Kenya, you will have to budget for some additional costs (as at July 2017):

  • Stamp duty – between 2% and 4% of the house price
  • Legal fees 1.5%
  • Banker’s cheque charge Ksh600
  • Registering the sale Ksh500

You should always use a lawyer when buying property. They’ll be able to check all the documentation and might be able to speed up the process.

Once the registration documents have been drawn up, the buyer will have to pay a deposit — usually 10-30% of the purchase price. This deposit is refundable should the seller not go ahead with the sale. Once the local authorities are assured that all taxes and utilities have been settled, then a certificate of clearance can be issued.

At this stage a draft transfer is prepared, and stamp duty is paid. The property can now be inspected by a representative from the Lands Office. This process is to ensure that the property has been correctly valued. Once all is found to be in correct order, the buyer will pay the balance of the house price to the vendor. The whole process of buying a house in Kenya can take just 72 days.

Finding a home to rent

You can go online and look for a property yourself, or you can take a lot of pain out of the process by hiring an estate agent. An estate agent will know the safest neighbourhoods, the locations of schools and local hospitals and will also be able to advise you on distances to your workplace.

It’s best to confirm that your chosen agent is registered with the Estate Agents Registration Board (EARB), or you can select an agent from their list of members. This is the most secure way of renting a property as in recent years there have been numerous scams when people have unwittingly responded to an advertisement in a newspaper or online, handed over a deposit only to discover that the advertiser had no rights to the property and didn’t have the correct documentation to proceed with a legal tenancy agreement. You can also check out this property website that caters for expat needs.

If you are thinking of using an agent to arrange your rental, all the fees and commission are paid by the landlord. Three months’ rent is the norm for a deposit, but if any work needs carrying out to the property, don’t hand over the deposit until the tasks have been completed. You may have to pay admin fees and anyone living in a compound will have to pay a fee for security. Most rental agreements last for one year and can then be renewed, but the rent may be raised at this time.

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