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words and photo by Terembe Cherono

From exorbitant rent prices to poor design and planning, looking for a place to live in Nairobi can leave you feeling frustrated and hopeless. Whether you’re making your first move out of your parents’ home, looking for a new spot after a few years or arriving in Nairobi for the first time, these crowd-sourced tips should be helpful. I asked my Instagram audience for their best house/apartment-hunting advice – this is what they said.

Some suggest contacting an agent…

  • Use a trusted agent, preferably someone referred by someone you trust. Also set a budget
  • Get an agent. It makes house hunting way easier and you get more options
  • Get an agent who knows/works the area you’re targeting. Saves you plenty of time and energy.

While others didn’t agree…

  • Avoid agents if you can, they really know how to con someone
  • Before you get an agent, find a neighbourhood you are interested in, and venture out on your own
  • Don’t trust agents. Go in person. Agents add a margin on rent. Find places and ask, and tip the caretaker or guard.
  • Move around, look at empty houses by yourself. Learn the streets and the people, agents won’t show you
  • Not only relying on an agent, drive around the area you want to live in and ask around for vacancies
  • Do it in person, go to the houses one by one
  • Some houses are not advertised, just go to each house/apartment and say you want to view a vacant house.

Some suggestions were functional…

  • Visit the area both during the day and at night – to check for random construction or clubs around
  • Walk around yourself
  • Sounds weird but pass by at night to measure the noise levels from hidden clubs/church
  • Lighting especially when working from home. South facing windows always. Saves coins.
  • Is the area busy (construction, school, church, clubs, small businesses)
  • Walk… a lot you’ll find the cutest places that way
  • Lookout for some businesses. Petrol stations contaminate underground water
  • Have a wishlist
  • Kitchen and bathrooms are the main determining factors! Don’t be wowed by a large living room
  • Go on a Saturday or Sunday to see the situation on weekends. If there is peace or noise
  • Lookout for churches, clubs, supermarkets, schools, petrol stations. Noisy and crowded
  • Tour the area on a Friday & Saturday night… to spot them night clubs and church keshas
  • Visit areas on a Saturday, you’ll get an overview of the compound
  • Take advantage of older spacious homes that you can request to modify
  • Start early enough when you don’t have pressure to move
  • Search online, identify specific houses you like the go check them out

And some were water-related…

  • Don’t live anywhere near water bodies. The view is cute, wait until its mosquito and rainy season
  • Always ask if they have a borehole for water
  • Open all taps at the same time
  • Always confirm if the place has enough water supply
  • Check if the neighbours have water storage things in their balconies, that’s a sign water is scarce

Then there were the tips on who to speak to…

  • If it’s an apartment speak to one of the neighbours before you believe the caretaker
  • Identify a neighbour
  • Ask the current tenants and watchman what it’s like living there
  • Try talking to someone who lives in the area and get insights on services like security, electricity, water et al
  • Go with referrals

Some advice to save your coins…

  • Always negotiate the rent
  • Never pay for one immediately after viewing. There’s always a better one. Wait out 72 hours.
  • See as many houses as possible before you commit. There are so many good deals.
  • You can always negotiate the rent
  • Always negotiate, monetary or otherwise (skills, career, consulting etc)
  • Never pay before viewing a house
  • Do’t mention your budget, just mention the number of of rooms you need. Keep your mind open, some 3 bedrooms are cheaper than a 1-bedroomed

..and finally, the most millenial tip ever:

  • Watch house- hunting vlogs

Now for some professional advice, shared by Wendy Ngunga, Sales Manager at Property Boutique East Africa

  1. Keep rent to 25% of your earnings especially because of other expenses.
  2. Plan at least 3 months ahead before moving out – this gives you more time to find the right home as well as plan the many expenses before hand.
  3. Know what you’re looking for – take the time and browse the internet in order to get your expectations right.
  4. Ensure that you have a rental agreement in place before moving in. This should be attached to an inspection sheet which you and the landlord will have signed before the move in date. Read your tenancy agreement carefully or get a specialist do it for you – many tenants get locked into leases that does not benefit them or get caught with unwarranted bills because of lack of inspection before moving in.
  5. Talk to other tenants – find out why the previous tenant moved out and what experiences other tenants in the building/area have had. A landlord will rarely disclose issues such as water scarcity, security etc if it will cost them a client.

Any advice you’d like to add? Share in the comments below!

Terembe Cherono is a creator, curator and digital strategist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For the last 10 years, Terembe has used her social media platforms (particularly Instagram and YouTube), to share lifestyle content using extremely compelling storytelling formats. In the last two years, she has developed a highly popular technique for Instagram Stories known as a ‘Daily Recap’ used by numerous content creators globally. She has supported several influencers and small businesses to leverage social media for brand building and sales. 

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  1. Such solid tips! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you! Glad you’ve found them useful

  2. This is super useful as I am currently house hunting. Thank you do much. It is tedious yet I know the house that meets my needs is waiting for me to find it 🙂

    • Yes, indeed! All the very best 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing these super helpful tips. Planning to move out by the end of the year to an area that’s a bit far from home and I really don’t like the idea of paying an agent so these tips have really affirmed me on my decision.

    • My pleasure! All the best with the hunt

  4. Great tips! So glad I found this.

  5. What a gem!!
    Considering I’m planning to move out.

    • My pleasure!

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