Buying and selling property in Kenya Let me begin by saying, I don't intend to write a 'how to' document here. I'm sure the process is much more complex than I understand, and I'd be the first person in line to hire a real estate professional to help me through it. In fact, in Kenya, I'd have to hire a LOT of real estate professionals, it seems. So, I asked a few leaders in the ISK (the leading real estate professional organization in Kenya), "How do I buy property? What do I do first? Can I even own property as a non-national?" Oh yes, they assure me, you can. It will be on a 99-year lease, of course, but that's the same as owning, for most people. "Well, not quite, but since all I want is a place to live, how do I go about finding one?" I ask. Oh, I am told, you go to a real estate firm. Real estate firms may have a small sales staff which also can find you a rental. The most important activities for real estae companies are in writing appraisal reports and in property management, so primarily they have property managers on staff, and valuers (appraisers). If you need a survey, you will have to go to a separate firm which specializes in that. "But," I say, I read the paper here, and I don't see any advertisements for real estate firms or properties. How do I find such things?" The answer is a little vague--there are some newspaper advertisements, but not many, because it's very expensive-about $1000 for a quarter page ad. Most Kenyans don't have internet access, either, so I won't find much help with a Google search. (I did find a pretty resourceful Coldwell Banker site, with lots of information on how to own property in Kenya, and a rudimentary search of the company's listings.) It seems you just 'know' where to find a reputable company: company advertising is not a huge investment, and I have yet to see a company sign or a For Sale sign on a property. "OK," I say, "let's skip that part. I've accidentally stumbled upon a real estate firm, and I pay them a visit. What next?" Someone there will show me the company's listings. Apparently there are two kinds of listings in Kenya, exclusive listings and multi-company listings. Only the larger, more established firms have exclusive listings--multi-company listings are more common, because sellers think the more companies they list with, the better their chances of a good sale. And smaller firms can't afford to be too selective about the listings they have, so they have few--if any--exclusive listings. Apparently, there's a pretty good chance that once the word gets out that i am a potential buyer, I may be accosted by an independent sales agent, too--one who is not affiliated with a real estate firm, who has only a government issued permission slip, and may not even have a valid listing for what he or she is trying to sell me. (Note to self; be careful of these guys.) I discover there's no common listing data base. If I haven't found something I like at the first firm, I can go to another one. I may see some of those same listings (the multi-company ones), and I may find something new that I like. At any rate, I repeat the process until I can come up with something that suits me. I could, of course, hire someone to do the research for me. The government suggests my representative would be entitled to a finder's fee of 1.5%. If I do buy one of a firm's listing, the government recommends a commission rate of 3% to the firm. (I'm not sure that this is a 'set' rate: apparently there's not much recourse in enforcing this amount. Buyer, beware.) Once I have found a property, my agent (if i have one) draws up a letter of intent. If my offer is accepted by the seller, it then goes to a lawyer to draw up the final sale agreement. The whole process is subject to consent of the sale from a local real estate board, which reviews all permissions and requirements needed. Plan on three months for this process. Can I find financing? Of course I can. Kenyan banks are highly competitive, and loan offices are available on every street corner in downtown Nairobi. Some lenders, my real estate friends tell me, may "even use the property being purchased as collateral." All of this, of course, depends on my credit records and my reputation. Owning property is a good investment in Kenya, it seems. Property is comparatively inexpensive--in Nairobi an adequate family home can be easily acquired for the equivalent of $40-50,000 USD. The government is stable, and tenure is guaranteed. The problem is, of course, that Kenya's people are poor and property ownership is impossible for most. The lesson learned: not only do you have to have some money to buy property here, but you've got to have a whole lot of determination and courage in order to survive the purchase process.