What You Need to Know Before Renting a House in Nairobi

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Where to find affordable rental houses in Nairobi

This is what you need to know before renting a house in Nairobi.


▪ How to get a house without paying Ksh 1,000 agent fee.

▪ How to identify online scammers.

▪ What to expect when you go househunting.

▪ Questions to ask the landlord before renting.

Looking for a house to rent in Nairobi is hectic, no doubt. It’s among the top 5 things that will stress your existence in the big city.

By the way, if you’re wondering what those 5 things are, lack of money tops them all. 

Anyway, moving on…

Ways to look for a house to rent

When searching for a house you have 3 options:

1. Search online and call the phone numbers provided.

2. Pay an agent (Usually Ksh 1,000) to find you a house.

3. Physically go house hunting yourself.

1. Searching online

The easiest of them all but the easiest to get scammed. Of course there are genuine agents online but a fair share of them are conmen. This is how you will identify a scammer:

🚩They’ll use elegant house images with an unusually low price tag. You look at the 2-bedroom house going for 7k a month in a town where they usually go for 16k and you think “Mm-mm. Something’s not adding up.” When you visit the house (in case you do) you find it is not what they had advertised.

🚩They’ll pressure you to pay a deposit because “another person is about to pay for the house”.

🚩Once you call them they’ll connect you to the “owner,” usually an old man (or a young man/woman masquerading as one). When you ask how much the house goes for, they only say “hiyo imeandikwa hapo.”(the price written there). Or they’ll quote a price different from the one advertised.

🚩They’ll insist they are not available for house viewing at that moment, but tell you that you can pay a deposit to book it.

2. Paying an agent

This is another option, not as bad as the online search. You’ll find agent numbers on the internet, roadside or even physical offices in towns.

Problem is, you have to pay a fee (usually Ksh 1,000) before they start showing you around.

Another problem is you are limited to the the houses they show you. Normally they’ll take you to 3 – 5 different houses, rarely beyond that. If none pleases you, you can’t ask for a refund.

They’ll promise to call you later once they find more vacant houses, but your 1k is gone — without getting you a house.

3. Physically visiting the place

Then you can physically visit the place. This option may take more time but it’s the best.  One, you won’t pay anyone a viewing fee, and you have a chance to see the real house and the surrounding.

Two, you have the chance to deal with the owner or official caretaker, so you’re assured your money will land in the right hands.

The best website to find houses for rent in Nairobi

The best website to find rental houses is no doubt JIBUBORA.COM. Before you go house-hunting, start by checking out this page. 

Say, for example, you want to go to Ongata Rongai to search for a Ksh. 8,000 bedsitter. Where do you start?

JibuBora eliminates the guesswork for you because all you have to do is check out Rental houses in Ongata Rongai, see the places that have a bedsitter going for Ksh 8,000 or less, then go there and see if there is a vacant one.

This way, you save the Ksh 1,000 you would have paid an agent, you get more variety to choose from and you’ll have avoided conmen. Now, that’s simplified house-hunting.

The things I've noticed

I’ve been doing house-hunting in different towns and these are my observations.

Nowadays, house developers prefer putting up 1, 2, or 3 bedroom houses to bedsitters and single rooms. With a good reason: There are more advantages, for example, in renting out a two-bedroom house to renting out 3 single rooms.

The 2 bedroom will earn more money in rent, there are fewer people on the property so it’s more secure and there is less damage on fittings.

They are also less likely to default on payments (They have, you know, a reputation to protect). Generally, there is less headache involved.

It then means you are more likely to struggle finding a single room or bedsitter than you will a 1, 2, or 3-bedroom house.

And the majority of bedsitters and single rooms are usually occupied. The ones that are unoccupied are either too expensive or far from town. Or, well, they don’t look that nice. 

When is the best time to look for a rental house?

The best time to look for a house is the last week of the month or first week of the following month. This is the time tenants are vacating houses.

Searching for a house in the middle of the month is frustrating because most of the time the houses are fully occupied.

Set aside a whole day for house-hunting. And be ready to do a lot of walking that day.

Will rental prices drop?

Unlikely. Instead they usually go up. It’s funny that landlords and landladies in Kenya would rather have a house stay vacant than drop the rent prices. Even during COVID time!

But its important to note that rent prices are not always fixed. Especially if the property is managed directly by the owner, you can negotiate. Actually always negotiate. No harm in telling them you can afford 9,000 for a 10,000 house. 

They are unlikely to let go of a potential client because of a 1k difference.

How do I get a cheaper house in Nairobi?

Cheaper houses in an area where equivalents are expensive are mostly older buildings. 

The thing with older buildings is they usually have flaws that the owner is aware of, and is therefore hiving off a few thousands in rent ‘for the trouble you’ll go through’. Mostly, it’s plumbing problems.

So you either put up with the old building or look for a newer and cheap one far from town.

Questions you should ask before renting a house

  1. Is the property managed by an agent or the owner?
  2. How much deposit should you pay? Same as rent price, half or even none?
  3. Will the deposit be refunded when you vacate?
  4. Are there other charges not included in the rent?
  5. Is water available throughout?

Living in Nairobi is no fairy tale

… At least for the majority of Kenyans. Especially when it comes to rental houses. 

Because you have to give up something. It’s either you get a cheap house that is too far from town, so you use a lot of money in your daily travel, or get one near town, but with the rent price over the roof.

Or it could be that the place is good, but with frequent water shortages. Or insecurity. Or bad roads.

And if it’s all good, then it’s a posh estate where you’ll pay an arm and a leg in rent.

The point is: There is always a tradeoff. Choose your struggle.

Bienvenue à Nairobi.

Welcome to Nairobi.