How to identify a flood path before it wreaks havoc on your dream home

Mathare River

A flooded Mathare River as it passes through Mathare Slums Gitathuru area on April 27, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

We all envision our dream home, a haven where we can unwind, raise our families, share memories, and feel secure. But what if that dream house you have spent years saving to buy or build becomes a nightmare, like in the face of devastating floods?

The recent heavy rains exposed this unfortunate reality to many Kenyans who lost their homes after the unexpected downpour.

According to the Kenya Red Cross, the floods affected 95,859 households, with 52,673 families displaced, 162 people reported missing, and 284 lives lost. The homes were either affected by floods, damaged or washed away. It hit disparate areas, including the Athi River, Mlolongo, Kitengela, Mathare, and Runda in Nairobi, Kijabe, Kiambu, and Tana River.

This then leads to the question, as a homeowner or prospective homeowner, what could I have done differently to mitigate the damage flooding or any other catastrophe may have to my home or investment?

The most logical step to protecting your investment means your research should go beyond price and value to physical features. You may have to conduct intensive research on the type of land on which your home will be built, starting with the basics such as reviewing previous media reports, if any, and engaging the local community to gather first-hand information on historical issues such as flooding, landslides, or riparian land identification.

Residents often possess key insights and experiences that may not be captured in official records, offering valuable information that better advises you on the risks associated with your prospective home.

After sourcing information from the locals, it is advisable to delve more into the specifics of your property’s location by accessing topographic maps from reliable sources such as the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) or local government agencies to get a more in-depth look. These maps outline risk zones, allowing you to gauge the likelihood of your property being affected by natural calamities.

Whether you are in the process of building or purchasing a home, taking the time to conduct comprehensive research and analysis can make all the difference. Proper due diligence not only helps you understand the condition of your property but also allows you to identify potential vulnerabilities and implement the necessary safety measures. The Nema emphasises the importance of conducting thorough environmental assessments and engaging in strategic planning to identify and address potential flood risks. Armed with this information, you are empowered to make informed decisions about your investment.

As we face the looming threat climate change poses, let us take every possible precaution to secure our investments.

For homeowners who need guidance conducting more detailed due diligence, you may require professional help, often in the form of verified experts who can provide vital guidance and expertise. Consulting professionals such as real estate agents or land surveyors can offer specialized insights into risk assessment and mitigation strategies tailored to your specific circumstances.

These experts can conduct comprehensive assessments of the property's vulnerability. By meticulously examining drainage systems, building structures, and surrounding landscapes, they can recommend measures to enhance resilience providing valuable information.

Part of conducting proper due diligence involves ensuring that the experts you consult are certified and have a reputable work history. We have all read or watched stories in the media of individuals posing as experts, perpetrating scams, and selling land and houses without conducting proper due diligence resulting in home demolitions, flooding, and lack of title deeds.

Therefore, it is essential to thoroughly vet the credentials and track record of any professionals you enlist for guidance. By verifying certifications and researching the reputation of experts, you can mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraud and make more informed decisions.

Due diligence goes beyond using research to identify risks, it expands into proactive measures that can be taken to mitigate them. Some of the proactive actions that can be taken to increase a property's ability to withstand extreme weather events such as floods or landslides include investing in flood-resistant building materials like concrete and closed-cell foam insulation and elevating the structure to a level above potential flood level.

Measures such as slope stabilization techniques, terracing, and retaining walls can be implemented for landslides. It is also crucial to consider getting extensive home insurance coverage. By taking these proactive steps, homeowners can safeguard their investment proving the benefits of conducting proper due diligence.

Proper due diligence during the home buying or building process is a crucial step. By researching past events, consulting experts, and implementing proactive measures, homeowners and prospective homeowners can mitigate the risks and protect their investments.

The writer is Safaricom Investment Cooperative Land Business Unit Manager.

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