Buying an affordable house that is located in uncontroversial location is every Kenyan's dream.
However, most Kenyans get raw deals when buying homes especially those built in gated communities and off-plan which tend to be cheaper.
Many Kenyans are chasing the ready-made, live-work-play concept, without taking caution. They assume if others have bought, then everything is right.
Jessica Mwenje, a real estate lawyer and partner at MMC Africa Law in Nairobi says there are many unfavourable house deals hidden in the glossy brochures that developers dish out and few people read through them carefully before making a purchase.
How many buyers do due diligence, for instance, to find out if these homes are built near river banks, agricultural or public land?
John Mwaura, a banker, signed a contract immediately after a site visit.
He says, the location was perfect, the instalment was within his budget, and the house was ideal (at least from the pictures on the brochure). He was buying an off-plan family home.
“It was a gold rush. Only a few units were remaining, and we were told that the price was a bargain,” he says.
He picked the penthouse which was almost double the price of the standard apartment units.
After faithfully paying the instalments for months, the banker was shocked to find that he had been given a normal apartment on the third floor.
He rushed to get legal recourse but it was too late. He had signed a contract that did not specify that he had bought a penthouse.
Another buyer, Jane Wekesa bought a house for Sh11 million while in Paris. The mother-of-three had loved the pictures of the house, including the virtual video tour of the gated estate.
She moved into the house after eight months. The first week after settling in, she sat on the toilet seat, the cover fell off, then the wardrobe doors and knobs came off.
Upon inquiry, the developer told her the contract stipulated that the repairs would be done within six months after purchase.
She spent more than Sh700,000 replacing doors, window latches, kitchen cabinets, popping electrical sockets, weak curtain boxes that could not hold heavy curtains and adding another coat of oil-based paint on the walls that had chipping paint, expenses that she not budgeted for.
Another buyer is buying a Sh14 million house in Athi River and making Sh400,000 monthly instalment spread over two years.
According to the contract that he has signed, if he does not finish paying for the house upon completion, the developer will rent it out for Sh55,000.
The lawyers BDLife spoke to paint a picture of minefield in the rush to acquire property, which can be avoided by seeking legal advice. They say, many Kenyans end up being robbed off in unfair home deals mostly by committing to skewed sales agreements.
The sales agents employ tricks that appeals to buyers’ such as ''only few units are remaining or the offer is ending soon.''
Hidden in the catchy brochures and mostly written in smaller fonts are disclaimers such as ‘particulars not warranted’, meaning you cannot hold the developer liable for any variance from what you have been promised.
Benson Milimo, a Nairobi-based lawyer, says home-buyers should invest in legal services to avoid risk of being caught up in disputes that will be costly. It is a point that Ms Mwenje agrees with.
In one case, she says, a person hired a lawyer to carry out a background check on a property but after signing a contract with the developer. After doing due diligence, the lawyers found that the property was on a road reserve.
Before buying a house, Ms Mwenje says, do due diligence.