Arriving Expats: How to find a modest house in Nairobi.

To every newly arrived expat, Nairobi can be very chaotic especially when making housing arrangements. In contrast to the organized western housing sector, in Kenya and Africa at large, it’s very disorganized and prices tend to be volatile. Before arriving, new expats should ask themselves; how and where should I find a decent house? But above all, whom should I trust to find a fairly priced one? If you’re moving in alone, there are studio apartments/bedsitters for you but if you’re moving in with a family then you may opt for one or more bedroom houses which you may choose to buy or rent.

Where should I reside?

The majority of expats in Nairobi prefer to live in the upscale green suburbs close to the central business district. They have their own high-class zones in the north-central or western Nairobi. This is where most foreign establishments are based such as the United Nations-affiliated organizations and many foreign embassies.

Elegant apartments in Nairobi. (Photo by BuildingKE)

If you desire to live in an exclusively expatriate neighborhood, then you might consider living in Karen or Langata. For those who wish to maintain a city-living status, you may decide to settle in either Parklands, Westlands, Kilimani or Hurlingham both of which are less than 2-3km from the city center. Other upscale residential areas include Ridgeways, Runda, Kileleshwa, Muthaiga, Kitisuru, Gigiri, and Lavington. All of them are secure and in close proximity to world-class shopping malls, golf courses, restaurants, private hospitals and international schools.

Housing cost estimates for Expats

Local real estate developers have heavily invested in the creation of prime residential estates with western-style housing units to suit the expats’ housing needs and make them feel home. Most family houses are built using American and European architectural designs and fitted with western-inspired house amenities, i.e. chimney, dining, fireplace, balcony, garage, heating systems, etc. Comparable to other cities, housing costs in Nairobi will depend on where you choose to stay, the size and type of house you want. Even in middle-class areas, monthly rent is steadily increasing but as an expat, expect to spend between Ksh 40,000 – 200,000. This excludes utility costs like water, security, fuel and electricity bills which are all estimated to cost more than Ksh 10,000.

This standalone 5-bedroom house in Karen will cost you Ksh 450,000 p.m (Photo by Peponi & Co.)

According to Numbeo the world’s largest database for living costs in cities around the world, a one bedroom apartment in the city center costs Ksh 40,000 and a similar one outside the city center may cost Ksh 20,000. A three-bedroomed apartment in the city can cost Ksh 114,000 and one outside the city will go for Ksh 48,000. Quoted prices are monthly. Regarding utilities, the same database estimates that you may need to spend a minimum of Ksh 9,000 on electricity, heating, garbage, water and unlimited internet.

Another site ExpatArrivals estimates that monthly rent for a furnished two-bedroom house will cost between Ksh 180,000 – 200,000 while an unfurnished one will be priced between Ksh 150,000 to 180,000. Furnished apartments are expected to cost Ksh 120,000 and 180,000 while unfurnished ones can vary between Ksh 90,000 and 150,000 (1 USD = 100 Ksh).

Considering your home security

Most real estate and relocation agents will handily guide you concerning your home security. Nairobi’s crime rate is high compared to other African cities with armed house break-ins dominating the daily headlines. The most secure residential areas are the upscale outskirts where the majority of expats choose to live. Many will say that Karen, Muthaiga, Lavington, Kitisuru, and Riara are the most secure neighborhoods partly due to the nearby United Nations offices and the foreign embassies including the US. As a new expat, you’re strongly advised against settling in places bordering urban slums as they are characterized by high crimes. Some landlords will charge you a separate fee for security to have a watchman to look after your premises but no matter where you stay, you’ll always need to hire a private security guard in addition to installing high-end security alarm systems.

A one-bedroom apartment in Parklands, 3km from Nairobi city.

And finally, recommended housing resources in Nairobi

There are several real estate service providers within Nairobi that can swiftly link you to the most suitable housings. Some of them include Property Link Africa which specializes within the Karen and Langata suburbs, Peponi & Co. and Fastrack. There are also quite a few online sites with classified ads where property agents list the available properties for rent/sale. The most recommended ones include Jumia House, OLX Kenya, Buy4Rent Kenya, Property24, and PigiaMe. Always be careful while making housing transactions especially with house brokers/agents as there are many disguising fraudsters. It would be more appropriate if you dealt directly with the landlord rather than property middlemen who might ask exorbitant paperwork and viewing fees.

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