How to rent an apartment in Nairobi
If you just landed in Nairobi and you are a bit lost, the quickest way to find a flat or a room in a shared apartment is to look at the websites. I recommend Houselink Rentals.
There are many other websites in Kenya. But I don’t think you’ll find something unless you have a big budget as they are mostly agencies that focus on diplomats or experts who work for firms that offer a ton of benefits.
The advantage of using the websites that I linked to is that you’ll bypass the – often terrible – Nairobi’s agencies. If you are lucky you may even find a landlord or a roommate to speaks to!
Contacting agencies has a limitation in that the prices will be a bit higher – even up to 20% – because these announcements target experts. Moreover these deal disappear quickly, especially in the case of a room in a shared flat. So, if you find something you like, take it right away or it will be gone soon.
There you’ll find cheaper apartments. Even if in theory landlords can post an offer by themselves, this market is dominated by the agencies. As for the property listing websites, the best apartments get rented fast. Moreover, you’ll have to deal with “fake announcements,” that is agents that post the photos of a nice apartment even if what they got is much worse. Their goal is to meet up with you and then convince you to rent a shitty apartment that nobody wants.
I advise you to always ask the agent whether the apartment corresponds to the one on the photos and, in the case the answer is negative, walk away.
A trick to find a cheap room in a shared apartment
You have a lot to gain from it as finding a cheap room in a shared apartment in Nairobi is really difficult. Conversely, if you team up with other two or three guys you can rent a whole apartment for a reasonable price as there are tons of empty apartments.
Find an apartment with an agency: what to expect
There are a few things you must know before to look for an agency:
- Be ready to deal with the cons. No offense to anybody, this is just the way it is. Thus, when you find a good agent, stick with him (or her).
- Be ready to pay cash: In Nairobi, it isn’t unusual to pay an amount equal to five months of rent the day you sign the contract (three months of rent, a month of deposit and the agency fee, which often corresponds to your half monthly rent).
- If you find an apartment you like, take it. Most people tend to look for the same stuff (cleanness, a decent kitchen and bathroom, big windows and so on). The affordable apartments that have these characteristics are rare so they get rented soon (sometimes in a couple of hours).
- Be patient, very patient. Nairobi is one of worst place in Kenya to find an apartment to rent, but it’s not impossible (I’ve already moved three times). Don’t lose your cool, especially if a house agent is helping you (he could take it personally and get hurt).
An example of an apartment in Nairobi
Find an apartment with an agency: the steps you should follow
- Walk around the neighborhood where you wish to live (Roysambu for instance) and look for an agency. There are plenty so it shouldn’t be a problem.
- Ask for an apartment with the characteristics that you desire. Try to go into detail as much as you can and ask the agent if he has some photos of the apartment. I especially recommend you to specify that you want a decent apartment, clean and with a good bathroom.
- If you don’t want to lose too much time, be polite but inflexible. If you notice that the agent keeps showing you horrible apartments, just move on. Many agents will keep showing you unacceptable apartments, even when they know you won’t take them. The idea is to “scare” you so that, after visiting so many terrible flats, you’ll downgrade your standards and settle for an apartment that is just like that. Don’t fall for it. If the first apartment is a disaster, don’t lose your calm and explain again what you want. If the second apartment is also bad then it’s time to change agent.
- Never forget to bargain a bit. In Nairobi is fairly common and, in general, you should get a discount of about 1-10% (depending on your bargain skills). A good way to get a better price is to let the agent (or the landlord) notice all the little problems of the apartment (the furniture is too old, there is no tv cable, the kitchen is bloody dirty and so on).