Land is very scarce, especially in Nairobi. Within the city, you will get a single acre for millions. It is almost inevitable that you will buy land. For a first-timer, you could make some very expensive mistakes if you do not know what to ask and who to ask. The first rule is that you can never blindly trust anyone. You may give the appearance of trusting but verify anyway. If you are told that the piece is a 50 by 100, by all means, have a surveyor confirm this for you. Often people have been bamboozled only to be saddled with boundary squabbles for years. Below are some of the questions to ask before buying land.

1. What do you need it for?

There are many uses for land. You could farm. You could build. You could keep your options open for a while as you decide what to do. You could lease it. Sometimes you will come across a really good deal without really planning for it. Impulse buying is not encouraged but if everything checks out then there is nothing else to do but to seize the opportunity. What your plans are for the piece of land will determine your requirements. For example, if you want to build a rental building you will want to buy land in a populated area or one with great potential for development over the next year. If you want a place to live you will want someplace quiet but not so far out of civilization. Once you have answered this question you can proceed.

2.Where is it?

The location of the land is important in determining, first, if the place has the potential for growth anytime soon. For example, people who bought land in Syokimau saw the migration to Nairobi outskirts coming. Nairobi was becoming a little too congested and people needed to be able to get affordable land but still keep their commute manageable. These decisions were further affirmed by the train station. Second, the location helps you determine how much you should expect to pay. If you are looking for land in Lukenya, Mua Hills or Kiambu, you will pay a pretty penny. However, if you buy land in Thika or Kamulu, you will pay less. These places are prime but still relatively affordable. If it is in Lukenya or Mua Hills and the price is way below what is expected then you need to proceed with caution. Cheaply priced land is something to be afraid of.

3.Is it accessible?

Imagine having a piece of land that you can never drive all the way up to. How would you get building materials delivered when you decide to build? How will you manage life there when you finally move? Inaccessibility means no discernible road. If there is no road then you might have to pass through other people’s land. This will definitely cause problems in the future when the owners of said land decide to close off their properties. Determining accessibility is one of the reasons why you should visit the land a few times. If there is a road, what will it look like after it rains? Are there potholes and thickets that could put you in danger if you have to go home late at night?

4.Is it serviced?

A serviced property means one that has easy access to utility connections. You determine if a piece of land is serviced by looking at how many resources it would take to connect power a house on that land. How much would it take to have a water connection on the property? Is there an all-season well-tended road that offers easy access to the land? A land that is not fully serviced will cost you quite a bit to have these systems set up. A serviced land brings it that much closer to being habitable. It makes it suitable for a home.

5.What is the size?

The size of the land should also inform the price. If you want to build a house to live in, a plot should suffice unless you would also like to have space for farming. If you want a rental building, the same might suffice or maybe double that depending on the size of the building you are hoping for. If you want to farm, the kind and extent of farming should tell what size you want. You should make sure to have a surveyor confirm this size for you. This is done by studying the maps and using the plot number to locate the land among other tools.

6.Are there clear boundaries?

This is yet another service you can get from the surveyor. Some lands have been sitting idle for years or been owned by a family such that no one is really sure where the boundaries are. You should have this defined and outlined by the surveyor so that there is no conflict in the future regarding how far your piece goes and where the next starts. You should make sure to fence your space when the sale is complete.

7.What is the neighborhood like?

Who will be your neighbor? What kind of person are they? Will you be nestled between members of the same family? Is that family always in conflict? This means you could be caught between the fights more often than you desire. How is the security of the neighborhood? What amenities are in the area? Is the neighborhood suitable for what you have in mind for your land? You should also consider how welcoming everyone will be in the area. The people in the hood when you move into your newly built house will be great determinants of your comfort and happiness in the place.

8.What is the environmental situation?

What are the prevailing conditions of this piece of land? What happens when it rains? Does the house get waterlogged? What kind of soil is on the land? Some soils are terrible for farming while others are just right. Some soils will require extra effort to ensure that it will be safe to build. You should have chemical tests done on the soil lest you walk yourself into a minefield.

9.What are the user regulations?

These regulations are meant to make optimal use of infrastructure, and environmental resources while also maintaining public safety. They are authored by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). These land-use guidelines integrate environmental care into development parameters.  If these regulations are not adhered to then there is a threat to full population support by the available land. With a growing population, it is more important now more than ever to pay attention to these regulations.

That said, you should also pay attention to the surroundings. Is your intention suitable for the surroundings? For example, you cannot have a rubber manufacturing plant in the middle of a residential area like Donholm. Lack of attention to such regulations, both legal and social, is the reason people always complain about fumes from Athi River industrial practices.

10. Does the area have potential?

How does the future look for this place? Will it still be run down five or ten years to come? Are there plans to improve infrastructure in this place? Is there a plan for a highway passing through the area? You do not really need development if you plan to build a house to live in. However, if you plan to build a rental property then you will want to know what potential the place has. No one will want to rent a house in a rural area and have trouble commuting every morning. Infrastructure also means that some companies will open offices in the area so you are projecting that your tenants will be employees of said companies.

11. What is the ownership situation?

It is always wise to find out why the piece is being sold. Not to be crass but if the seller is desperate enough that gives you leverage to bargain. Who owns this land? Are they all on board with the move to sell the land? Does the land have any pending court cases? You do not want to buy land only to be unable to move ahead with your plans because there is an injunction or some sort of court order restricting activity until all is resolved.

12. What is the process of buying?

Before you go any further, you should do a land search. This will reveal the true owner of the piece as well as caveats if there are any. You should also have a surveyor. You will also need to have a lawyer as well as witnesses to complete the sale agreement part of the process. You should find out how much all of this will cost beforehand so that you are well prepared.

Buying land is pretty simple and straight forward. With a good and legitimate broker and proper financial preparation, you should be fine. Good luck!