This list is by no means an exhaustive checklist for house-hunting in Nairobi. It is more like a guide for the kinds of things one should consider while on the hunt for the most fitting rental house. This will be useful start for people who are moving out on their own for the first time. It can be daunting and overwhelming. Especially when one encounters agents whose sole concern is making as much commission out of you as possible, it is important to keep a firm handle on the most important attributes you want in a house.

1. Hood

The first thing to consider is the location of the house. The location is determined by different things. One key factor is the commute. Where will you be commuting to every morning? How easy is it to get there from the chosen location? How much is fare during peak hours? These will contribute to the upkeep finances one will need every month. Rental agents in Nairobi can lead you down the wrong path very easily, intentionally and without remorse.

Another thing about the location is the neighborhood. What kind of neighborhood is it? Twitter has been abuzz with jokes about Gachie and how unsafe it is under the cloak of darkness. Therefore, you probably do not want to live in Gachie if your job is the kind that will require late nights.

2. Cost

Under this are included many things. The first is the initial price. How much deposit is required? Some landlords will demand 2 months deposit while others are fine with just one. Every once in a while you will find a landlord who does not require deposit at all. This is common for those residential properties that cater to students. Therefore, you will be required to pay the deposit and rent for the first month. Other landlords will go a step further and also ask for water and electricity deposit. This is common where the rent is inclusive of these amenities. This amount is also not refundable in most cases.

You should also think about the agency fees. Some agents will demand their fees upfront. Here is a little tip on the same: never pay the full agency fees upfront. In fact delay it as much as possible. If you can get away with it, let the agent know that you will pay their fees as you pay your deposit. This way they will be motivated to find you something you actually want. In this town, you have to look out for yourself.

3. Space

Most landlords, especially in high populated areas, build rooms as small as they can get away with. Some will build bedrooms so small that only the bed will fit. You could jump from the bed to the couch in the living room in one fell swoop. A good example is a building in Donholm that has the weirdest shape to begin with. It baffles anyone who tries to figure out how the interior is designed.

Space is an important thing especially if you have a family. You will need rooms with sufficient space to house them without making it uncomfortable. Apart from is the space enough, you should also ask, is the space worth the money you are paying for it? Some may choose proximity to the central business district over space which is fine. Just make sure to have clear priorities before you start to find a Nairobi house to rent.

4. Security

You may be safe coming home from work or school at night, however, are you things safe inside your house. How secure is the building? Some buildings will have a gate that is locked at all times and all residents are given a key. This is the most preferred as it limits the number of people who can access the building especially during the day when traffic in the building may be low.

Another thing is the doors to the units themselves. If you can avoid it, stay away from wooden doors especially in the low and middle income areas. Obviously the wood for the doors will not be the best quality. If you can find a place whose units have steel/metal doors that is preferable. It keeps you safe while you are inside at night. It also keeps your property safe while you are away. If you get a place with wooden doors then check on the strength and integrity of said door. If you pick a ground floor unit, ensure there is a perimeter wall. If not ensure that the windows cannot be compromised from outside. Renting in Nairobi is for the vigilant.

6. Repairs

Once you have a decision, before signing or handing over any money, take a look around the house. Note the areas that might need repairs. Ask about repainting the unit before you move it. Find out if the landlord will fix the noted areas. Either way, make a list of everything that is broken in the house on the day of moving in the presence of the caretaker. If you do not, the landlord may decide to keep your deposit to fix issues that were there before you moved in. Do keep in mind however, that it is your right as a prospective tenant to require the landlord to fix whatever is broken before you move in or sometime within the first month. What is the point of living in dilapidated quarters when you are digging deep into your pockets for rent on time every month?

The key to successful house hunting in Nairobi is research. Thank Heavens for the digital age because now you can find many options on Facebook and real estate websites. Before overwhelming yourself with all the choices though, make a list of the things you would like in a house to rent. What are you priorities? What are your hard and soft limits? That is, the things you can and cannot compromise on. This will help you as you search the web. Another tip is to find a well reputed agent, they have clout and access that you would not have on your own. Do not pay money without results. Happy hunting!