Like most Kenyans, Millicent Kaari dreamt of owning her own home, so when the opportunity to buy a piece of land presented itself in 2006, she snapped it up. She bought a piece of land in Ruai, off Kangundo Road, for Sh60,000, viewing it as a first step towards saying goodbye to landlords and their pesky agents.
“I was informed about the piece of land in Ruai by a workmate. I jumped at the opportunity because I thought it was time to have that one-eighth plot every Kenyan yearns for,” she says with a smile, alluding to Kenyans’ love for land.
After buying the land she began building her dream house. Unfortunately, due to a long bout of illness, she could not visit the site to monitor the construction for quite a while.
“In 2014, after I had recovered, I decided to continue with the project. To my surprise, my house, which was awaiting only the roofing, was gone; not even the building blocks could be accounted for,” says Ms Kaari, a senior clerical officer at the Kenya Literature Bureau.
She told DN2 that upon inquiring from her neighbours, she was informed that a woman had been regularly visiting the land, and even claimed to own it. Not unduly worried, Ms Kaari felt the agents she had used could explain what happened
“They reaffirmed that the land was still mine, but I could tell from their reactions that something was amiss, so I decided to conduct my own investigations,” she says. “When I asked around — though no one was willing to give any details — I was told that there were dodgy land dealers around that area who would sell seemingly abandoned parcels of land,” she says.
Shocked by that realisation that she might have been conned, she gave up on the idea of building on the land and decided to sell it to get back her money. However, every buyer she approached would grow cold feed after talking to the neighbours.
Ms Kaari is just one victim of rogue land dealers out to swindle potential buyers. Cases of land grabbing, forged title deeds, or investors losing money to unscrupulous land sellers are commonplace in the country. This raises the question, which factors should one consider before buying land?
To answer this question, DN2 spoke to Gilbert Kibire, a real estate valuer and executive director of Icon Valuers Ltd.
According to Mr Kibire, the first thing to do if you’re looking for land to buy is conduct due diligence.
“This refers to the verification of the authenticity of the property,” he says, adding that one needs to verify that the title is for a parcel of land that actually exists on the ground on the map from the Survey of Kenya. It also helps the buyer avoid land on road reserves or wayleaves.
Mr Kibire says one should do a search at least three times, on different dates, and if possible, by three different applicants to avoid being cheated.
The location of the land is one of the most critical factors a land buyer should consider according to Mr Kibire.
“It determines the services available, the value attached to the land and the use to which one can put it,” he says. “The land buyer should study the area for community attitudes as this could have long-term effects on his or her personal contentment and happiness in the future. He or she should talk to the residents in the area to find out what it might be like living there.”
Reputation of the agent
Mr Kibire advises potential land buyers to buy land through qualified land dealers, who are vetted and registered by the Estate Agency Registration Board, to avoid falling into the wrong hands.
He says this is important because, should disagreements arise later, a registered land valuers can easily be held to account.
Further, Mr Kibire advises, if you are buying land to build a residential house, you would want to avoid areas that are prone to natural disasters such as flooding.
He says that the recent flooding in Nairobi is a new phenomenon that is likely to be a game-changer in the property market, adding that people might opt to move to higher land and abandon low-lying areas.
He advises property buyers to thoroughly scrutinise the surrounding environment for any possible natural hazards.
Amenities and communal facilities
“The buyer should check carefully water, sewer and drainage systems before buying a plot of land,” says Mr Kibire. For instance, if you intend to build an apartment on the land, there must be a sewer line in the vicinity.
Further, access to good roads is a plus to the land. He says that very narrow roads are not ideal for modern and high-density developments. The land buyer should also look out for public amenities such as schools, churches, and shopping malls, which should be within a reasonable distance.
“Avoid land that has permanent easements likely to interfere with its use,” Mr Kibire advises, adding that it is impossible to block permanent easements such as pathways that cut across the land and have been use dfor a long time by the neighbouring community.
The LAPSSET project, one of the vision 2030 flagship projects and the construction of bypasses are some of the government plans that have had far and wide-reaching effects on private property. Mr Kibire advises potential land buyers to have in mind such lon -term projects that might displace them from their property through compulsory acquisition.
Commenting on Ms Kaari’s case, Mr Kibire terms it as a case of an absentee landlord that gave a green light to dodgy land dealers.
“Ideally, if you intend to leave land idle for a long time, you should construct a temporary structure and get a caretaker or someone to occupy and look after it,” he suggests.