The business of real estate has grown to be one of the most lucrative and less risky investments in Kenya, a multibillion trade for that matter.
Just look around, billboards with properties for sale. Newspaper ads with prime plots for sale. TV prime time ads with lavish properties to rent and for sale.
Morning breakfast shows on the most popular radio stations full of commercials pushing you to buy some property somewhere.
Like any other booming business, real estate scams have gradually become common especially in major cities like Nairobi and Mombasa.
In Kenya, regrettably, to be a real estate agent is as easy as having a smartphone and a little knowledge about the internet.
If you have some little SEO knowledge, you are officially the King! So what we have is a very profitable but uncontrolled venture.
The Sleeping Estate Agents Registration Board
The Estate Agents Act of 1984 gives mandate to the Estate Agents Registration Board to admit new Estate Agents through a thorough interview process.
This does not seem to have been happening in the past. It’s not happening as we speak, but we hope it can be effected soonest possible.
A look at the EARB website reveals that what is supposed to be a database to furnish Kenyans with information regarding the accredited real estate agents is another scam.
The database never works. The search returns no results at all.
Kenyans are left on their own, with marauding scammers advertising attractive properties in the most convincing way possible, every day.
Just a few
The promise of owning a home at an affordable cost is almost always a deal too hard to resist.
To better understand how easy it is for thousands of Kenyans to be duped in these fake housing scams, let’s have a quick look at the most recent cases.
The Ekeza Sacco Housing Scam
When one trusted man, a Bishop for that matter, Mr David Ngari came up with a good and affordable housing scheme, thousands of Kenyans signed up.
So attractive was the scheme that it attracted more than 5,000 Members in the diaspora.
What they never knew was that after several months of saving their hard-earned coins, they would spend days at the DCI Headquarters filing complaints and wasting valuable time. Double tragedy.
It is estimated that members had cumulatively saved more than Sh3 billion by April 2017. And all that, to the drain.
The Simple Homes Scam
October 2015. Another godsend appears in the name of Simple homes, giving hope to many middle-class Kenyans with aspirations to own a decent home
The firm was crafty. They adopted a “pay rent, own home“ model, meaning that anyone was now able to own a home at the price they pay in monthly rent.
For instance, if one pays Sh 20,000 monthly rent, the company promised to find them a plan that fits within that amount. Amazing, right?
With the high mortgage rates in Kenya, this was the deal of the 22nd century come early.
Real drama started when it was discovered, through Google reverse search that the said Nambalee Court in Embakasi, a project by Simple Homes, was actually in South Africa!
And then boom! The inflated bubble did burst, very painfully. The music stopped, with plenty of people left without chairs.
How to Identify Housing Scams
The property listing looks amazing. You force yourself to believe that its true. The loation is perfect.
The description of the surrounding and the community around the property is a dream come true.
I mean, who doesn’t want a highly secure neighborhood with 24-hour police patrols. A favorite neighborhood for many expatriates and the affluent.
The property is in the perfect location, has beautiful photos and is well below your budget.
You send an inquiry and receive a quick response: the property manager is is currently overseas on a business trip and cannot show you the home.
But if you can send a deposit as soon as possible, the property is yours.
You are already duped!
Below are some of the tips to help you stay safe from the ever mushrooming housing scams all over the country.
Remember that for every Gakuyo, there are a thousand other Gakuyos out there.
1. Take your time
Always know what you want from the start plus your budget. Real estate agents will hype their property for all kind of reasons, using the most convincing methods.
It’s your duty to take your time and analyze all the variables of the said property. If the agent is in a hurry, they can try next door.
2. Be Careful with Impersonators
Many reported cons come through will impersonate the actual owner/agent or a developer to a property.
They will come to you with fake contracts, payment options like Paybill numbers and bank accounts and other papers.
3. Don’t fall for Exaggerated Prices
It’s not a Kenyan problem. We all love cheap things and some sort of bargaining.
Scammers are well aware of this, and they will reduce prices and use fake photos to entice their targets.
Always ensure you do your own market research, know the prices of the said area and consult more before making a decision.
4. Early booking deposit? Think Twice
Never be convinced by good pictures of the property to an extent of accepting to book the property by paying a deposit prematurely.
Until you see the property and meet the owner or manager of the property in person, never pay a single shilling. Only pay after signing a contract.