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How to Protect Yourself When Buying an Apartment in Kenya
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How to Protect Yourself When Buying an Apartment in Kenya

Buying a home is an important decision in your life, whether purchasing it as an investment or for residency. Given the increasing cost of properties, apartments have become the preferred choice for potential homeowners, particularly in cities.

Buying an apartment is a significant transaction. There are many documents and people involved – legal papers, transfer deeds, attorneys, lenders, real estate professionals, and not to mention a substantial amount of money. Without caution, you risk being separated from your hard-earned funds. Therefore, it is crucial to take precautions to safeguard yourself and outwit any potential scams you may encounter during the process.

How can you do that? 

This article will explore ten things you should do to protect yourself when buying an apartment in Kenya.

Read Also: How to Get Conned When Buying Land in Kenya 

Thoroughly Research The Seller  

When you go apartment shopping, you will likely talk to different people, from brokers and real estate agents to owners and developers.  During the early stages, differentiating who is legit and who is a fraudster can be challenging and time-consuming. But once you identify an apartment you are interested in, you should research the seller.

To determine if you are dealing with the legal owner of the apartment you intend to buy, ask that they present you with a sectional title. This certificate of title shows the seller has the exclusive right to own a specific unit within a larger development. Once you receive it, you can perform a search at the Land Ministry to ascertain its legitimacy.

If you are not buying from a direct seller, you can ask them to connect you to the apartment owner or produce a Power of attorney document that shows they have legal grounds to represent them. Additionally, you ask for a court-issued letter of administration that allows them to sell the apartment on behalf of the owner. They should also be able to present you with the sectional title.

If you are dealing with a developer or real estate agency, check if they have all the necessary licences and certifications required to operate legally. Next, conduct background research, like reading their reviews and publicly available legal records.

Researching the owners will prevent you from falling for fake sellers, ensure you are dealing with reputable individuals, safeguard you against potential scams and fraudulent activities, and provides insights into the property's background.

Read Also: Should I Buy A House? 5 Signs That You Are Ready

Don't Use The Seller’s Lawyer - Hire Your Own

When buying an apartment, you should prioritise your interests and needs. The best way to do this is to have your own legal representative. The seller will likely have their attorney who can quickly take control of their entire process and even try to convince you to let them represent both parties. However, such an arrangement will typically favour the seller.

Having your lawyer has multiple benefits. They act as a mediator between you and the seller’s lawyer, ensuring effective communication and representation of your needs. They’ll ensure you aren't taken advantage of or have your rights infringed upon during the buying process. And most importantly, they'll help interpret legal documents and identify clauses which may be unfavourable to you.

While having a real estate lawyer is important, it's also crucial for you to actively participate in the buying process. Ultimately, you are the one who knows your preferences and what you want in an apartment.

Read Also: Buy, Build, or Rent? How do I Know What's Best For My Family 

Verify the Ownership Chain of the Apartment 

Typically, before an apartment complex with different owners is constructed, an application for registration of the sectional plan is lodged at the land registry for registration. Following this, the mother title is closed, and its title deed is surrendered to the land registry. A separate register is opened for every sectional unit, and certificates of title (for freehold land) or certificates of lease (for leasehold land) are issued for each sectional unit.

When you choose an apartment to buy, the seller will give you the sectional certificate of title for the apartment. With the help of your lawyer, you should use it to conduct your due diligence. One of the first things you should do is verify the chain of ownership.

This will help you ensure that the mother title is closed, and you will have equal rights to the land the property is sitting on and the common area as other unit owners. It will also help you unearth any other encumbrances on the specific apartment you are buying – more on that below.

Verifying the ownership chain of an apartment typically involves checking official property records at the land ministry. You will search for the sectional certificate title, and that will show you the original owner and any other previous owners. If you are buying from a developer, they should have a separate sectional title for each unit they are selling. You should avoid any seller who says a sectional title will be produced after you buy an apartment.

Read Also: 9 Ways of Owning a Home In Kenya 

Visit and Inspect the Apartment 

Before buying an apartment, you should conduct a professional home inspection. This will ensure the property's condition and identify any potential issues that may affect its value in the future. Here are the steps you can follow:

  • Site Visit: Does the apartment you want to buy exist, and does it meet your aesthetic needs? If you cannot visit the property yourself, ask a trusted family member or friend to do so. They can assess the environment, check for any visible structural defects a camera might not capture, and provide their observations. 
  • Obtain Relevant Documents: Request copies of the Approved Building Plan, Architectural Drawings, and Survey Plan from the seller. These documents are necessary to verify the legitimacy of the property's subdivision and construction. Before a sectional property is constructed, the subdivisions must be approved by relevant government authorities.
  • Verify Documents: Visit the relevant government authorities, such as the County Council, the Survey Office, and the Ministry of Lands, to double-check the legitimacy of the documents provided by the seller. This step helps confirm that the property has been legally approved and meets the required standards.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: Request a Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) from the local county government. The C.O. is a document issued by the authorities to certify that the building complies with the applicable building codes and regulations and is deemed safe for habitation. It confirms that the property has met all the requirements.

Read Also: The Process of Buying a Ready Home in Kenya

Lookout For Any Encumbrances on The Apartment 

An encumbrance in real estate is a limitation on property ownership that grants non-owners the right to use the property. It can cause delays or even disrupt the closing process as it affects the seller's ability to transfer the property. Typically, you would identify any encumbrances during the title search or when initiating a transfer. That's why searching for them before parting with your money is crucial.

Examples of encumbrances include a lien against the apartment or the land on which the development is situated. This indicates that the current owner has used the apartment as collateral for a loan or has outstanding mortgage payments. In such cases, you may need to involve the lienholder in the transaction.

Another encumbrance to watch out for is unpaid taxes and bills. Apartment owners are obligated to pay land rates for each unit they own. The seller should be able to provide payslips as evidence of having no outstanding unpaid taxes. 

Additionally, apartment owners are required to pay monthly or annual fees for maintaining the common areas. Ensure that the seller does not have any arrears. If they do, you should communicate with the other owners who form the development board to ensure you do not inherit the debt.

Encumbrances do not always affect a property's value and may require a legal process to resolve them, depending on the type. Therefore, make sure to address them before making payment for the apartment.

Speak to Neighbours 

Before buying an apartment, consider consulting the neighbours. They could share important information that the real estate agent doesn't know or didn’t disclose. You could get a fuller picture by talking to them. 

In sectional units like apartments, the neighbours might also be apartment owners who possess information that the seller might have been withholding. Talking to potential neighbours can help you gain helpful insights about a property and community you're considering. For instance, they can help you identify the seller in the early stages. 

When talking to neighbours, start with open-ended questions and ask any relevant follow-up ones. Talk to as many people as possible to get a range of outlooks. They can tell you about apartment by-laws you must adhere to, the security of the area, and much more. Most importantly, neighbours can tell you about any issues and encumbrances regarding the apartment you're buying that you couldn't find on official documents.

Read Also: 9 Reasons Why You Should Own A Home

Perform Independent Valuation

Conducting an independent appraisal is essential to purchasing an apartment, as it involves obtaining an unbiased evaluation of the property's value. 

This assessment serves two important purposes:

  • Avoid buying at a high price: An appraisal helps determine the apartment's fair market value. By comparing the property to similar ones in the area and considering various factors like location, size, condition, and recent sales data, the appraiser calculates an estimate of the property's worth. This information can be crucial in negotiations, ensuring you don't overpay for the apartment.
  • Recognise a con or a deal that seems too good to be true: If a seller offers an apartment at an unusually low price, it could raise suspicions about the property's condition or potential issues. An appraisal can illuminate the situation by identifying hidden problems or discrepancies between the listed price and the property's actual value. If the valuation comes in significantly higher than the asking price, it may indicate that the deal is not as good as it appears, potentially saving you from a con or a misrepresented property.

Don’t Pay in Cash and Duly Document All Payments

When buying an apartment, it is during the transaction that you need to protect yourself the most. Many things can go wrong during this stage. Here are some steps you should take to ensure you don’t lose your money:

  • Avoid paying in cash: Use traceable payment methods like bank transfers or bank drafts. This ensures there is a clear record of the transaction.
  • Make payments in the seller's name: Direct your payments to accounts that bear the seller's name. This makes it difficult for the seller to deny receiving the payment, as official bank documents will be in their name.
  • Request and keep receipts: Always ask for receipts for every payment you make. These receipts serve as tangible proof of payment and can be used as evidence if any disputes arise in the future.
  • Document payment agreements: Have a written agreement or contract that outlines the terms and conditions, including payment details. Make sure both parties sign it to ensure clarity and protection.

Read Also: Tough Choices: Should You Buy a Home as a Couple?

Involve Relevant Authorities 

Involving relevant government authorities when buying an apartment helps ensure transparency, legality, and fairness throughout the transaction. It protects you and the seller and reduces the risk of fraud or disputes. 

Government authorities can assist in verifying the authenticity and legality of the various documents involved in the property transaction. They can check the validity of the sales agreement, deed, and other relevant documents. 

In case any disputes or conflicts arise during the buying process or even after the purchase, involving government authorities can provide a proper channel for dispute resolution. They can mediate between you and the seller, helping to resolve issues and ensuring a fair and just outcome.

Read Also: Renting or Homeownership: How Do You Decide?

Think of Resale Value

Circumstances may change, and you may need to sell your property at some point. Considering the resale value ensures that you have an asset that holds its value well and can be easily sold when needed. It gives you the flexibility to adapt to future life changes, such as relocating for work, upsizing or downsizing, or any unforeseen financial needs.

The resale value provides valuable insights for investors and individuals looking for a place to reside when buying an apartment. It helps you understand the potential returns on your investment, ensures future flexibility, and mitigates risks associated with owning an apartment.

Examining the resale value of an apartment requires evaluating various factors that contribute to its desirability in the market. This includes factors such as location, infrastructure, amenities, proximity to schools, hospitals, transportation, and the overall neighbourhood. When you assess the resale value, you can acquire a deeper understanding of the quality of the property and its attractiveness to potential buyers in the future.

Read Also: Where Should You Own a Home? Upcountry vs. Urban Living 


Buying an apartment can be a complex and challenging process, but with the proper guidance and knowledge, it is possible to find your dream one. As the buyer, you shoulder a little more risk during the transaction. After all, you are purchasing a property after only seeing it a few times, which is why you should take proactive steps to protect yourself. 

However, if you do your due diligence and don't rush the process, you should be able to go to closing feeling confident with your decision. Finally, always hire a licensed real estate agent to guide you throughout the process. They might not come cheaply, but they can help you avoid significant losses.

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Farah Nurow is an experienced Content Writer who enjoys writing creative and educative articles meant to provoke readers' thoughts. He loves sunny weather and thick books. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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