While many Kenyans prefer to build their homes because it is cheaper than buying one, others buy ready homes for a variety of reasons, among them lack of time to supervise the construction or an urgent need to move into a particular neighbourhood.
However, Mr Dickson Kariithi, the branch manager of Metrocosmo Ltd, a real estate firm in Nakuru, warns that if you are not careful, you might buy a substandard house.
“What most Kenyans do not understand is that the main aim of construction companies is to make a profit from the sales of the houses they build,” he says, “As a result, they will construct substandard houses using the cheapest tools and materials. That way they spend less and get more money. Because of this, Kenyans should be careful when buying houses.”
Mr Kariithi stresses that anyone buying a house should be on the lookout for telltale signs of whether or not the house has been done well.
“One of the things you should observe is the finishing of the house because it can tell you whether the construction was rushed,” says Mr Kariithi. “For example, if there are cracks on the walls, that should warn you that the house was most likely not watered enough during construction and after a few years living in such a house, you will find it uninhabitable.”
While viewing a house you are considering buying, take note of any smell within and outside the house, Mr Kariithi advises.
“New houses tend to have a damp smell but if the dampness is overwhelming, that should alert you that something is wrong,” he points out. “If you find the house has an extreme feeling of dampness, it can be a warning of two possibilities: Either water is getting a way into the house or the piping was not done properly.”
During constructing, a plastic sheet is laid on the floor to prevent water from the ground from seeping into the house. Dampness might indicate that was not done properly, warns the Metrocosmo manager.
In addition, you should ensure that the electrical the house’s electrical system is in conformity with the standards approved by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). The company has to verify the placement of meter boxes and linings in the house to ensure that the electrical wiring is not hazardous, Mr Kariithi notes.
“This is a very delicate area that should not be ignored,” he says. “You need adequate knowledge of electrical systems and functioning. If you are not sure, the best way to go about it would be to get a person knowledgeable in that field to accompany you during the viewing so that they can verify that everything is in order.”
If you have viewed a home that you like, it is advisable to view it again at different times of the day.
“From the different perspectives, it is easier to make an informed decision as you can observe factors such as the different lighting at different times of the day,” says Mr Kariithi, adding that this will minimise chances of nasty surprises after you move into the house.
Mr Kariithi strongly suggests that when buying a house, you should choose on built by a company that offers a maintenance contract.
“There are construction companies that build houses for sale and they have a contract with the buyer offering a maintenance period of one or two years during which the company takes responsibility for fixing anything that needs repair in the house,” says Mr Kariithi. “Such houses tend to be built very carefully since the company does not want to incur any extra costs on maintenance and the buyer will be assured of a good home.”
Lastly, it is important to factor in the environment or neighbourhood where the house is located. The environment of the house is a reflection of the surrounding community and this helps you consider factors such as security and transport before you buy the house, says Mr Kariithi.