Regardless of whether expats are planning to live in the suburbs in a freestanding house with its own private garden, in a townhouse that forms part of a complex, or in an apartment, several things must be kept in mind when searching for accommodation in Nairobi. Considerations such as budget, cost of living, commute time and security should be at the forefront of the decision-making process.
Types of accommodation in Nairobi
In the city centre, most accommodation is in the form of apartments. Generally, the further outside of the city centre one moves, the more spacious living arrangements become. This includes standalone houses on large plots, complexes that are often made up of townhouses, and semi-detached houses.
Both furnished and unfurnished options are available across any type of accommodation, though unfurnished properties are often found easier and with lower rental fees. While furniture can be locally sourced for decent prices, some expats may consider shipping and removals as they prefer to bring over their pieces of home.
Expat families with children moving to Nairobi typically consider a freestanding house when looking for property to rent or buy. Both old and contemporary standalone homes can be found, though certain suburbs in Nairobi, such as Runda, boast more freestanding houses than other areas, and expats should map out their housing options in relation to amenities and their workplace.
High-rise apartment blocks are found across the city centre and surrounding suburbs. Some apartment blocks have swimming pools shared by its residents plus 24-hour security systems, putting an expat’s safety concerns at ease. Smaller blocks of flats and townhouses can also be found around the city.
Gated complexes and estates
One of the most common types of housing in Nairobi is a gated complex or estate. These may be considered neighbourhoods within neighbourhoods and offer houses, villas or apartments. Many expats find estates to be comfortable and modern, with strong security measures. A sometimes-negative image is painted of gated estates – isolating residents and keeping expats in a bubble. On the contrary, Nairobi’s estates offer great amenities, such as swimming pools and well-maintained gardens, that neighbours can share and socialise around.
Finding accommodation in Nairobi
When looking for a home in Nairobi, an estate agent is likely an expat's best bet. There are plenty of real-estate firms and relocation companies in Nairobi. Some are Kenyan-based and some operate internationally across the region. They can help organise accommodation, and many specialise in a particular geographical area.
Expats should start looking for property in Nairobi using online portals as this will help in familiarising them with the different neighbourhoods, types of accommodation and price ranges available. Property24, BuyRentKenya and PigiaMe are useful online search portals, as are estate agency websites. Expat and accommodation pages on social media platforms have also proved helpful when finding property both from abroad and within Kenya.
Locally, property listings in newspapers are another good source, as are noticeboards in upmarket malls.
Renting accommodation in Nairobi
Nairobi is one of the most expensive cities in Kenya in terms of rent and property prices, with some highly sought after and exclusive properties for luxury living. Expats should keep an eye on their budget when renting a home in Nairobi and be aware of all stipulations and conditions in their lease.
Leases in Nairobi are typically for a year, though they can be shorter or longer. We recommend expats inspect their leases and tenancy agreements with a fine-toothed comb for all they need to know on notice periods, early termination and lease renewals. Going through an estate agency in Nairobi is advised as these professionals are familiar with the processes and property laws on renting property in Nairobi.
Many aspects of the lease may favour the landlord, but expat tenants will be happy to know that rent increases can only occur after 12 months of their stay has passed, or 12 months after their previous rental increase.
Deposits of one to three months' rent are often required. Deposits are refundable after the lease ends, provided the tenant hasn't caused damage to the property or defaulted on rent.
Utilities and security costs
Utilities, including electricity, water and internet, are not usually included in the rental price and are an extra expense for the tenant.
Additionally, security costs will need to be considered as home safety is a concern in Nairobi. In complexes or apartment buildings, security costs may be bundled with the rental cost or may be shared between residents. If living in a standalone house, expats will need to make their own security arrangements – 24-hour guard services, which many local security companies offer, are highly recommended. Again, this is an extra cost that expats will need to budget for.
►Not sure what neighbourhood to live in? Have a look at our recommended areas and suburbs in Nairobi
"The expat housing in Nairobi is excellent. We live in a quiet leafy suburb. Most expats have large four to five bedroom houses and a garden. They often have access to a pool, either at their homes or within a housing compound." Read how Nadine rates the standard of housing in Nairobi to this expat interview.
"Housing in Nairobi is quite nice, with a variety of options available. There are furnished apartments, unfurnished apartments, and houses for rent in various good neighbourhoods around town." Tara talks about Nairobi's accommodation options in this interview.
Are you an expat living in Nairobi?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Nairobi. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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