Mercy Kibe and Catherine Kamau are two homeowners who achieved the status through different methods. After talking to them and professionals in the property industry, we have a step-by-step plan to hep you own your dream home.

When Mrs. Mercy Kibe, a human resource officer with one of Kenya’s learning institutions moved into her house last December, it was a dream come true. This was after her contractor, Pacific Reality Company, completed her Sh4.5 million mansionette in a record four months.

“It is an achievement that I feel proud of as a woman,” Mercy says.

Women in Kenya are bracing for the less-trodden path that has long been left to men. If you are a woman who is married with children or even single, not dating anyone and have been working your way up the ranks at the workplace (or building a start-up business) for at least five years, you probably have been paying rent for the same number of years.

It could be that a quick calculation of how much money you poured into your landlord’s pockets last year left you unsettled. Or perhaps you are tired of going home to a house you don’t like. It could also be that your nosy or annoying neighbours have left you wishing you lived in your own home.

Catherine Kamau, is a single mother of two. She runs C&K Promotions Kenya Limited, a marketing firm she founded 10 years ago. Last year, she bought a house in Kahawa West worth Sh38 million.

How did she do it? From her earnings over the years and proceeds from her pineapple farm in Thika, she saved Sh15 million. When she approached her bank and the property dealer, they agreed on a mode of payment for the balance that was pegged on the value of the house.

“After working for more than ten years in the marketing industry and living in a rented apartment, I found out that last year was the high time I put my savings into use,” Catherine says, adding that she and her two children moved into the house immediately.

Catherine says that home ownership doesn’t come easy for single women in a society where the decision and muscle of owning homes has mainly been left to men, but with enough resilience any woman can easily achieve the dream.

We put together some tips from Mercy, Catherine and experts in the property on how to take first bold towards home ownership.

1. Positively, work with what you have

“Last December, my husband Elias Matanje, our three kids and I witnessed completion of our new house as a happy family,” Mercy says.

For Mercy, it all started with a positive idea mid-last year. After checking their savings with the husband, which was two million shillings, they approached a Sacco and secured a loan which translated into the dream she initiated.

“I am the one who talked to my husband and he didn’t object to it since we were both earning salaries and, jointly, we had close to Sh2 million in savings,” she says.

Mercy says she didn’t have the ‘expatriate’s pocket’ to finance her project, however, when she collaborated with her husband they moved together positively and now, they are dream home owners.

2. Don’t hurry; you are spoilt for housing choices

Good news is that, in the current state of the Kenyan economy, you should be aware that buying a home is a huge investment for the future.

Having worked in the financial sector for a long time, Kariuki Musa, who is the CEO of Gakuyu Real Estate knows this better.

“Buying a house is a step-by-step initiative. In times like these, the step requires due diligence before jumping into it. You have to be sure of what you are doing,” Musa says.

For Catherine, identifying the right place to buy was her biggest headache because of the wide variety of options.

“I had so many options. But I settled on Diamond Property Merchants, who had a friendly payment option. It took me a lot of time to make up my mind since the chances of being duped into dubious deals were high,” Catherine says and adds that she saved her deposit of Sh15 million with a local bank.

3. Take advantage of the drop in interest on loans

Musa says that the property industry is at its prime time, a time when interest on loans has been tremendously lowered and one has a number of housing options to choose from.

“So many companies that are offering housing solutions in Kenya. Before starting to look for the available properties to buy in the market, consider your savings then shop for a house that fits your budget. Next, approach your bank or a Sacco for further action,” Musa says.

He adds that with a little savings that you have after that salary increment, for example, you can buy a house worth three times your savings through a Sacco or by taking available mortgage options with banks.

4. Have you saved at least 5 per cent of the value of your dream house?

This, according to Musa, is how you’ll know that you’re ready to buy a house. Having worked in the finance industry for quite some time, Musa advises that to be safe, going by the current market trends in both financial and property market, you need to have saved at least 5-20 per cent of the cost of the home you would like purchase.

“If, for example, you want to buy a 2-bedroomed apartment in Syokimau costing about Sh3 million, you’ll be required to have saved at least Sh150,000,” Musa says.

He says that this is within the minimum deposit saving of about 5 per cent, but also be aware that saving more than 5 per cent will give you access to a wider range of a housing loans.

5. You have a regular cash flow?

“The most important thing when buying a house is to ensure that you can afford repaying the financial facilitation you received, be it a loan or a mortgage facility,” Musa says.

“Put together your budget before you start looking for a property. Lenders will check that you can afford the Sacco loan or the mortgage and also ‘stress test’ your ability to make your payments,” he says.

He notes that since circumstances change in life, you should be prepared for the lender to do a cross-check of possibilities that can make you be unable to repay your loan which is common to all lenders.

Also, as part of a loan and mortgage application process, you will need to show the lender evidence of any outgoings and prove your income.

6. Look out for government-backed schemes

For civil servants in Kenya, acquiring a house has been made easy since there a number of government-backed schemes that are tailored to help on land on the property ladder.

“If you can use one of these schemes, lenders will still ensure that you can afford to pay your mortgage,” Musa says.

7. Buy the house; but consult your lawyer first

Finally, remember, when you get the house of your choice in a location you like — even if it is in a gated community — consult your lawyer to ensure a cross-check of the land on which the house stands to see if it has no legal undoing which can haunt you in future, especially if a public infrastructural development is earmarked to pass over the place.

With this, you are good to go, buy that house now, it’s your year.

“It is necessary to do some spot-check on impending obstacles around, both infrastructural and legal,” Catherine says.

“Before I signed my agreement with Diamond Property Merchants, I had to make several visits to both the ministry of lands and other arms to avoid being duped into trouble,” Catherine says.

See story on Standard Media News