Kenya: Understanding Nairobi’s Housing Market

The housing market in Kenya is relatively volatile, due to the increasing number of expatriates entering Kenya and a high demand for properties. In this useful guide, we provide an overview of the property market from an expat perspective – including popular areas, common rental ranges and challenges to be on the lookout for. With our support, you’ll easily find a suitable ‘home away from home’!

Depending on the preferred area, a wide variety of properties are available in Nairobi: furnished or unfurnished apartments, houses in gated communities, town houses, stand-alone houses and serviced apartments.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: The biggest challenge in Kenya is the security issue, and stand-alone houses are deemed to be a high risk due to their easy accessibility for thieves.  It is advisable for expats to consider either staying in a gated community/ compound or an apartment block, as most of these have 24-hour security with perimeter fencing and security cameras. In the last year or two there has also been an increase in corruption in the property market, so it is crucial that expats use reputable agents and providers when searching for a home.

WHAT TO BUDGET: Rental is normally paid quarterly in advance and a 1-3 month security deposit is required to secure a property. Agent Fees are paid by the landlord to agents and not by the tenant, and there is no withholding tax applicable. Lease terms are normally a minimum of 1 year with an option to renew, with an annual increase of 10%. Rental will also include a service charge and water only.

Popular expat neighbourhoods in Nairobi

NB: All rentals are monthly and quoted in Kenyan Shillings (Kes)

  • Lavington: Middle- to high-income residential suburb and a green haven lying halfway between the busier areas of Hurlingham and Westlands. Property prices ranges between Kes 80 000 – Kes 350 000 for both furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses. Apartments are most common as they are highly available and decently priced.
  • Westlands: Mainly known as Nairobi’s dynamic social and entertainment hub for expatriates and middle-class to wealthy Kenyans. Property prices ranges between Kes 110 000 – Kes 250 000 for furnished and unfurnished apartments. Unfurnished houses have a price range between Kes 250 000 – Kes 350 000, with no furnished houses available in this area. Apartments are most common as they are highly available and decently priced.
  • Runda: Has a high-end housing estate. Because of the distance to the city centre, owning a car is essential when living in this area. Here you will only find unfurnished stand-alone houses; houses in a gated community or townhouses with a price range of between Kes 320 000 – Kes 550 000.
  • Karen: Area is somewhat isolated from the rest of Nairobi, and has a very high-end housing community. Most commonly occupied by large families as it is surrounded by a number of International Schools. Apartments in this area are very scarce, and mostly unfurnished houses with a minimum of four bedrooms will be available in the price range of Kes 300 000 – Kes 550 000.
  • Kileleshwa: A quiet, upper-middle income, leafy suburb lying four kilometres west of Nairobi City. Kileleshwa is predominantly a residential area, with a mix of aging, colonial houses built in the 1950’s and 1960’s and modern apartments and townhouses. This environment favours families with younger children who find a secure and social place to grow up. Property prices – both furnished and unfurnished – range between Kes 70 000 – Kes 450 000.
  • Kilimani: A convenient prime residential area about 10 minutes away from the city centre. It houses mainly maisonettes and apartments, and is rapidly being established as a prime commercial zone as well. The greater Kilimani area encompasses smaller, gated estates like Riara and Hurlingham. The location is accentuated by its proximity to major shopping centres. Property prices range from Kes 80 000 – Kes 300 000, and although houses are not widely available here, apartments are.
  • Upperhill:  Known as the CBD of Nairobi, here you will find mostly furnished and serviced apartments in a price range of Kes 100 00 – Kes 300 000.