Soon after getting engaged in 1913, Karen Christenze Dinesen and Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, moved to Kenya, then part of British East Africa. Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke was a second cousin to Karen. She had earlier dated the Baron’s brother but the love affair failed. Once in Kenya, the couple used family money to buy land which they converted into a huge coffee farm serviced by local workers…..And so goes the start of the long, rich history of Karen, an affluent suburb of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
It was given the name Karen by real estate developer Remy Martin who bought the land in 1931. He is believed to have named the place Karen in honor of its most prominent resident, author/farmer Karen Blixen. Martin was to gradually develop the land and transform it into the quiet, luxurious address that we know today.
To the east is Ngong Forest, to the south is the Nairobi National Park. Largely flat, Karen is conveniently tucked away from the bustle of Nairobi city, the perfect place to own a home. This is perhaps the most expansive of all Nairobi’s prime residential suburbs, touching both Ngong Road, Langata Road and Magadi Road. No other prime residence in Nairobi can boast of such elaborate space filled with plush trees and greenery to behold. Here land is only subdivided to a minimum of half acres, nothing less. So if you want to buy prime land that is less than half an acre to build a home in Nairobi, you will certainly not find it in Karen.
A strong resident’s Association is credited for stamping authority and order. You are immediately greeted with a sense of organization as soon as you drive into Karen. Clean, serene, quiet, good roads, neat hedges, less concrete, beautiful trees, working street lights, professional security personnel, road bumps & signs..name it. Anything that sounds like necessary order befitting a high end residential location? Come see it in Karen, Nairobi.
Such is the state and class that has come to define Karen over the years, making it the default ‘must explore’ place for anyone embarking on a journey to buy a luxurious home in Nairobi.
So what does it take to identify and buy a home in Karen?
1. Dedicate enough time to know Karen
You have already decided that you want to buy a home in Karen. But Karen is so huge it could take you hours moving around. So it’s important that you spend adequate time building a mental picture of the entire area. Just to give you an idea, all that area starting slightly after Dagoretti Corner on both sides of Ngong Road towards Ngong town from Karen trading centre, all the way to just before Bulbul area of Ngong, is Karen. All that area starting from Bomas of Kenya/ Galleria Mall heading past towards Rongai past Catholic University of Eastern Africa, to the right of Magadi road, upto Multimedia University, is Karen. The rest of Langata Road after Galleria literary passes through and still ends at Karen Shopping Centre.
And this is just the periphery. The real deal is inside. You would actually need a week or two to perfectly get the full picture of Karen. Main roads to follow include Bogani, Karen, Miotoni, Ndege and Langata South roads. Only after you have the complete picture of the entire Karen can you then start to search for property. Never attempt to search for a home in Karen before this exercise is done. A clear picture is vital because it gives you a good idea of which area appeals to you most, the area you will always be happy to call home.
2. Gated or stand-alone?
The luxury homes in Karen fall into two main categories. Either a gated community (many homes sharing common facilities), or a stand-alone home with its own facilities. So it’s important to make up your mind between a home in a gated community or a single home on its own compound,where no amenity is shared at all. Stand-alone homes in Karen will certainly tend to be more expensive than those in gated communities, because you have all the amenities used by one home only. Talk of swimming pool, security, play gardens and all. Homes in gated communities on the other hand would be moderately cheaper. It’s one expansive compound with common gates, security, shops and the like. Most homes in Karen occupy at least half an acre of land, so space will not be an issue. If you are going for the stand-alone type, then you can easily find homes standing even on one acre of land, even more.
Equally important is to have a grasp of the prices. Prices for Karen homes fall in the region of KSH70-100 million. The over-the-top ones cost in the region of KSH 150-200 million and beyond. A good example is the recent purchase of a luxury home in Karen by Kenya’s Parliament to be used as the official residence of the senate speaker. It transacted at KSH 150 million.
3. Begin the search
You may opt to perform the search yourself or use a real estate agency with good knowledge and contacts in Karen. The advantage of using Karen real estate agents is that you will essentially be taking advantage of their deep masterly of the area. It’s always advisable that you choose and stick to only one real estate agency. This way you are able to control and give them exact details of what kind of home you want to buy in Karen. Avoid hopping from one real estate agent to another because you may consume so much of your time criss-crossing between them, and often you will end up being shown a property that you have already seen.
When giving instructions to your chosen real estate agency, be sure to be specific on vital items like the built up area, size of land, maximum price, and the precise neighbourhood where you want to buy a home in Karen. Equally important is to give them a time-line within which you want to have purchased the home. The importance of being specific on a time-line is that it will motivate the agent to take your task seriously. Otherwise they may simply put it at the back of their mind and assume you are really not committed.
It’s also wise of you to always keep track of the home searching process so you can quickly find one and conclude the purchase. This will save you the normal frustration experienced by buyers where you find a very good home only to be told it was ‘taken yesterday’. Or the ugliest of scenarios where you see a good house today, then go back to your business for two weeks or even a month. You come back only to find someone else has placed an offer on the very house that you loved.
So it’s always important that you draw a clear plan. Yes you have started searching for a home to buy in Karen, but do you have a time-line? If no, create one. If yes, follow it. Of course to follow this time-line strictly means that you must already have your financial side sorted out. Buying cash? Better have money in the bank. Buying through mortgage? Better clear with your bank and get the assurance that they will give you mortgage. We have seen buyers who start sorting out their finances once they have found a house they like. This is the wrong approach as the home could long be gone before you put the money together.
4. Due Diligence
We are nearing home now. You have identified a home to buy in Karen Nairobi and you like it. The next and most significant step of all is due diligence. This is where you get to verify the authenticity of the home and the land upon which it sits. It’s all about finding out if the property is really genuine and free of controversies or government restrictions. Ask for the offer letter plus all the necessary legal documents.
Your lawyers and real estate agents will become useful at this stage. Even as you instruct your lawyers to embark on the normal legal due diligence, it’s equally important that you make an effort to conduct your own investigation. Hire a reliable PI if you can. Remember you are about to spend KSH 70 million, or more. So you want to take enough time to countercheck and verify every little detail to ensure you are putting your money at the right place.
A property with any issues will always have a red flag waiting to be seen by would be buyers. Just take this stage keenly, give it sufficient time and you will uncover any dirt about the property, if any. If the home is built on government land you will know. If it is built on land grabbed from the real owner and the case is ongoing, you will know. If the documents are fake, you will still know. The red flags will always be there in the open.
If the due diligence results turn crisp clean, proceed to conclude the purchase and own your dream home in Karen, Nairobi. While concluding the purchase should be the easiest and fastest part, it’s still common to see buyers dragging it. But always remember there are hundreds of other buyers chasing that home in Karen, if it’s excellent. So the more you delay, the more you are increasing chances of missing out on it. In fact the only stage that should always take most of your time is due diligence, since it’s the most critical stage of your Nairobi Karen home purchase.
Ask for the sale agreement, pass a copy to your lawyers and fast track the process. If the home is new and still under construction, you will have ample time to pay the rest of the money after paying the deposit – if you are a cash buyer. If you are a mortgage buyer, then a deposit is all you need to settle (normally 10-20%). Your bank will clear the rest once construction is complete. All in all, the time-span between “after due diligence” and paying the deposit should never be too long since it’s all about transferring money.
There you go. Hopefully this guide will get you started on a successful journey that will see you buy a wonderful home in Nairobi Karen. All the best.