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Can foreigners buy property in Kenya?

For investors or expats moving, an often-asked-question is: Can foreigners buy property in Kenya? How does property ownership work in this East African nation? Let’s find out.

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, which is what i specialize in, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use WhatsApp (+44-7393-450-837).

Emerging trends in real estate in Kenya

In recent years, a noticeable shift in the Kenyan real estate landscape is the rising prevalence of apartment units compared to standalone housing. One significant factor driving this change is the ongoing rural-to-urban migration, resulting in increased urban populations and a corresponding demand for residential spaces. Consequently, the optimization of available space has become imperative.

A notable focus on sustainable development is emerging within Kenya’s real estate sector. Developers are progressively integrating green building practices, encompassing energy-efficient designs, the utilization of eco-friendly materials, and the implementation of renewable energy systems.

Certifications such as LEED and EDGE, emphasizing environmental performance and long-term operational cost reduction, are gaining popularity in this context.

The integration of technology is a prominent trend in Kenyan real estate, marked by the rising popularity of online property listings, virtual tours, property management software, and smart home technology solutions. These technological advancements enhance transparency and convenience for buyers, sellers, and investors alike.

Another noteworthy trend in Kenyan real estate is the emergence of integrated developments that seamlessly combine residential, commercial, and retail spaces. These all-encompassing developments offer flexibility and accessibility, catering to individuals seeking both commercial and residential utilization.

The demand for high-quality and aesthetically pleasing finishes is on the rise in Kenyan real estate. Whether it’s lighting, wall treatments, flooring, or ceiling finishes, there is a discernible preference among Kenyans for chic and upscale design elements.

Can foreigners buy property in Kenya
Photo by Git Stephen Gitau

A guide for foreigners buying property in Kenya

Land can be lawfully purchased by foreigners in Kenya, however there are certain restrictions that must be met. The Kenyan Constitution states that non-citizens are only allowed to possess land through leasehold tenure, and that the duration of the lease cannot be more than 99 years.

Non-Kenyan citizens can legally purchase and own land in Kenya according to the 2012 Land Registration Act and Land Act. Land held by non-citizens must be held under a leasehold tenure that does not exceed 99 years, as stated in the Constitution. Ownership of freehold land is not permissible for non-citizens, however 99-year leasehold interests are.

Land can only be owned by foreign firms on a leasehold basis, and they can pay the government a little amount of rent called peppercorn rent. Unless the president expressly permits such ownership by a notification in the Kenyan Gazette, no non-citizen, including foreign persons and businesses, can possess first-row beach parcels or agricultural property.

How to buy property in Kenya as a foreigner

Buying property in Kenya as a foreigner, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the necessary legal processes and paperwork.

Below are some steps to buy land in Kenya:

  1. Get to Know Kenya’s Property Ownership Rules: Research the laws of Kenya pertaining to property ownership.  Even though they aren’t citizens, non-citizens can nonetheless own land—but only certain types of land.
  2. Freehold vs leasehold: Land ownership in Kenya is either freehold or leasehold. While freehold ownership is perpetual, leasehold only lasts for a set amount of time. Leasehold is typically the only option for non-citizens.
  3. Execute due diligence: Be sure you’ve done your homework on the property you want to buy. This involves making sure there are no legal concerns or disagreements, as well as confirming ownership and the condition of the land.
  4. Seek Legal Counsel: A competent Kenyan attorney who has handled real estate transactions before should be hired. They are able to look for titles, confirm conformity with local regulations, and lead you through the legal procedures.
  5. Get the Land Control Board’s OK: Before buying farmland, non-citizens must get the Land Control Board’s go-ahead. The board considers how the planned land use would affect the neighborhood.
  6. Verify title deeds: Make sure the property’s title is clear and marketable by verifying the deeds.
  7. Draft sales deal: Create the sale agreement in collaboration with your lawyer. The purchase price, payment plan, and other pertinent facts should be outlined in this document, along with the terms and conditions of the transaction.
  8. Land Survey: To get the property lines right, you need to do a land survey. If you want to keep future boundary disputes at bay, this is vital.
  9. Stamp duty and registration: Pay the required stamp duty and register the property with the authorities. The Lands Registry is the usual place to do this.
  10. Settlement: Follow all the correct procedures to pay for the property. Banks are a common method of payment, and it is important to keep records of each transaction.
  11. Ownership Transfer: Following the completion of all necessary legal procedures, the property can be officially transferred to your name.
  12. Ongoing Counsel from Attorneys: Keep in touch with your lawyer even after the sale has closed in case you need any further legal guidance or assistance.

The same process is applicable if you’re buying property in Nairobi Kenya, specifically.

Requirements for buying land in Kenya

buying land in Kenya
Photo by Simon Brandintel

When considering the purchase of land in Kenya, several essential requirements should be diligently followed to ensure a smooth and legally compliant transaction. First and foremost, a comprehensive land title search must be conducted at the relevant Lands Office. This step is crucial for verifying the ownership status and identifying any encumbrances on the land.

Engaging a qualified Kenyan lawyer with expertise in real estate transactions is highly advisable. The lawyer plays a vital role in guiding through the legal process, reviewing documents, and ensuring compliance with local laws. Additionally, confirming the identity of the seller is imperative, involving the verification of identification documents such as a national ID or passport.

Verification of the land size and zoning regulations of the area is essential, as different regions may have varying zoning restrictions. For non-citizens interested in purchasing agricultural land, approval from the Land Control Board is necessary to align with local regulations.

Upon satisfactory due diligence, the next step involves drafting an agreement of sale outlining the terms and conditions, including the purchase price and payment schedule. A deposit, typically a percentage of the total purchase price, is then paid to the seller upon signing the agreement.

Conducting a land survey to verify boundaries and dimensions is a crucial step, with the survey plan requiring approval from the government’s survey department. Stamp duty must be paid on the agreement of sale, with rates determined by the government based on property location and value.

If applicable, obtaining any necessary consents from the Land Control Board is vital for non-citizens purchasing agricultural land. The transfer of ownership is completed by the seller and buyer (or their legal representatives) at the relevant Lands Office, involving document submission and fee payment.

Subsequent steps include registering the transfer of ownership with the Lands Office, confirming the change in ownership and providing legal recognition. Upon registration, the buyer should obtain a new title deed reflecting their ownership. Finally, the remaining balance is paid to the seller in accordance with the agreement of sale, completing the land acquisition process.

How much does it cost to buy a house in Kenya?

Houses available for sale in Kenya range in price from 4.5 million shillings (the most inexpensive) to 650 million shillings (the priciest); the average cost at 23.1 million shillings. A square meter of an apartment in the city center will set you back around 156,278 shillings; an apartment outside of the center will cost you 96,975 shillings, a little less.

Do note that the actual prices for buying real estate in Kenya will vary depending on location and other factors.

How much do you need to invest in real estate in Kenya?

invest in real estate in Kenya
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Real estate typically involves a substantial initial down payment, and, on average, individuals can expect to commence real estate investment with around 100,000 Kenyan shillings. The pricing of land in Kenya can vary significantly, particularly based on location, with prime urban areas or popular tourist destinations often commanding higher prices compared to rural counterparts.

The nature of the property of interest, whether residential, commercial, or agricultural, also plays a pivotal role in determining the investment amount, with variations in price points between, for instance, residential properties in urban centers and agricultural land.

For those intending to develop the property, additional considerations encompass construction costs, permits, and infrastructure development, with these expenses contingent on the scale and nature of the project. Construction costs, on average, range from 32,500 to 70,000 shillings per square meter.

Investors commonly opt for diversification in their real estate portfolios, exploring various properties or types of real estate assets to manage risk and optimize returns. Some investors may opt for financing their real estate ventures through mortgages or alternative financing avenues, where the down payment and financing terms significantly influence the upfront investment required.

Can a foreigner get a mortgage in Kenya?

Kenyan mortgages are available to foreigners, opening the door to real estate investment in the country. You need a solid salary, a good credit history, and a sizable down payment to qualify for one of these mortgages. Particularly for non-residents, it may be necessary to provide extensive paperwork, including proof of identity, pay stubs, bank records, and letters of recommendation from creditors.

A number of Kenyan banks, notably Standard Chartered Kenya, the National Bank of Kenya, and the United Nations Federal Credit Union, offer mortgage services to foreigners and non-residents of Kenya.

The terms of mortgages for non-resident Kenyans and foreigners are subject to variation, with loan amounts, interest rates, and associated fees determined by the lending institution. Additionally, these terms may incorporate options such as using existing property as collateral, accessing loans based on the settled amount after a specific period, and the potential to consolidate mortgage facilities.

Mortgages in Kenya cater to diverse needs, whether for investment purposes or acquiring a residence for those returning to Kenya. Furthermore, these mortgages can facilitate property construction or the consolidation of existing mortgage facilities, providing flexibility to meet different real estate objectives.

Best places to invest in real estate in Kenya

Here are some regions that have historically been deemed appealing for real estate investment in Kenya:

  1. Nairobi, as the capital and largest city, serves as a significant economic hub. Areas like Westlands, Kilimani, and Upper Hill have witnessed heightened real estate activity. Nairobi’s expanding population and its role as a regional business center contribute to its allure in the real estate sector.
  2. Mombasa, a coastal city renowned for tourism and port activities, has zones such as Nyali and Bamburi that have been favored for both residential and commercial developments. The ongoing expansion of the port and infrastructure initiatives enhances Mombasa’s investment potential.
  3. Kisumu, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, has garnered increased attention due to infrastructure developments, including the Kisumu Port and Kisumu International Airport. The city’s growth prospects make it an attractive destination for real estate investment.
  4. Kiambu, a county near Nairobi, has undergone urbanization and infrastructure enhancements. Areas like Ruiru and Thika have become attractive for residential developments.
  5. Naivasha, located in proximity to Nairobi, is celebrated for its scenic beauty and adjacency to the Great Rift Valley. The town has experienced interest in real estate, particularly for holiday homes and resorts.
  6. Eldoret, situated in the Rift Valley region, has witnessed growth in the real estate sector. The town’s status as an agricultural and educational hub contributes to its appeal among investors.
  7. Nanyuki, positioned near Mount Kenya, has become a sought-after destination for tourism and second-home investments. The town’s natural beauty and expanding infrastructure add to its real estate potential.
  8. Athi River, located southeast of Nairobi, has been a focal point for industrial and residential developments. Its strategic position along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway makes it attractive for logistics and transportation-related investments.
  9. Runda and Karen are upscale residential neighborhoods in Nairobi known for their luxurious properties, drawing high-net-worth individuals and expatriates.
  10. Kericho, renowned for its tea plantations, has generated interest in real estate, especially for agricultural and hospitality projects.

Property tax in Kenya

  • Tax on rental income: There is a 10% withholding tax on the gross rental income that nonresidents of Kenya receive from real estate in the country.
  • Capital Gains Tax: An additional 5% of the earnings generated from the sale of assets is liable for capital gains tax.
  • Stamp Duty: Depending on the length of the lease, stamp duty is applied to property leases at different rates. When transferring ownership of real estate, there is a flat fee of 4% for properties located within municipalities and a flat cost of 2% for assets located outside of municipalities.
  • Property Tax: The local government collects an annual levy from property owners, usually equal to around one percent of the property’s worth.
  • Land Tax: The actual rate of a local tax known as land tax varies from one piece of property to another. There is a maximum rate of 8% in Nairobi.

Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 760.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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