Many can live in Nairobi but only the truly ingenious can survive it. It is a cut-throat city. Nairobi is a bit like a cat if you approach it with caution and rub all the right spots. It will reward you with a purr. If you are callous in your approach, you will get your arms and face scratched and possibly infected. To save a shilling, you need to be willing to look into opportunities that others shy away from. You need to make the best out of everything. You need to cut off the bad part of the avocado and savor the remaining good part as opposed to merely throwing out the entire fruit. The metaphors here are getting out of hand, below are some of the ways in which you can find yourself some good rental deals.

1.Ground floor units

You would not guess this unless you are well versed in Nairobi real estate, the ground floor units of all new buildings are usually the very last to be rented. This is not by design. Many people just prefer the top floors. In some cases, the ground floor units remain vacant for so long that the landlord decides to discount it. You will find that the rent is cheaper on the ground floor by say a thousand or 500 shillings. You get the same amount of space for 6,000 shillings less per year.

2. Extended vacancy

You will often see some buildings that go for a very long time without tenants. This is especially common in new buildings where the landlords charge too much rent because the building is new and they are trying to recoup as fast as possible. The result is that very few people or none at all take up tenancy in their buildings. After about six months of little to no uptake the landlord will usually discount significantly. This is very common in commercial real estate too.

3. Longer walk

Do not be afraid to walk past the shops and the masses in search of cheaper dwellings. A good example is Roysambu. Right by the highway rent for a bedsitter can go for as much as 10,000 shillings. However, as you walk further into the hood, you start to realize that you can find a one-bedroom unit for the same amount of money. A bedsitter at the Madaraka shopping center goes for 11,000 shillings at least. If you walk past Strathmore University, you can find a one-bedroom unit for about 12,000 or 13,000 shillings which are barely significant. A little distance seems to do wonders for rent amounts. In most cases it does not take much. It only takes walking an extra three or five minutes. As long as you remain on the lookout for the well-maintained buildings whether old or new, you will be golden.

4. Double room

There is a phenomenon that very few know about but is actually quite useful. The double room is like a twin bedsitter. That means that the house has a kitchen, two rooms and a washroom. This is effectively a one-bedroom house, right? The kicker is that they are usually cheaper than an actual one-bedroom house. You will find that a one-bedroom house in Ruiru is 12,000 shillings per month but a double room in the same building is about 8,000 shillings. This is a significant difference. The sizes will vary but there is something to be said about walls separating the living room from the bedroom.

5. Water question

Imagine a place where you are told that the rent is 9,000 shillings. You are asked to pay the deposit and rent for the first month as well as a separate 2,000 shillings for water. Another place where the rent is 8,500 shillings. You pay the deposit and rent for the first month but nothing else. The difference between the two apart from the rent amounts is that if you choose the former you will never pay for water. If you choose the latter, you will have your water meter and will, therefore, be required to take care of your own water bill. At first glance, you might be deceived by the lesser amount of 17,000 shillings. However, a true Nairobian or anyone really will think ahead and see that the former is a better decision in the long run. You have no control over how much the water bill will be.

As you are out house hunting, be particularly mindful of buildings with boreholes and water catchment systems. These buildings are most likely to have round the clock running water. If you are new to Nairobi, this is a major fete in Nairobi unless you live in the upscale addresses.

6. ‘Who is moving?’

There are groups where people let each other know when they decide to move house. The select few in that circle get first dibs on that opportunity before it is advertised. This is very common in commercial real estate. Not quite sure if it has extended to residential real estate yet. Commercial real estate in the CBD is quite elusive. If you find yourself such a group, you are bound to fall on a good deal.

7. However, before committing…

There must be good reasons why no one else is going past a certain point or avoiding a certain building. If you find that any people are vacating a particular building after only a short time then there is a need to investigate why. Do not merely seize opportunities without checking to see if you are leading yourself into an abyss. This is Nairobi, no one will warn you that the stepping stone in the middle of the puddle is actually a sponge. They will let you step right on it and pass by as you try to extricate your shoe from quick mud. (Sorry about the metaphors). On that note, happy dealing!