An agent is a person who will help you navigate the neighborhood you hope to live in search of a house that fits your specifications. You can walk into a real estate agency and engage their services. An alternative would be to engage those local self-professed agents. There are individuals in every neighborhood who have all the connections. Their fees will usually be much lower than the former. An agent will be necessary especially if you are renting in Nairobi for the first time or if you are new to the neighborhood you hope to move to.
If you venture into a new neighborhood and start asking about vacancies, more often than not you will be turned away. Some of the landlords and caretakers like to deal with a familiar face. Therefore, chances are high that you will be blackballed. However, with an agent you will have access to some of places that would not have had otherwise. In other words, having an agent opens doors.
- Ease of Movement
In some neighborhoods, new people are made into targets. As soon as you touch down and ask for a vacant house then word gets around. Conmen will descend upon you like hawks to a carcass. If it is a neighborhood you are not familiar with, an agent will make sure you do not lose yourself and time while grappling with navigation. An agent will make sure that you somehow fit in and you can find a place without being bothered by people whose intentions are entirely ill.
- Good Deal
An agent will know which houses are well tiled but whose rent is also affordable. They know the baseline for rent in the neighborhood. You might have some idea of the same but your information will not be definite. An agent will help you find the best possible deal. He or she will be instrumental in helping you keep to your budget but not compromising on your parameters. You might not be able to smell a good deal like a shark does blood in water but a good agent will get you close to that kind of ability.
- Source of Information
For a full day of walking around, you will have ample opportunity to fish for information. Often these agents are very forthcoming people. Do not be closed off or snobbish. Make small talk and the agent will inundate you with all sorts of information. You will know which ‘mtura’ stand has fresh goods and even which landlord has affairs with his/her tenants. If you are lucky, they will let you know if the caretaker tries to skim a little something off the top. Information is your friend while house hunting in Nairobi. You never know when information will come in handy. If nothing else, knowing things will get that bewildered newbie look out of your eyes.
- Additional Expense
Moving houses is already expensive enough. You have to pay the deposit as well as rent for the first month, at least in most cases. You have to find people to help you move. You have to find transport for your things. There are so man little expenses that you usually do not anticipate. Adding an agent’s fees to that list of expenses just seems unnecessary and tedious. Why spend more to have someone walk around with you? Why not just walk around by yourself? Is there really a point to paying someone to have them hold your hand as you house hunt?
- Risk of Getting Conned
How many people engage agents in Nairobi only to have them disappear after the first day before they find something? This is especially common with the self-professed neighborhood agents. They have nothing to lose. They do not have a reputation to uphold. This is Nairobi and it is everyone for himself. So there is a high chance that as soon as you hand over half the fees, this person will perpetually block your number from calling his phone. So on top of this being an additional expense, there is a likelihood of getting nothing out of it. In fact, there is also a chance that this person might walk you right into a trap where you will be robbed very keenly and enthusiastically.
- Lack of Objectivity
This agent works for commissions. In many cases, after you have given them that 500 bob, they also get the same or more from the landlord. Therefore, they might fail to tell you that the caretaker uses spare keys to the houses to rummage through personal effects when tenants leave for work. You only realize when you find him washing the stairs in your favorite chiffon blouse. The agent might not be forthcoming or objective when he is showing you houses. In fact, he or she may go as far as highlighting some places to the detriment of others.
Get an agent. There are immeasurable benefits to getting an agent to help find a house that feels like home for you. Besides, the cons can be prevented by being diligent when choosing who to engage with. Guidelines for how to pick an agent are really based on common sense.
- Do not engage with someone who demands money upfront
- Do not engage with someone who suggests you pay deposit before you have seen the house.
- Do not engage with someone who does not take time to listen to what you want. This person assumes they know what you will like better than you do. That means that they may be pushy.
- Be wary of an agent who walks you through questionable paths
- Be cautious about agents you have met online
- Do engage with agents who have been suggested by trusted friends
- Do make your meeting with the agent a day affair
- If it is your first time in the neighborhood or renting in Nairobi, it is okay to compromise a little bit until you know the hood better and can hunt on your own.