OFF MY CHEST: House hunting horror in Nairobi
- A few days ago I found myself scouting once more for those TO LET signboards just I did close to two decades ago.
- However, there was zero enthusiasm this time round and no crew to report to.
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As a child, I enjoyed messing with people’s “TO LET” signs. My cheeky friends and I always inserted an “I” in between the letters so that it would read “TOILET” for our entertainment.
We got real kick imagining how confusing the signs were to passers-by. Did the building have toilets that were open to the public? Did the phone number below the TOILET sign belong to someone who repaired toilets? Sold toilet solutions?
A few days ago, I found myself scouting once more for those TO LET signboards just as I did close to two decades ago. However, there was zero enthusiasm this time round and no crew to report to. I was looking for a house to move into because adulthood demands couldn’t allow me to continue nestling in my mother’s house.
The pen I carried with me was not for inserting ‘I’ on the boards but for noting down the contacts on the signs when my calls went unanswered. I trudged my swollen feet from one estate to another as my heart sank deeper in despair. I saw houses of all shapes and colours, yes, and price ranges that bore the truth about social lanes.
I take pride in being well conversant with social media. I even have a credit card that is solely for my online purchases because I shop and bank from the comfort of my phone.
So when I started house-hunting, my search began online. I once featured a young entrepreneur who was working on an app that would help people buy or rent houses more conveniently.
I hit him up and after exchanging a few pleasantries, asked him about the app. He was very excited to share that the app was running, it had something for everyone. This guy did not even subject me to the stress of searching for the app on Google Play Store; he sent me the link on WhatsApp.
The moment I downloaded the app I knew I had been conned. It had about 20 houses in far flung estates. I had no intention of shifting from Ngong to Rongai, no please. Because I am always looking out for young entrepreneurs I called back to let him know about my terrible experience with the app.
“You know how these things work, it takes time and we have to get the owners on board…” I didn’t listen to the rest of it because he should have told me this before making me download the app. I deleted it.
Facebook was my next stop and I got some really great leads. Well, most of the phone numbers listed under the houses did not go through. Others went through but they belonged to conmen who expected me to send money upfront without seeing the house first. But people are full of jokes in this town.
So because someone supplied air to a government institution here in Kenya and bagged millions for it, a house broker from Ngara thought they could also pull a similar stunt on me? When I insisted on seeing the house first, I was slapped with a curt remark; “Madam inaonekana wewe huna shida ya nyumba (It seems you are not in need of a house).
When he hung up abruptly, I was left thanking God that the mobile phone, unlike those landline telephones, did not give him a chance to slam the phone otherwise I would be partially deaf as we speak.
A few leads led me to some estates where I was able to look at a few houses. A friend of mine recommended this apartment that was close to town and even shared some pictures.
People who accuse ladies of over-doing filters on their online photos have not met the landlords of Nairobi. In fact, when I arrived at the apartment my friend had referred me to, I refreshed my Google maps several times because I was dead sure I had missed a turn or something.
The photos in my inbox bore no resemblance at all to what stood next to me. The house was supposed to have been recently constructed but the term ‘recent’ had been used very loosely.
My next stop was at a nice estate, the kind that rented out their servants’ quarters (SQ). As the owner took me round the house, she dropped the bomb just as we were about to have a handshake over the house. “By the way, we have two dogs, they are such cuties don’t mind them,” she said offhandedly as she summoned two enormous German shepherds.
Those dogs were taller than I am, no kidding. “I will be in touch,” I whispered hurriedly as I left. She was a nice lady; I wish she had cats instead of those “cute” dogs.
I decided to hit one more hood before going back to the drawing board. I had even started thinking about hiring a tent and just setting it up somewhere.
Affordable quality housing needs to come through, if nothing else on the Big Four agenda materialises.
The next estate was fantastic; I could almost see myself living there. Everything was going smoothly until the guard introduced me to the caretaker or broker.
Then the other shoe dropped. I am short of words to describe the look on the broker’s face as he looked at me. It is something close to how I inspect a stack of ribs on the grill in one of those open-air nyama choma joints.
His eyes rested on my thighs and camped there for a while. I almost squatted to maintain eye contact. I ignored it at first but he persisted. When he hung his mouth open, I fled. I was ready to go and buy a tent.
When I came back to the office, worn out and totally frustrated, my colleague was concerned. We chatted a bit and she recommended I try out one more places before giving up.
Well, there is a reason they say we should never give up. I found a wonderful apartment that was conveniently located in a growing town centre and pretty close to my workplace. I have been there for a few days now and I am quite settled in.
Would I go through all that again? No way. So please, app developers and people in real estate, come up with a way of linking tenants with their ideal houses. My current crib is enough for only me. In a few years, I will need to move to a bigger house. Can you shield me from the horrors of house-hunting in my next search? Please?
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