I went apartment-hunting yesterday. The day before, I tried searching via the leading (well…) online classifieds here in Kenya. After three pages, I was getting cross-eyed from the sheer volume of “very helpful information”. To wit:
3BEDROOM APARTMENT TO LET LAVINGTON Price: ksh 55.00 Rooms: 3 rooms LAVINGTON This is new 3bedroom apartment, master ensuite, spacious sitting room cum dining, imported fitting in kitchen and pantry, laundry area, swimmwing pool and 2hrs security 0722404***"
Er, Ksh 55.00 per month only?? (Note: as of 21 April 2011, US$1.00 = Ksh 84.00
/ € 1.00 = Ksh 122.84) Maybe the agent meant per hour…? And only 2 hours of security? My, my… Mr/Ms. 722-404*** needs lessons in proofreading and typing, huh? Ksh 55.00 is vastly different from Ksh 55,000, as is 2-hour versus 24-hour security.
Or how about this?
Property is located on: Dennis Prit , Kilimani City: Nairobi Phone Number: 0737600*** , 0721317*** , 0725454*** Date Posted: 24.03.2011 Monthly Rental: Kshs 120,000 Bedrooms: 3 Bedrooms Bathrooms: 2 Year Built: 1999 Property Features: Furnished , Laundry Room , Swimming Pool Comments: A SPACIOUS WELL FURNISHED 3 BR APARTMENT WITH MASTER ENSUIT, SPACIOUS SITTING ROOM AND BALCONY, WELL EQUIPED KITCHEN, A DINING ROOM AND VISITORS TOILET ASIDE. IT ALSO HAS A GYM AND SWIMMING POOL AND A DAY NANNY AT THE EXPENSE OF THE OWNER OF THE PROPERTY. IT HAS ENOUGH SUCURITY.
This property is one of many properties owned by a leading media group here in Kenya and this listing set me to wondering exactly how eagle-eyed really are their editors.
Or how about the very generic ads like this:
Ngong Road | Adams Arcade | Nairobi | Kshs 38,000 Property is located on: Ngong Road , Adams Arcade City: Nairobi Phone Number: 0719-038*** For more information please call: 0720 040 ***.
Hmmm, I think I’ll pass on all three!
After narrowing my choices to those ads which looked more promising, I called the listed numbers and made appointments to view the apartments. One of them was with a certain David, whose email ID address, by the way, is “splendorhomes”. Hmmm, really. Okay. I’ll give this one a shot.
Yaya Centre, 10 a.m. I’m waiting by the designated meeting place. My phone rings. It flashes David’s name. I look up and see two men approaching me. The bigger guy speaks up.
“Hi, are you Missy? I’m David and this is my friend Charles.” They look at me from head to foot and back. “Are you alone?”
Me: Er, yes. Why?
David: Let’s use your car.
Me: Um, I don’t have a car.
David: How are we going to see the apartment??
Me: I thought it’s just a 5-minute walk down the road.
David: Okay, we’ll use my car. But you have to pay for the gas.
Me: Why would I do that??
David: Or I call my taxi guy and you pay the fare.
Me: Wait a minute. You said yesterday the apartment is just down the road, a mere 5-minute walk, at the most, from Yaya Centre. And I’m the client. You’re the one who’s supposed take me there. Not the other way around.
David: But I want to show you other apartments in other places.
Me: But I want to see this apartment only.
David: Well, here in Kenya, the client always provides transportation. I already spent fuel going around looking for flats and houses to let.
Me: Well, that’s not really my problem, is it? That’s supposed to be your job. Never mind, I’ll go check out this apartment myself. You’ve just lost me as a potential client.
What a strange way of doing business. I mean, I’ve never met these clowns before – they could be carjackers (if I did have a car) for all I know. All I had to go by was an ad anybody could place on these online classified. They could well be con artists, of which “Nairobbery” abounds…
A lot of these online ads are placed by “briefcase agents” aka “folder agents” who are not connected with established realty offices but who go around, briefcase or more likely, brown folder in hand, looking for “to let” apartments. They make a deal with the caretakers or landlords for a commission should they find tenants. Then they place online ads or advertise themselves in the tried and tested sign board. As for me, I’ll just go round and do my own inquiries. Or, go to a proper real estate office. What do you think? Keep tuned!