While Real Estate is a preferred investment option for many Kenyans, it is also a very high risk in terms of potential raw deals. Many people have lost a lot of money to people posing as landowners or brokers. About 20% of people trying to buy land have fallen into the hands of these con men. Here are ways you could reduce or avoid falling victim.

How to Identify a Con

Delay in subdivisions

Sometimes you buy a piece of land from a large parcel of land that needs to be subdivided among other buyers. The division might take a really long time since not all the buyers have finished payment. Buy land that is already subdivided instead and don’t rely on the beacons but a survey map clearly indicating the subdivisions.

Missing files

Unscrupulous dealers, with the help of corrupt officials at the lands office, plan to have documents hidden slowing down the process of obtaining a title deed. To help curb this have a document on which all the related officials sign on receiving a document. This way you have proof of receipt.

Spousal collusion

Make sure both spouses agree to the sale. Sometimes one spouse is against the sale of a piece of land. After payment is done the piece of land cannot be transferred to the buyer. This ends up in a long court process or insignificant installment payments.  You could visit their homes and have both of them sign a consent form agreeing to the sale. Confirm that the property hasn’t been earmarked for repossession by the government for public utility.

Cash deposit

Most con artists will insist on a 50% deposit. They will sell the piece of land at a very discounted price and insist on a deposit to secure the land. They will even create a situation where the property is in high demand. After the cash deposit they will disappear. Carry out a research on how much land goes for in the area. This way you know how much you should rightfully pay for the land.

Fake land search titles

They will work with employees at the Lands Ministry to come up with false documents of ownership. To avoid this conduct a site visit and talk to the neighbors. They are likely to know the owners of the land.


Know the agent/broker

Get a copy of their registration certificate and confirm their registration with the estate agent’s registration board.

Know the seller

Even if you are using lawyers insist on knowing the seller. If it isn’t possible then get their details and countercheck with immigrations. If it’s a company check with registrar of companies.

Confirm that the property exists

Get all the relevant documents. Talk to the neighbours as well to find out the history of the property, if there are any disputes and who the owners are.

Be patient

Don’t be in a rush to close the deal. Con men will give the impression that other people are ready to commit. Take your time.

Seek legal advice

Have a lawyer draw up the sale agreement and help with the transfer.

Avoid cash payments

A bank transfer is safest. This way you have a paper trail that will lead you to the recipient of the money.

Don’t pay the seller directly

Include a third party during the payment. Pay to the lawyer or a registered estate agent. If the sale fails, you can get your money back.

Outstanding statutory payments and other dues

Make sure that there are no loans or land rates arrears tied to the property. Any monies owed should be cleared before the transfer is done.

Talk to the clients they have worked with before.

Check their reviews online.

Follow your gut

If it feels wrong walk away from it.

According to Nahashon Okowa, the chairman of the Association of construction managers of Kenya, the government can take the following steps to bring a stop to these unscrupulous dealers;

1) Vet and approve all real estate advertisements before they are released to the public.

2) Pass a law prohibiting buying property off-plan until it’s complete to a certain percentage.

3)It should be a cardinal rule that installment payment is done depending on the milestones the project has made and not based on time. Payment is done regardless of what is happening on the ground. If no work is taking place you still have to pay your installment.


The Government has however made some attempts to curb all these. The Estate agents (amendments) bill currently at the Attorney general’s office prohibits just anyone from being a real estate agent. A person needs to be registered by the Estate Agents Registration Board(EARB). Without registration the agent cannot receive any form of payment for services rendered. Individuals caught practicing without a license could face a fine of upto 1 Million. The fine currently is 20,000.

Unfortunately, the bill has not been effected four years after the directive was given by Dr.Matiangi.


Land buyers need to exercise extreme caution when buying land. Protect yourself by buying land only from authorized land dealers and carry out due diligence on a property. Consider involving professional companies to carry out this task if you don’t have access to the resources.