When entering into a new real-estate market, it is important to learn the terms (lingo) often used by the market players in order to effectively and efficiently communicate, interact, negotiate and close deals. You do not want to be sidelined in business conversations or miss out on important information that can prove useful when making critical investment decisions.
More often than not, real-estate lingo differs across countries; and even in Kenya, there are some variations. It is important to note that majority of real estate terms in Kenya are borrowed from the British, who colonized Kenya.
Terms for housing in Kenya
Kenyan real estate uses loose terms to define the variety of house types and do not take into much respect the scales, styles, designs and spatial arrangements of the houses
Single rooms – 3mx3m rooms that do not have facilities such as bathrooms and toilets.
Bedsitter – These are larger than single rooms and equipped with a bathroom facility, a kitchen sink and shelves
Flats – Flats are included within a set of high-rise housing units, often 4-6 stories, located in middle-class neighborhoods. They are considered less sophisticated than apartments. Often, different types of houses such as bedsitters, one bedroom and two bedrooms are contained within one flat (which is rare in apartments).
Apartments – Included within high-rise housing units that are built more elegantly (in terms of design and structure) than flats. In Kenya, apartments are similar to flats but the difference is that apartments are located in upscale neighborhoods (and thus, cost more).
Bungalow – Bungalows are one-level housing units with individual large compounds and often without any upper rooms. They are synonymously used with single-family residential houses.
Maisonette – An attached or semi-detached housing unit containing a ground and an upper floor connected by an internal staircase. Most maisonettes have a common perimeter wall where each unit has its own wall and compound. They are often synonymous with multiple-family dwellings.
Townhouse – A larger and more luxurious version of a maisonette. Often, one title is shared among different unit owners and as a result, subtitles are issued. They are also often split vertically.
Duplexes – Any type of house with two separate entrances for different occupants. Most duplexes are split horizontally.
Mansion – A large-sized unit that occupies an extensive potion of land with an even larger compound and a farm attached to it. They are detached and stately houses and their level of style and sophistication is impeccable. They have numerous bedrooms ranging from 6-20.
En-suite – Houses built with numerous bedrooms with each bedroom having its separate bathroom.
Master En-suite – Master bedrooms that have their own separate bathroom and toilet, that is not shared by any other room.
Manyatta – Traditional pastoralist houses, most used by Maasais and Samburus.
Mabati house – Houses with iron sheet roofing.
Nyumba ya matope – Houses made of clay/ mud.
Makuti house – House made of palm or coconut leaves.
‘Savee‘ – Surveyor
Lawyer – Popularly referred with Swahili name ‘Wakili’ meaning lawyer.
Contractor – Simply that – foreman is often used synonymously.
Fundi – General Swahili term referring to anyone involved in construction, such as builders, carpenters, masons, welders.
Beacons – Concrete with metal rods fixed at the center, used for demarcating land.
Acre – Most common unit of measurement. One acre is equivalent to 0.44 hectares.
Septic – Large pits made to accommodate human waste from bathrooms, especially in areas without sewerage system run by local authorities.
Pricing adjustments – Loan mark-ups