Having lived in this fair city for more than five years I have had the urge to ditch my rented digs and join propertied ranks. Granted that I have a nice apartment and I pay below average rent for it, but the feeling of owning one’s own roof is intoxicating. The ghettofication of my neighbourhood is a story for another day
Desiring an apartment is one thing, getting it is another. The path for a non Kenyan is a slippery one. First step is to get the bank to trust you and that is a really big step considering that all resident aliens are automatically classified as ‘high risk’, regardless of your occupation, status or length of stay.
Many a time have I been cornered by sales men hawking bank loans, they trawl through my work place all the time. I fit the ideal profile for a loan, or so they all think until I tell them I am Ugandan. Hell freezes over, the smile is replaced with a stressed twitch of the lips and then the demand for excessive amounts of paper, documents, leases and more paper……just to borrow a measley amount.
Please note that loan repayment periods can only be as long as your contract, so with most of us on 2 year renewable ones, you get the idea that large loans will mean large monthly repayments. Now imagine a mortgage. I recall a hilarious conversation I had with my bank manager where I basically asked her how my mortgage can be considered high risk given that I can’t take the apartment back to Uganda with me when I leave! To her credit she was embarrassed and agreed that the terms were unreasonable.
Well I decided that I needed to take the bull by the horns and fight to own property in this boom town. But I decided, last November, to first determine how responsive the banks would be to my application.
My bank, Barclays, said they cold give me a mortgage at 13.5% at a maximum duration of 2 yeas! Then they changed their mind and said that since I had lived in Kenya continuously for more than 5 years they cold offer me a 7 year mortage. And when I whispered that I was talking to Standard Chartered bank, they increased the mortgage duration to 10 years.
A friend gave me a contact in Housing Finance Bank and she was corteous and efficient. She had handled mortgages for non Kenyans and it is a straight forward process, particularly for salaried employee types like myself. She quoted a 10 year mortgage at 14%.
Standard chartered sent someone over to chat with me and the terms were similar and they also did not seem fazed by the fact that I was a foreign resident. Which made me wonder what the heck was the matter ith Barclays, after all I have been their customer for 8 years!!!!
Another friend gave me a contact in Eco bank, the new west African entity in this market. And they were all business. They guy told me that they deal a lot with non citizens and they have products directed at this segment of the market. He offered a mortgage for 10 years at 15%. The key here was that it was negotiable!!! They could even increase the duration of the mortgage to 15 years.
It then dawned on me that I was actually seeking a mortgage from a position of strength and also that the banks need the business. We often approach the bank like a lamb to the slaughter . I do recall a close friend telling me how he never pays the quoted interest rates or bank charges, he always haggles for a better deal.When we play tough and demand more from them we should not be surprised when they respond favourably.
The next step was now to locate a suitable piece of real estate to buy.