Real estate in Kigali is no different from anywhere else. It is all about location, location, location. As a journalist coming to work for Rwanda’s first daily, the New Times, I needed to find a convenient place that is not too far by foot or bus and a place that would not bust my budget.
I had a temporary place to put up as I searched, so I didn’t have to rush into anything. I could afford to look around and even be choosy.
I hit the road bright and early, determined to come to a quick solution to my housing predicament. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. For starters, there were no signs advertising vacant housing as I had expected.
The communication barrier between me and watchmen who I sought for help ended in frustration. Several hours into my search, I learnt about some people called commissioners.
First stop, Kimihurura. A relatively quiet neighbourhood but way above my budget. Just a tour around and I knew that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Just as a sign of appreciation, I offered my newly found friend (the commissioner) lunch and as fate had it that he took me to the nearest restaurant which happened to be the Flamingo Restaurant.
I would have been happy to have dined there if only it did not leave my pocket empty.
Next stop, Remera. At last, an affordable vacant house! But alas! It is in a deplorable state. The bathrooms are flooded with water from a leaking tap.
The ceiling boards are rotting away not to mention the poor drainage system resulting in a pungent smell in the house.
Ever heard of an area called ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’?…other than in the towns referred to in the Bible? Well, there is an area nicknamed exactly that in Majerwa.
Life here is very different from any other place I have been to in Kigali. One would have to see it to believe it.
We sat to take stock of which other options remained open and it was then that I had the opportunity to engage ‘my companion.’
Moses Mugisha is a real estate agent (commissioner) and is happy with his job. “Once I get my client a house, he/she should in return give me 50 percent of the rent of that particular house.” He said.
“If I use my own money for commuting while in search of the house, the client should refund it as well,” he added.
According to Moses, looking for a house is not as easy especially for a foreigner. One might move to the wrong places ignorantly without considering the security of the place, avoiding places with imminent plans for commercial construction or other non-conforming adverse development that might compromise the value of the area and property.
The day could not have ended on a more ridiculous note, than by Moses asking me for transport fees yet all day, we had been using a cab which I would eventually pay for!
On a positive note however, I found affordable and appropriate accommodation in Kacyiru, an area I have come to really love.
Tips on house hunting
Take notes at every home you see. This will reduce confusion later and help keep your thoughts organized as you move through the selection process.
Consider your requirements as you would if you were buying and not renting. After all, the property will be your home for the next six months, twelve months or even longer.
Be clear about the kind of property you are looking for, where you want to live, what amenities you need to be close to and the budget you have available.