BOOK REVIEW: Dont buy that house: Why you should never make monthly payments when buying a house off-plan

BOOK REVIEW: Dont buy that house: Why you should never make monthly payments when buying a house off-plan

The book talks about buying a house off-plan. /TWITTER/ NASHON OKOWA

It is the dream of many Kenyans to own a place they can call home. Many work hard (and smart) all with a goal of ticking that box in the bucket list: owning a home.

However, many unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of this desire for home ownership to rip off Kenyans.

One of the alluring models of home ownership on the rise in Kenya is off-plan home ownership.

In this model, a buyer puts in money into a development which is either yet to commence, or is ongoing and yet to be completed, with the selling point being that the house is being sold at a significant discount.

Marketers of this type of home ownership tell of attractive discounts, for example, an apartment that might be sold for Sh5 million when complete, could go for as low as Sh3.5 million at the off-plan stage. In addition to this, developers give buyers the option to make payments in instalments (after making an initial deposit).

As attractive as it sounds, there have many numerous cases of rogue developers starting projects and disappearing with clients’ money; and there are also cases of genuine developers who run out of financing and are unable to complete projects.

The challenges of navigating the off-plan buying market is what inspired Nashon Okowa – a construction project manager – to write the book ‘Don’t buy that house’.

He wrote the book in a record three weeks, after putting together his vast years of experience as a consultant in the property market.

The book gives potential buyers tips on how to avoid pitfalls when buying property.

The 105-page book is divided into nine chapters which cover topics on the importance of doing research on a developer before committing to putting a deposit on a property. Okowa talks of how a simple - yet sometimes overlooked - research method of Googling can prevent a buyer from tears. There are developers who have changed their name multiple times after conning buyers and sometimes a simple search can reveal issues with a developer.

The book also talks about the importance of the project execution team – a buyer should scrutinize the contractors and other professionals involved in a project and find out if they have practicing licences and if they are up to date. It may look like a lot of work to do, but it can save a buyer from flushing their money down the drain.

When it comes to buying property off-plan, Okowa vouches for a payment plan based on milestones, rather than monthly payments.

The milestone method is whereby a buyer pays when the developer reaches agreed upon milestones in the project; for example, when the foundation is done, when a floor is complete and so on. This way, a buyer avoids tying themselves in a situation where they are making payments, yet no progress is being made on the project.

Other issues tackled in the book include interrogation of the sale agreement, confirmation of the house details and looking at the project financing model.

In conclusion, Okowa urges buyers not to have a laissez-faire attitude when purchasing a house. Proactivity is crucial to avoid getting one’s fingers burnt in the property market. 

Watch Citizen Digital's interview with Okowa on home ownership here.

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Off-plan buying property

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