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A Guide to Safeguarding Against Real Estate Scams in Kenya

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 2:01 PM By Koch Properties

Protecting Your Investment: A Guide to Safeguarding Against Real Estate Scams in Kenya


Kenya's thriving property market has become a hotspot for both local and international investors, allured by the promise of substantial returns and contributing to the country's economic growth. However, this growth has also brought an unfortunate rise in real estate fraud in the country. Scammers are exploiting the lucrative Kenya property market to defraud unsuspecting property buyers and leaving them financially devastated.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve deep into the intricate world of real estate scams in Kenya. We will equip you with invaluable knowledge on how to avoid real estate scams, empowering you to protect yourself and your investments. Through real-life examples and cautionary tales, we will illustrate the cunning tactics employed by scammers and provide practical advice on how to navigate the property market safely and confidently.

By arming yourself with this information, you can confidently navigate Kenya's property market, safeguarding your hard-earned money and ensuring a secure investment journey. Stay one step ahead of fraudulent schemes and embark on your real estate ventures with peace of mind and financial security.

1.Research the Developer or Property Owner

Before entering any real estate deal, conducting thorough research on the developer or the property owners is essential. Many scams in Kenya involve fake developers who make grand promises but fail to deliver. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • Lack of Proper Registration: Scammers often operate through unregistered companies or agents. It's crucial to verify their registration with regulatory bodies like the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA).
  • Inconsistent Track Record: Legitimate developers should have a history of successful projects. Seek out reviews and ask for referrals from previous clients to establish the developer's credibility.
  • Unrealistic Promises: If an agent or developer makes extravagant promises that seem too good to be true, exercise caution. Unrealistic claims of guaranteed high returns in a short period are often indicators of scams.

Example: In 2019, a real estate developer in Nairobi promised prospective buyers luxurious apartments at unbelievably low prices. After collecting deposits, the developer vanished, leaving investors empty-handed.

2.Verify Ownership and Documentation

One of the most prevalent real estate scams in Kenya involves deed fraud or fraudulent property titles and documents or property ownership. Scammers create fake titles, lease agreements, and even provide counterfeit maps, claiming ownership of the property. To protect yourself from falling victim to such title fraud, always:

Example: In 2017, a high-profile case emerged where a group of scammers forged documents for prime land in Nairobi. Numerous investors lost their money in this elaborate scheme.

3.Deal with Registered Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are pivotal in property transactions, but not all of them can be trusted. To safeguard against scams, ensure that you deal with registered agents or agencies. The Estate Agents Registration Board (EARB) registers and licences estate agents in Kenya. Always verify their credentials and registration status before engaging with them.

  • Check for Certification: Make sure your agent is a registered member of professional real estate organisations such as the Estate Agents Registration Board.
  • Request References: Ask for references or reviews from previous clients to assess the agent's credibility.
  • Sign a Formal Agreement: Always sign a written agreement with your agent, detailing the terms and conditions of your collaboration.

Example: In 2020, an individual hired an unlicensed real estate agent to sell their property. The agent disappeared with the proceeds, and the property owner had no legal recourse due to the absence of a formal agreement.

4.Exercise Caution with Off-Plan Investments

Investing in off-plan properties or ongoing projects can be lucrative, but it also carries risks of potential scams. Here's how to protect yourself:

  • Research the Developer: Investigate the developer's background, track record, and financial stability. Off-plan scams often involve developers who disappear after collecting deposits.
  • Escrow Services: Consider using an escrow service to hold your funds until the property is completed and transferred to you.
  • Legal Advice: Consult a lawyer specializing in real estate to review all off-plan agreements before committing.

Example: In 2017, a developer in Mombasa collected deposits for off-plan apartments but failed to complete the project. Buyers who didn't perform due diligence lost their investments.

5.Visit the Property in Person - Common Real Estate Scams

When it comes to property investment, it is crucial to exercise caution and not rely solely on online listings or descriptions. Unfortunately, scammers often employ online scams, such as using appealing photos and providing false information, to entice potential buyers .

To mitigate the risk, it is highly recommended to go beyond the virtual realm and physically visit the property - do a site visit. By doing so, you can personally inspect every aspect of it, ensuring its existence and evaluating its overall condition. Taking this extra step allows you to make informed decisions and safeguard yourself against potential fraud.

Example: Several people were conned in 2020 by scammers advertising "luxurious apartments" online. The victims never physically visited the properties and ended up losing substantial sums of money.

6.Beware of Unrealistic Prices

When it comes to real estate deals, it's crucial to stay vigilant and avoid falling for scams. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unrealistically low prices can be a red flag indicating possible fraud.

Scammers often try to entice you with significantly discounted properties, hoping you'll make impulsive decisions.

Protect yourself by conducting thorough market research and looking out for warning signs like incomplete property information, lack of documentation, or high-pressure tactics. Remember, taking the time to verify and validate can save you from potential financial loss due to fraud.

Example: In 2018, a group of scammers offered plots of land at a fraction of their market value to unsuspecting investors. Many lost their money when the promised land never materialized.

7.Avoid Cash Transactions - Real Estate Scam

Legitimate real estate transactions typically involve reputable bank accounts, experienced lawyers, and trusted escrow services. These established institutions provide safeguards and legal protections to ensure a secure and seamless exchange of funds.

It is crucial to be cautious of individuals who insist on cash transactions, as they are difficult to trace and offer no recourse in case of fraudulent activities.

To safeguard your interests, it is always recommended to use bank transfers and maintain a meticulous paper trail of all your financial transactions. By following these best practices, you can minimise the risk and ensure a smooth and secure property transaction process.

Trustworthy banks, experienced lawyers, and reliable escrow services play a vital role in secure property transactions. Avoid cash transactions and keep a detailed record of your financial activities for added protection.

Example: In 2016, a fraudster posing as a seller convinced a buyer to make a cash payment for a house, only to disappear without a trace. The buyer had no legal recourse due to the lack of documentation.


Real estate scams in Kenya can have severe and long-lasting financial repercussions. These scams involve fraudulent activities such as fake property documents, unregistered agents, and enticing but unrealistic deals. To protect yourself from falling victim to these scam artists, it is crucial to remain vigilant and take certain precautions.

Always remember that seeking professional advice and conducting thorough due diligence are your best allies in safeguarding your real estate investments in Kenya. By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your ventures are secure, legitimate, and free from the devastating consequences of real estate scams.