Real estate slang used in Kenya
When entering a new real estate market, it’s important to learn the terms (jargon) commonly used by market players to communicate, interact, negotiate, and close deals effectively and efficiently. You don’t want to be left out of business conversations or miss out on important information that can be helpful when making critical investment decisions.
Most of the time, real estate jargon differs between countries; and even in Kenya, there are some variations. It is important to note that most real estate terms in Kenya are borrowed from the British, who colonized Kenya.
Terms for housing in Kenya
The Kenyan real estate sector uses vague terms to define the variety of house types and does not take much account of the scales, styles, layouts and spatial arrangements of the houses.
Single rooms or for one person – 3mx3m rooms that do not have facilities such as bathrooms and toilets.
babysitter – They are larger than single rooms and equipped with a toilet, sink and shelves.
Floors – Apartments 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 bedrooms, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms, are contained within one floor (which is rare for apartments).
Apartments – Included within high-rise housing units that are more elegantly constructed (in terms of design and structure) than flats. In Kenya, apartments are similar to flats, but the difference is that apartments are located in exclusive neighborhoods (and therefore cost more).
Bungalow – Bungalows are one level housing units with large individual enclosures and often no upper rooms. They are used exclusively with residential single-family homes.
Cottage – Semi-detached or semi-detached house consisting of a ground floor and an upper floor connected by an internal staircase. Most duplexes have a common perimeter wall where each unit has its own wall and enclosure. They are often identical to multi-family homes.
terraced house – A larger and more luxurious version of a duplex. Often a title is shared between different unit owners and subtitles are broadcast as a result. They are also often divided vertically.
duplex – Any type of dwelling with two independent entrances for different occupants. Most duplexes are split horizontally.
Mansion – A large unit occupying a sprawling piece of land with an even larger complex and attached farm. They are stately single-family homes and their level of style and sophistication is impeccable. They have numerous dorms ranging from 6-20.
After – Homes built with numerous bedrooms, each bedroom having its own independent bathroom.
master suite – Master bedrooms that have their own separate bathroom and toilet, which is not shared with any other room.
Manyatta – Traditional shepherds’ houses, more used by Maasais and Samburus.
mabati-house – Homes with iron sheet roofs.
Nyumba ya matope – Mud/mud houses.
makuti house – House made of palm or coconut leaves.
real estate professionals
lawyer – Popularly referred to by the Swahili name ‘Wakili’ which means lawyer.
Contractor – Just that – foreman is often used equally.
money – General term in Swahili referring to anyone involved in construction such as masons, carpenters, masons, welders.
beacons – Concrete with metal rods fixed in the center, used for delimiting land.
Acre – Most common unit of measure. One acre equals 0.44 hectares.
Septic – Large pits made to accommodate human waste from toilets, especially in areas without a sewage system managed by local authorities.
Price adjustments – Loan margin