Renting a House/Flat

About three months before we moved to Lusaka I came out here with Thom on a housing reconnaissance mission.  When we had lived abroad in Italy 2006-2007, we arrived sight unseen, stayed in a hotel for five days (with all of our boxes, one dog and one teenage son), and took one of the first places we saw.  I swore never to do that again.  The place we found in Italy ended up being okay just because we had the most wonderful guardian angel landlady in the world, but it was a flat with all of the sounds and hassles associated with that (having to go down two flights of stairs every time the dog wanted to go out) and I’m a country girl at heart and this was definitely city living.  We didn’t have the time to explore all of the options available to us because our son was starting school the day we moved in and the agent said that’s all that was available.  Well, that wasn’t true and I think I would have enjoyed our Italy experience far more if we had lived in a little villino like my friend Gigi did!  But, there were advantages to the flat we lived in, the main one being it was within walking distance of Kevin’s school.

Anyways, when we decided to move to Zambia I wanted to have a chance to really explore all of our options.  Also, I now knew what I liked and what I didn’t like so I was able to give a very clear description to the agent — we wanted a large yard, privacy, somewhere where I could jog safely and away from roads, and room for a garden. Fruit trees would be a great bonus!  (Photo is of one of the many homes we looked at.)

The first thing we discovered is that the rental market for decent homes is expensive!  By decent homes I mean with working plumbing/electricity, homes free of cracks/mold/rodents/bugs/holes in the walls or doors, homes with doors/toilets/cabinets/faucets/shower heads, and most importantly, homes in safe areas.

Lusaka is booming and becoming a regional hub for many businesses, non-governmental organizations, and pan-government agencies (like COMESA).  Because of this, the rents in the safer areas are expensive.  The farther out you’re willing to go from the city proper the more inexpensive the homes get.  Even though the place we live in is obscenely large and on five acres, it was $500-$1500 cheaper than anything we looked at in town (i.e., the ex-pat areas of town).  The downside is that we’re 3 km out on a dirt road which turns into a mud slick accessible only by 4-wheel-drive in the rainy season.  But, we love it out here in the country — it’s great to run, hike, bike ride, and feel totally safe.

BTW, though we tried finding a place through an agent we were unsuccessful.  We found our place through word-of-mouth — one of my husband’s colleagues mentioned his neighbor was renting and asked if we would be interested.  Boy were we!  So, ask around, you might find the place of your dreams.  A new ex-pat just joined Thom’s office and she’s finding that the agent is automatically adding on at least $500 to the asking price, because when she looks at the listing prices on line, they’re $500 cheaper!

When negotiating your rental price, be sure to ask for appliances (refrigerator, washer, oven — most people do without a dryer here), air conditioners in key rooms (we have one in the master bedroom and one in the rec room; we really need one in the kitchen though), curtains (most places come without and it’ll cost you a fortune to curtain all of your rooms; for example, it cost our neighbor $2000 to put up curtains in all of her rooms), screens (you’ll definitely want them — even though Lusaka is supposedly free of malaria, there still are people who get it here so you want to sleep under a net and/or have screens), safety bars (preferably the kind that you can open with a key in the event of a fire).  If you’re planning to stay a couple of years and let the landlords know that, they’re usually willing to work with you.  Also, be sure to get a clear understanding of who to call and what will happen when things break down.  We’ve had our well pump go out here, the fuse box catch on fire, a toilet break and leak, the welding on the car gate break (to where you couldn’t open the gate), and I’m sure there are other things I’ve blocked out.  Fortunately, we have a fantastic, responsible, responsive landlord who addresses these issues instantly.  (And, on our side, we’ve done many things to improve the property like plant trees, paint, create a raised garden, put up a garden fence, etc.)  It’s a win-win situation.  Finally, be sure to clarify who pays for the guard, the gardener, pool maintenance and supplies, and utilities (like electricity and garbage collection).

There are several expats in my husband’s office so the directors sought out baseline rental costs from a variety of real estate agencies in Lusaka so they would know what’s a reasonable rent. Even though the figures given in the letters below are more than a year old (from May 2010), they’ll give people looking to move here an idea of the options available to them.  The source of each section of information appears in the first line.

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Chas Everitt — http://www.chaseveritt.co.zm/

Though Thom’s office didn’t get a quotation from this group, the newly arrived ex-pat is using this agency and having very good luck in terms of responsiveness and showings.  They appear to have a more extensive listing of rentals than other agencies.  As I mentioned above, watch for instant price increases and check the quotes with what’s stated on the internet.

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From www.homenetzambia.com  (as of May 2010)

In WOODLANDS for a 4 bedroom house with staff Quarters and a pool in a safe area would cost you $3700.

In LONGACRES for a 4 bedroom house with T.V room outside bar and servants quarters in a safe area you would pay, $3800.

In Leopards hill for a 3 bedroom house with a guest wing in a safe area you would pay, $5000.

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From Image Promotions (from May 2010):

…as relocation professionals in Zambia with experience in expatriate housing would estimate that housing costs in Lusaka would be between $2500 – $5000 per month. This of course is dependent on the type of house and the locality.

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From Pam Golding   http://www.pamgolding.co.za (from May 2010)

1. The Residential Market in Lusaka – Overview

The bulk of residential property dates back to the 1960s and 1980s and is in need of major refurbishment.  Some developments have taken place in the past 15 years in Lusaka, however, much of the current stock is dilapidated due to lack of proper maintenance and there is a shortage of good quality accommodation for rent or sale.
Traditionally, the high value residential areas are located to the east of Lusaka city centre in Rhodes Park, Sunningdale, Kabulonga and Woodlands with the majority of the embassies based in the Longacres area with United Nations spread across four buildings in Alick Nkhata Road (Mass Media/Longacres), Leopard’s Hill Road (Kabulonga), Lubwe Road (Rhodes Park) and Longolongo Road (Light Industrial).
Rental property rates in safe areas of Lusaka as indicated above have risen dramatically in recent years.  Rates for reasonably safe, well maintained and moderately comfortable family homes in Lusaka are almost all in excess of $3,000 per month.
Rental periods are a minimum of one year renewable or anything up to five years. Services are not included in the rental such as electricity, water, security, garden and pool maintenance and rubbish collection.
All appliances to be supplied by the tenant such as cooker, fridge, deep freezer etc.

2. Housing Styles

a.  Stand-alone house with own perimeter wall fence and entrance — Stand alone houses are mostly found in the high value residential areas and offer family-style accommodation with between three to five bedrooms with at least one bedroom en suite, separate sitting and dining rooms, often a library/playroom or office and good sized garden of between 0.5 of an acre up to two acres with a swimming pool plus domestic quarters. Some houses may also offer separate accommodation from the main house for guests plus a tennis court.

Landlords are often willing to negotiate long-term leases at a favourable rent for “desirable” tenants and will up-grade security, re-decorate and even re-design gardens for such tenants.

b.  Cluster-style developments with the number of units ranging from four up to 16 — Generally the cluster developments offer double storey accommodation with a minimum of three bedrooms and there is a high demand from the rental market for this type of accommodation.  Surrounded by a common, high perimeter wall and one access gate plus good physical security on all windows and doors to units the are popular with the expatriate community. These developments offer an inclusive rental that generally covers utilities, security, pool and grounds maintenance. In most developments of this type at least one of the units will be offered fully furnished with an option to lease on a short-term basis of a minimum lease period of three months. The leases on offer can range from a minimum of three months up to one year (renewable). Leisure facilities of a communal nature with the minimum being a fenced swimming pool . Other facilities on offer may be a gym, sauna, tennis or squash court, outside entertainment area with braai/barbeque.
This type of accommodation is in high demand from the professional couples and singles working for blue-chip companies, the consultancy/development industry and aid organisations requiring accommodation that meets their stringent safety requirements. An aspect that appeals to many tenants is the ability to be able to lock up and go, with the knowledge that they need not worry about staff access and security and there are no added complications of maintenance of gardens and grounds.  This style of accommodation is usually unfurnished, however, more landlords are offering one or two units in a development that may be fully furnished and an option of maid and laundry services. Sometimes built-in cookers and hobs are provided but not as a general rule.  Pets are generally not accepted.

c.  Apartments or Flats — Usually offering accommodation of three bedrooms and often a double storey unit. There are a few complexes with one, two and three bedroom flats available. Some of these units may be offered as fully furnished and serviced accommodation in a block of 6 to 10 terraced or semi-detached units. (Terraced meaning units sharing a common party wall.)  Good perimeter security and usually a common garden area with leisure facilities such as pool and/or tennis court. Rentals are fully inclusive. Pets are generally not accepted.

3.  Areas

Most favoured areas for the expatriate community fall within the following:

Sunningdale   A small area of high cost housing, bordered on one side by Lusaka Golf Course and Los Angeles Boulevard. Well known for its quiet, shady roads and stand-alone houses with only two housing complexes available. Very popular with tenants, however, plots tend to be on the small side ranging from around 0.5 to 0.75 acres. Large family houses of four bedrooms upwards are not common.

Kabulonga   By far and away the most well-known and popular expatriate area in Lusaka. Kabulonga extends from the edge of Sunningdale up to and including Kudu Road to the north and Lake Road to the east. A large selection of stand-alone houses in plots from 0.75 acres and up to three acres plus cluster developments of individual or terraced housing, and apartment buildings. Well served with two fuel filling stations, shopping centres, fast food outlets, supermarkets and banks.

Woodlands (including Independence Avenue and Prospect Hill)    Again a small area with mainly stand-alone houses in walled gardens ranging in size from 0.5 acres to one acre bordering Kabulonga on north eastern side. Served by one fuel station and a modest shopping centre. Houses on Independence Avenue are favoured as diplomat residences. This area includes State House and the Arakan Barracks. High and visible security.

Rhodes Park   Historically one of the first residential areas in Lusaka and there can still be found some houses in the Cape Dutch style. This area has been re-zoned by the Lusaka City Council and there is some “creep” from businesses seeking to relocate from the Central Business District. A range of large family homes to furnished apartment buildings offering short-term lets. The International School of Lusaka and the Italian School are both located in Rhodes Park.

Mass Media    A relatively new area with housing developments of cluster style homes plus a mix of offices and places of worship adjacent to Rhodes Park. Bordered by Nangenwya and Alick Nkhata Roads and close proximity to one of the UN buildings, The French School, ZNBC Mass Media Complex and Longacres. Some roads untarred at present.

Crossroads   Adjacent to Kabulonga and bordered by Lake Road and Leopard’s Hill Road, this area has been developed within the last five years, with mainly, stand-alone houses. Crossroads Shopping Centre with its SuperSpar and utility payment shops and ATMs make this a popular shopping destination. Within 10 minutes’ drive of the American International School and within 20 minutes’ drive of the CBD.

Olympia Park Extension   Close to Arcades Shopping Mall this is an established residential area, however, new developments have been built offering apartment-style, short and long term accommodation. Rentals are competitive and its good location between the Great East and Great North Roads and access to both the CBD and the airport make this a popular choice. It is also adjacent to Roma and Kalundu.

Roma   An established residential area to the north of Great East Road. Plots range in size from one to three acres. Housing made up from primarily stand-alone houses with some housing complexes. A popular mixed area. Good main road network with poor feeder roads and in need of significant upgrades. Lusaka International Community School (LICS) is located in Roma and Arcades and Manda Hill shopping centres are under 10 minutes away.

Kalund   Adjacent to Great East Road and opposite University of Zambia (UNZA). Stand-alone houses in medium sized plots and adjacent to Roma. Good road network. Accommodation generally made up of houses built approximately 20 to 30 years ago and therefore can often lack up to date kitchen and bathroom facilities. Arcades and Manda Hill shopping centres are 5 to 7 minutes driving respectively.

Jesmondine   Further east along the Great East Road, this is a popular area with large houses on reasonable size plots of anything from 0.75 to 1.5 acres. Good main road network with smaller roads of often broken tar.

Makeni/Lilayi   Located to the south of Lusaka, approximately 20 minutes’ drive from the Kafue Roundabout at the south end of Cairo Road. Some cluster developments plus stand-alone houses all on large plots with established gardens. Popular with tenants who prefer to be out of town and enjoy the country life more. Baobab School is located in Makeni. An active neighbourhood watch association operates in this area and all major security companies operate rapid response and monitor alarms.

Leopard’s Hill   Located to the east of the city and fast becoming a very popular residential area with a few newly built complexes plus established farmhouses or large family houses. The American International School is located in the Leopard’s Hill area. An active neighbourhood watch association operates in this area and all major security companies operate rapid response and monitor alarms. (Parts of this area are called New Kasama.)

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About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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4 Responses to Renting a House/Flat

  1. Hey! Thanks for the detailed description! We are going to move to Lusaka in the next months and I am a bit afraid regarding the rent…is it really so expensive?? Hope you will post something more about housing and general logistics in lusaka. Thank you very much, giulia

  2. Michael says:

    This is a very helpful description, though it should be noted that you can also find a number of properties that are considerably less expensive. We have recently arrived in Lusaka and are in the process of house hunting, and have found several options (all more or less fine) in the $1500-$2300 range, for a 3-4 bedroom units, all in relatively central areas (Kabulonga, Mass Media, Roma, Chudleigh…). I do agree though that the best deals are via word of mouth rather than through an agent.

    • Kimm X Jayne says:

      Thanks. Are those for stand alone homes on their own lots or for complexes. One of my husband’s colleagues has a very nice 3 bed/2 bath small home in a 3 house complex for $2300/month by Crossroads.

  3. carol mwenya says:

    I totally agree with everything you have said, accommodation to buy or sale is so ridiculously expensive in Lusaka, my mother and I having been looking for a flat to buy between k700 and k900m and all as been in vain the last few months.

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