“My family lived in a farm along the political fault lines of Nakuru. Each time there were general elections, we would leave our home and move to a safer part of the county suburbs; Dad had rentals there.
It was frightening because we would see our neighbours being attacked and their property burned. We’re four kids in our family; I’m the second born.
I was nine years old when Dad decided we would live in the suburbs permanently. Mum didn’t support his decision because the area was toxic for a young family – Dad became an alcoholic and my siblings experimented with recreational drugs.
My parents separated when we had all completed high school. Mum left and rented a small two-bedroom house elsewhere. She lived alone.
I remember I was about to join university – at 18 – when she first expressed her desire to own a house. She told me, “A colleague is moving abroad and is selling her house. I really wish I had Sh2 million to buy that house, Janet.”
I once visited her when it was raining. Her roof was leaking through the old corrugated iron sheets. That broke my heart. I told myself, ‘One day, one day... I’ll buy Mum a house.’
Our prayers came to fruition in April 2016 - I was 31 and married with two children. I got a well-paying job with an established corporate. I could finally afford our dream of homeownership.
I told Mum to hunt for houses for sale in Nakuru. She confessed amidst chuckles that she’d always been on the ground hunting.
The house her heart settled on was a three-bedroom bungalow sitting on an eighth acre. It wasn’t in a gated community but there were other houses neighbouring it.
The only cavil is that it was a distance from her retirement business. Nonetheless, all the ducks were in a row. I was ready. My husband gave me his blessings.
The first bank I approached for a mortgage dragged its feet. The location of the house made them jittery about investing in me.
The second bank also dragged its feet. But I didn’t lose hope. The third bank took me in with open arms.
The mortgage salesman was also an enthusiastic young chap who thoroughly schooled me on the process and what to expect. He psychologically prepared me, which was crucial.
I remember I reached out to him in late August and by October, we were well into the application process.
Aside from the eight per cent deposit for the house, I also had to settle other charges to the bank, government and other third parties.
The charges included stamp duty of four per cent, legal fees, valuation fees, negotiation fees, insurance and land rates. I also had to pay my own lawyers.
These initial charges came to Sh900,000. I settled them from my savings. The bank approved a mortgage of Sh5.4 million for 25 years. I would be repaying Sh68,300 per month.
We all cried when we got the house keys in January 2017. Mum moved in at the end of the month.
Dad later recovered from the alcohol addiction. He moved back home to my Mum last year.
When getting a mortgage, consider also the financier’s customer relationship and the efficiency of their tech systems. My bank didn’t have reliable systems.
There were months my mortgage account wasn’t automatically debited, so I accrued penalties for non-payment.
The frustrations from these inefficiencies drove me to search for another bank with lower rates to buy off the mortgage.
When another bank buys your mortgage, you have to settle the initial charges all over again. Thankfully, the bank had a limited offer where they waived most of these charges.
They bought off 75 per cent of the mortgage. I looked for Sh440,000 to settle the difference. This early settlement has lowered my monthly repayments to Sh50,100.
I’ve been steadily growing an investment portfolio in the stock market. My plan is to liquidate this portfolio sometime in the future and clear the mortgage.
I’m not giving myself pressure, though. I don’t tell myself that I have another 23 years of debt, I just think of making next month’s repayment. That’s it. One month at a time.”
The writer is a certified accountant with ACCA and a former financial auditor. She runs a personal finance column with Daily Nation online