A Foreigner’s Guide to Buying Land

Are you a foreign investor eyeing the vibrant Kenyan real estate market? The good news is that the door is open for you to own land in this East African gem. With the constitutional changes in 2010, non-Kenyan citizens can now tap into the growth of the real estate sector, ranging from holiday homes to commercial facilities. Here’s your comprehensive guide to owning land as a foreigner in Kenya.

Understanding Types of Land Ownership for Foreigners

Kenyan law allows foreigners to own land on a leasehold basis for up to 99 years. Whether you’re an individual, a company, or a trust, you have various avenues to own property in Kenya. Foreigners can acquire beachfront properties and agricultural land with Special Gazette Notice permissions from Kenyan authorities.

Step-by-Step Process for Foreign Land Ownership

1. Research and Due Diligence:

Before diving in, conduct thorough research and due diligence. View the property, conduct a title deed search, and fill out all required ownership documents.

2. Obtain a “Consent to Transfer” Certificate:

Secure a “consent to transfer” certificate from Kenya’s Ministry of Lands. This step ensures the government has reviewed and approved your property transaction.

3. Engage a Conveyancing lawyer:

To navigate the legal intricacies, involve a conveyancing lawyer. They will assist with agreements and transfer forms, and protect your interests throughout the process.

4. Purchase Process:

The purchase process involves a deposit, signing a sale agreement, and registering the property transfer at the Ministry of Lands.

5. Building Permits:

Depending on your intentions for the land, you might need permits for development. Professionals can guide you through legal compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I, as a foreigner, buy property in Kenya?

Yes, non-citizens can hold land for up to 99 years under leasehold tenure. Freehold ownership is restricted, but leasehold ownership allows significant investment opportunities. Under the provisions of the Kenyan laws above, non-citizens can only hold land for 99 years under leasehold tenure. This essentially means that a non-citizen cannot hold freehold property.

The Constitution further provides that if a non-citizen holds any title document that purports to confer on a non-citizen an interest in land greater than a 99-year lease, the provision shall be regarded as conferring on the person a 99-year leasehold interest and no more.

Q: What happens when a 99-year lease expires?

Section 13 of the Land Act provides that after 99 years, when a leasehold title expires, the Land Commission shall offer to the immediate past leasehold owner thereof pre-emptive rights to be allocated the land, provided that such lessee is a Kenyan citizen and that the land is not required by the national or county government for public purposes. The key word is “citizen,” which means that a non-citizen cannot get a further extension after the expiration of the 99-year term.

Q: Can I form a company to hold freehold land?

Many non-citizens have attempted to establish and form companies to hold freehold property in Kenya.

However, the Constitution is clear in its provisions that a body corporate shall be regarded as a citizen only if it is wholly owned by one or more citizens. This means that for a company to own freehold property, it must be wholly owned by one or more citizens.

Q: What about if I form a trust?

The Constitution also prevents a non-citizen from owning freehold property under a trust. It also provides that any property held in trust shall be regarded as being held by a citizen only if all the beneficial interests of the trust is held by people who are citizens.

Q: What is the difference between freehold and leasehold land?

Freehold land holds the greatest interest a person can have in land, as it gives the holder absolute ownership of the land for life. This means descendants can succeed the owner for as long as the family lineage exists. A freehold title deed generally has no restrictions as to its use or occupation.

On the other hand, a leasehold interest in land is for a specific period, subject to payment of a fee or rent to the grantor. Non-citizens get a lease for 99 years.


While Kenya restricts foreigners from owning land outright, the leasehold option provides a viable avenue for investment. The key is navigating the legal processes, obtaining necessary consent, and engaging professionals to ensure a smooth transaction. Whether it’s for a dream holiday home or a strategic commercial investment, Kenya welcomes foreign investors with open arms, offering a piece of its thriving real estate market.