analysisBy Jeff Mundia
Most of us dream of living big. The means of getting there may not always be discernible, but the destination is usually crystal clear.
If a massive house set on lush gardens tickles your fancy, then Nairobi has a host of neighbourhoods that are guaranteed to satisfy your housing needs.
This won't come on the cheap though; you'll need to dig deep into your pocket to get the really good stuff. If money is no problem, then here are some of the areas you might want to live in.
Let's start with Runda and Kitisuru, some of the more 'nouveau riche' neighbourhoods in Nairobi, where an acre of land can go for up to Sh40 million. A quick glance at the local property magazines will reveal that this is a very conservative estimate.
To get a 5-bedroom house with 7 bathrooms on an acre, you'll need to part with more than Sh65 million.
If you'd prefer to rent, then be ready to shell out between Sh200,000 and Sh400,000 a month to live in these neighbourhoods. For these kinds of prices you get to rub shoulders with a large chunk of the country's bourgeoisie and of course the security in these neighbourhoods is much better because the resident can afford to pay for their peace of mind.
You may find yourself borrowing a lawn mower from your neighbour S.K Macharia, or running into P.L.O Lumumba during your morning jog. You could even spend your evenings sampling foreign cuisines courtesy of your expatriate neighbours. Runda's selling points are numerous.
Despite having its own water supply system (Runda Water), it also has a very strong neighbourhood Resident's Association that is arguably the most active in the country.
Its proximity to the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri and the American Embassy offices also provides a strong sense of security.
On the downside, Runda continues to expand at a very fast rate, with some of the new constructions coming not being really at par with what is expected of the area, putting Runda at risk of losing its prestigious tag.
If you would rather live closer to the city centre, then Riverside Drive is the address you want to have. With 0.75 acres going for up to 130 million shillings today, you'd need pockets with depths that would put most nuclear bunkers to shame.
If you're lucky, a 4-bedroom house on an acre will come onto the market. But don't bother calling unless you've got Sh50 million in your wallet. You could rent it though, for a measly Sh300,000 a month. Having second thoughts?
Maybe the chance to call Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Naushad Merali your neighbours will convince you. Riverside Drive's strongest selling point is its proximity to the CBD while it retains it's treed look.
It is also home to numerous expatriates and diplomats.
In recent years, however, commercial developments such as office buildings have come up in this once-exclusively residential neighbourhood. Although this has driven property prices in the area through the roof, it also puts the area at risk of becoming a fully-fledged commercial zone as has happened in the Upper Hill, Hurlingham and Kilimani areas.
Lavington, which neighbours Riverside Drive at the far end, may also appeal to those who would like to live closer to town.
A 3-storey house on 0.75 acres will set you back a cool Sh100million. And what do you get for that price? Apart from a 10-bedroom house, you will also have the likes of Prof George Saitoti, PNU activist, Mary Wambui and the CEO of Barclays Kenya Adam Mohammed as some of your neighbours.
Due to the influx of townhouses and apartments in this area, Lavington may have lost its appeal as a premier neighbourhood. Small pockets such as Tende Drive, Manyani and afew others still remain pristine, but the rapid invasion of townhouses in this area seems a likely future scenario.
The redevelopment of the Lavington Shopping Centre which is currently going on is considered a big plus for the area, but it remains to be seen whether the neighbourhood will uphold its prestigious tag with all the multiple dwellings that are coming up.
Karen is the place for you if space and privacy is of uttermost importance. If you're looking to buy a 4- bedroom bungalow on an acre, be prepared to pay anywhere between Sh70-80 million.
Renting here isn't cheap either, you'd have to pay up Sh250,000 every month. But don't worry, as you'll have The Prime Minister, Vice President, AG, Ruto, among others as your next door neighbours.
If an acre is too little for you, then you might want to follow in Jeremiah Kiereini's footsteps.
The former EABL Chairman is rumoured to own a staggering 100 acres in the heart of Karen. With an acre going for about Sh20 million today, the man is sitting pretty on a property worth over Sh2 billion. But somehow, Karen has fallen down the pecking order of Nairobi's most expensive neighbourhoods.
The rapid growth of Runda, Nyari, Gigiri and the rest of the neighbourhoods in the 'Diplomatic Corner' has affected the property prices in Karen.
However, the recent development of malls such as La Galleria and Crossroads has seen her slowly rising to reclaim her perch as a neighbourhood of choice in Nairobi. Karen, Runda and Gigiri, are likely to find Nairobi's upcoming professionals.
Space and seclusion still remain a big selling point. One can quite easily buy 20 acres of land in Karen even today, which is a rarity in the city's neighbourhoods.
But if you really want to be counted among Nairobi's elite residents, then Muthaiga, the traditionally 'old money' neighbourhood, is the only place to go. With an acre of undeveloped land going for up to Sh120 million, this address doesn't come cheap.
A 2.7 acre plot three minutes away from Muthaiga Country Club with an old colonial house was recently put on the market for Sh300 million. For that price, you could easily buy 50 Range Rover Sport vehicles, and have enough change to top up all their fuel tanks.
If the price tag is scaring you off, maybe the chance to have President Kibaki as your neighbour will change your mind.
And when you eventually move in, you may bump into the American ambassador among many other ambassadors or Mama Ngina Kenyatta while walking your dog.
Muthaiga has for years held the tag of being Nairobi's most expensive neighbourhood and will probably hold that title for years to come. It has managed to remain exclusive due to very stringent subdivision and building laws. It is rumoured that Muthaiga's residents vet potential home buyers before they can purchase properties in the zone, though this remains unconfirmed. Social amenitiesSo which of the above neighbourhoods is most popular right now? According to Githaiga, an experienced architect in high-end real estate, Lavington, Riverside Drive and Spring Valley attract big crowds.
This may be down to the development of well-designed townhouses and apartments as well as the proximity to schools, malls and services that the neighbourhoods have.
Runda, Gigiri and Nyari are also popular addresses. With the likes of Village Market, Tribe Hotel and Westgate shopping mall only a few minutes away, the neighbourhoods are well serviced with social amenities.
The presence of the American Embassy and UN offices also means that the areas can command very high figures in land prices and rent.
Muthaiga may be regarded as the most exclusive neighbourhood, buy its popularity is low largely due to the exorbitant land prices.So when your dreams of making it big finally come true, you will not struggle to find an address to match your spending power.