Real Estate: Kenya’s Tough Questions Answered

Real Estate is property consisting of buildings on land. Sometimes the definition requires natural resources such as vegetation and geographical features to be included.In Kenya, Real Estate has been traditionally acquired through purchase and inheritance from parents. Often, only the wealthy could manage the resources required to purchase Real Estate.

As with other nations globally, the prices of Real Estate are influenced by proximity to amenities and services. Prices near town are higher than those further away from towns, cities and major settlements inter alia. Additionally, proximity to piped water lines, electricity lines and tarmacked roads adds value to Real Estate properties in a given area.

High-end land buy in Kenya
Those who can afford it, go for the high-end stuff.

A unique feature of Kenyan Real Estate pricing is the use of closeness to usually aquatic natural resources such as rivers, lakes and dams. Kenyans practice agriculture on a very small scale and these water sources cannot be considered as influential to their agriculture. However, recreation activities that are water-based, and access to the water sources and bodies is prestigious in Kenyan society.

The Trend

Recent years have seen an increased uptake of Real Estate in Kenya. More people are buying and selling Real Estate. A distinction must however be made that the process starts with a seller who disposes a large tract of land to a developer or Real Estate company. The average developer or Real Estate company then splits the large tract of land into smaller pieces on which they may build properties or not. The developer also ensures that electricity and water are availed to the people who will be buying the pieces of land.In some cases, developers can get the roads within the subdivided land to be upgraded to all-weather roads. Getting them tarmacked is a herculean task in Kenya.

The more resourceful and established developers and Real Estate companies in Kenya often buy smaller pieces of land, near tarmacked roads, with electricity and water connections. They will then go ahead to construct buildings which are fewer in number. The access roads within the newly created estate will be tarmacked or paved with Cabro blocks. The general environment in the estate affords more calmness and serenity. When it is time to sell these properties, the price is usually a tad higher than that of the average developer or Real Estate Company selling.

Options

If one does not go the Real Estate company way in Kenya, they can still acquire land and properties from individuals. Using the old methods of spreading word that you are looking for land to buy, and then you start receiving offers after some time. This process is tedious, slow, resource-hungry, unreliable and very risky. One spends too much moving around viewing potential properties. On the day of the transaction, you might be robbed, or you might be sold property by person X yet the property does not belong to person X. This method of sourcing for Real Estate is largely to blame for the numerous ‘Land Not For Sale’ notices you often see on Kenyan land parcels.

When the Real Estate companies were few, their methods of marketing were not too diverse. Billboards and mainstream media ads were the norm. Today, competition between Kenyan Real Estate companies has necessitated a change of gameplay. In addition to traditional broadcast media, the Real Estate firms are increasingly turning to digital communication and marketing solutions. Websites form the backbone of their digital marketing efforts. Complementary to the website is often social media.

As demonstrated earlier, land near the major cities and towns of Kenya is generally high value. The prices discourage anyone who is not a high-income earner from buying Real Estate.

They buy land even in Wiyumiririre
Others are willing to buy land even in Wiyumiririre

However, as one moves from the cities, the land value and subsequent price starts dropping. With a burgeoning middle-class, Kenya has a large pool of middle-income earners who can afford Real Estate. A common means of acquiring land for these people is the pooling of finances together. Later, they buy a large piece of land somewhere, and then splitting it up among the members. Each individual now has a piece.

Even more options at their disposal

Another method is through savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs).

The members save money together and buy land together. Some of the Saccos are appended to Real Estate companies and thus the members can get pieces of Real Estate even without having completed paying for it. The half-loan half-upfront payment model has helped a lot of Kenyan middle-income earners to own some real-estate today.

Other methods and ingenious tactics characteristic of Kenyan society exist. But of importance is the question of what will happen to the Kenyan Real Estate industry. There are speculations that it will collapse just as the American one collapsed some time back and led to a global recession! I think Kenya is very unique. The prices of Real Estate properties are nowhere near their higher limits. The prices will keep going up up to a maximum point. A fall significant enough to cause losses should not be something to bank on.

Kenyans are very keen to own land and especially land for settling on with their families. Add that to the fact that any Kenyan knows that selling anything at a lower price than you bought it is called ‘incurring a loss’. Every Kenyan wants some land or Real Estate, and none is willing to sell Real Estate at a loss. Those prices are never coming down.

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