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The changing face of homeowners

By Peter Muiruri | Published Thu, January 12th 2017 at 10:38, Updated January 12th 2017 at 10:43 GMT +3

Rose Obonyo is a 25-year-old suave urban dweller. As a communication specialist, she describes herself as organised, a go-getter who leaves nothing to chance in the course of her work. But Obonyo is also a frustrated young woman. For the three years she has lived in a rented house - all in Nairobi - she has never known peace, moving houses four times.

“The first house was way too small. It could hardly fit a four feet by six feet bed. So little was the space left that I had to choose between installing a bookshelf or a television set. I chose the bookshelf.

The second house was a bit bigger but was next to the watchman’s toilet, letting into the house foul smell. The plumbing system was not installed properly, leading to water contamination. Her third house was next to a dusty road that caused her a lot of allergic reactions.

She is currently on the fourth one near Taj Mall: “Here, I am thoroughly “entertained” by a nearby church and two bars, one on each side of my house. And then comes the expansion of Outer Ring Road. More dust... and power surges. I have had it all,” says Obonyo.
When I asked her what the solution would be, she said: “Owning my own house.”

With her own house, she says, she would have full control of the home and make whatever changes she deems necessary, including decorating it without fear of reprisals from an overbearing landlord.

Despite the odds stacked against them, Obonyo joins a growing list of young people who hope to live in their own houses in the near future.

Youthful population

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey report shows that Kenya, with half of the population below 20 years, is among the countries in the world with a very youthful population. Another 24.9 per cent is aged between 25 and 45 years and forms the bulk of the current Kenyan workforce.

According to a number of property reports in recent years, it is this surge in youthful population that will drive investments in the real estate sector.
In its annual market outlook report for 2017 released on Monday, investment firm Cytonn says developers will have to work overtime to satisfy the group’s housing, entertainment and consumption needs.

“Rapid population growth and the youth bulge (21 to 35 years) will drive real estate development in 2017,” says the report.
Players in the sector can no longer ignore this crucial demographic that now views home ownership a goal worth pursuing.

Abraham Muriithi, Property Reality Company’s general manager, says their model of adding value to land across the country has attracted a substantial number of young people. He says most of those buying land though the company do so with the goal of building a family home.

“It is true that people view land as an investment vehicle since it always appreciates in value. However, a young person would want to build a house for himself eventually,” says Muriithi.

This is the view held by Sheila Kimani, a digital media manager who says she has been saving to buy a piece of land that she hopes to flip over for a profit before settling down to build her own house. Now in her early 20s, Kimani says she will have to sell a number of plots and acquire enough to enable her embark on home ownership journey.

buy and wait

“Young people need to take home ownership seriously. Since they may not have enough funds for that endeavour, the best route is to invest in some piece of land that one can afford, wait for it to appreciate, sell, and if possible repeat the process, thus building up funds for construction or home purchase,” she says.

According to Muriithi, young people can become homeowners if they refocus and drop money wasting tendencies.
“Bad lifestyles such as extreme partying come in the way of home ownership.

Even saving to buy that latest car when one is still a renter is not a wise move. Only when they grow older do that reality dawn on them. It is better to make wise decisions now,” advises Muriithi.

Locally, Suraya Property Group has spearheaded the construction of what they term as starter homes on Mombasa Road. With starting prices of between Sh900,000 and Sh4.5 million, the 900 units were meant for young people who could manage to save for the deposit and obtain a manageable mortgage facility. Some 35 per cent of buyers in the Sucasa project are young people.

The reason such houses are termed as starter homes is that as their value appreciates, owners are at liberty to dispose of them at a higher price and use the proceeds to climb the home ownership ladder.

Muthoni Ndego, the sales and marketing manager at Suraya, says for young people to benefit from such projects, they have to change their mindset and be willing to move to less affluent locations as they save for their dream homes.

“You will find a young person renting a house in Westlands yet he cannot afford to buy a home in that location. He would rather stay in a servant’s quarter in the so-called leafy suburbs rather than save and move into a less affluent area,” she says.

According to Ndego, a young person ought to look at such a home as an investment vehicle rather than just a place to live.
“Have your own house however small.

Let it appreciate in value, sell and buy another reasonably bigger house. You should continue to move up the home ownership ladder you finally get to that affluent neighbourhood you desired from the beginning,” says Ndego.
But both Rose Obonyo and Sheila Kimani have their apprehensions about property ownership in Kenya.

They would like to channel some of their savings into the sector but fear they mind fall prey to swindlers.

“As young people, we not are well-versed in all that pertains to property purchase. We only read and watch stories of people who have lost property though they had bought it through what was meant to be a clean transaction,” says Kimani.

According to Muriithi, such fears are not unfounded and stem from the casual manner land transactions have been handled over the years by authorities. He says the government should speed up the automation of all land and property-related transactions.

“Young people prefer to do things digitally and it is up to the government to automate transactions thus eliminating any loopholes that crooks and rogue government officials exploit,” he says.