Why foreigners are buying luxury homes in Kenya

Kenya continues to draw international real estate investors despite the purported meltdown of the sector.

According to Knight Frank, the local luxury segment is the place to be with reports indicating that many high net worth individuals are ditching traditional investment destinations such as London and Paris for the Kenyan pie.

Driving the new surge is the country’s favourable weather conditions compared to Europe’s harsh conditions that exist for most of the year.

“The tourist season is also one of the longest anywhere at 40 weeks a year, with no typhoon season or extreme weather conditions to trouble it—only the rainy season around Easter. At other times during the year, the trade winds that once powered commerce between Africa and India fuel a booming kitesurfing industry on the powder-white beaches,” says the report.

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According to Knight Frank report, overseas interest in Kenyan holiday homes comes mainly from British buyers, though a sizeable number of Italians and other nationalities are drawn to the coast around Malindi, Watamu and Lamu, as well as countryside locations like Nanyuki.

Among the global HNW population, four per cent look to own homes in Kenya—led by the United Kingdom’s HNW population, 63 per cent of whom express interest in Kenyan property.  They are followed by 16 per cent of South African HNWIs and 11 per cent of Spanish, Mauritian and United States HNWIs.

About five per cent of the super-rich in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Switzerland, France, Canada and Lebanon are also likely to invest in homes in Kenya, adds the report.

“The country as a whole is among the top five most popular second home locations for Africa’s wealthiest.”

This newfound love for Kenya’s luxury properties has spurred a new wave of developments especially on Kenya’s coast where old establishments are either converting their establishments to holiday homes or erecting new ones altogether.

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In January this year, Hemingways Collection that owns a renowned holiday resort in Watamu commissioned 21 new luxury residences that are selling between Sh45 million and Sh145 million. The transformation was done at a cost of Sh1.1 billion.

According to Melinda Rees, the hotel’s operations manager, owning luxury apartments is a trend that is fast catching up in the country’s hospitality and tourism sector.

According to Rees, today’s guests prefer the space and freedom that a luxury apartment affords as opposed to a hotel room. 

“The new style allows the hotel to meet the demands of families or groups who love the ‘apartment style’ living with all the services of a five-star hotel. Children like to have more space and apartments make this possible with added facilities such as dining rooms and a kitchen,”

With this trend, says Rees, hoteliers have a guaranteed income even during the low season, ensuring that they remain open and retain their staff all year round.

“The trend will definitely grow. Being able to have a holiday home that is already set up makes it easier. As travel to the coast becomes less seasonal, visitors will come more often thus increase land and property values and make the residences a good investment,” she noted.

Figures from the Kenya Tourism Board indicate that travellers going on holiday account for 67 percent of tourist arrivals, a number that is set to increase as the luxury market continues to diversify its products.

Today’s tourist needs to ‘experience’ a destination rather than just make a visit to a particular establishment.

As an example, those owning luxury homes in Watamu, for example, will be in a position to explore Watamu Marine National Park, a community snake farm, permaculture groups, crab farms, bird watching and sampling the local cuisine.

Those buying into properties such as Vipingo Ridge have the ultra-modern golf course as their playground while Nanyuki homeowners have the entire Mount Kenya tourism circuit at their disposal.

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