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Fancy a paying house guest? You’re not alone

REAL ESTATE
By H&A correspondent | December 10th 2015

That serviced apartments are popular among expatriates and visitors to Kenya is not in doubt. However, the dominance of serviced apartments could soon end, thanks to emerging competition from shared housing, a new concept of non-hotel accommodation that is increasingly becoming popular with single business/lone travellers.

The new concept is popular among expatriates in Nairobi who do not mind living with roommates as it offers instant friendship opportunities, security and huge savings.

SleepShareStay.com is popularising the concept in the country not only to their 15-plus international company clients but also to Kenyans. Locally, the trend is becoming popular among young Kenyan couples, bachelors and bachelorettes.

Demand

“In the last one year, we have received an overwhelming number of requests from our clients for house share options. We have also seen a huge demand present on expat/Kenyan accommodation blog forums and websites. So we decided to create our subsidiary, SleepShareStay.com, a site for shared housing, serviced apartments and other short-term accommodation,” says Rebecca Kwanga, director of Father’s Hand Ltd, an immigration and relocation company for expatriates to Kenya.

Those who want to rent out their spare bedrooms — or hosts — can simply upload pictures of the rooms, a short description of the property and a short description of themselves on the site at no cost.

Similarly, users searching such accommodation can make their bookings for free. The site gives a personalised feel by allowing bookmarking and social sharing options, as well as messaging and property review systems.

Since the website’s launch in November, it has received over 1,000 registered users. Plans are underway to extend the services to other East African countries.

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“Similar sites have focused their efforts on expats looking for accommodation in Kenya. However, our site aims at building a “house share” community not only for expats, but also for Kenyans and other East Africans. If a Kenyan wants to travel to another East African country and stay in a home as opposed to a hotel, our site can come in handy,” says Kwanga.

The site does not charge booking fees or commission. “The price the host displays is the same price guests will see from their end. We eliminated ourselves from the booking process; guests desiring to book for accommodation are able to contact the hosts directly through the site and hosts can then present guests with their own booking systems and payment methods,” says Kwanga.

But the new venture has to deal with a number of challenges.

“We are finding that people are very lazy when it comes to uploading their properties,” Kwanga said, laughing. “We constantly have to call hosts to complete their property’s profile in order for us to publish it on the site. Those not digitally-inclined or familiar with the “self-upload” concept are obviously facing challenges. We get a lot of phone calls from our dear “wazees” to help them complete their upload.”

Security

Safety and security is also of great concern to many, especially among Kenyans who may still be warming up to the whole idea of living in shared housing.

“Security is an obvious concern to many. We offer safety tips on our site, which can help users avoid con-artists. We also ask for identification from all house share and private short-term accommodation hosts before we publish their properties on our site. In the event of anything, we can present their IDs to relevant authorities. Lastly, we have a review system, which potential guests can use to make an informed decision before booking,” she says.

“At the end of the day,” she notes, “our site is primarily built on trust.”

“After following our safety tips, users will have to trust that the individuals coming into their homes or the hosts they book with are trustworthy individuals. Common sense is the best tool anyone can use,” she says.

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