Gated communities are seen as a preserve of a few well-heeled individuals who can afford to rent or buy houses there.
This narrative is, however, changing going by the trend where gated homes and high-rise residential blocks are coming up in the unlikeliest of addresses.
It is not unusual nowadays to see such residential areas deep in villages, targeting the country’s growing middle class, looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of big towns and cities.
Some of the major selling points of these exclusive residential addresses, going by their glossy brochures, include uninterrupted water supply, round the clock security and the ease of commute to the nearest urban centre.
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Such developments, away from built-up areas (urban, peri-urban and suburban) have been credited with stimulating investments that raise the value of the land in hitherto remote areas.
Places like Islaimia, Kwa Wanguhu and Umoja II in Nakuru County were uninhabited until recently and the price of land there used to be low.
But the landscape is changing as developers put up eye-catching residential projects, leading to the price of land skyrocketing overnight.
Steven Kihara, the proprietor of Betalife Commercial Agencies based in Nakuru town, said the trend is being fueled by the growing preference for the serenity of the countryside by the middle class and the rich.
“The trend we are getting accustomed to for long is the rural to urban migration as many economic prospects are likely to be found in urban places, but we’re now seeing what looks like a reverse of same,” Kihara said.
During the 2007 post-election mayhem, those fleeing violence-prone areas like Eldoret found a conducive investment environment in Nakuru town.
This has seen the rapid rise of the town, which is on the cusp of being conferred city status soon.
As the investors flocked in, and land became expensive, those in the real estate business began looking for alternative places to invest in.
Places like Barnabas, Lanet, Njoro, Eastmore, Free Area, among others, have seen a spike in residential developments as demand for houses rises.
And with the houses coming with attractive monthly and long-term lease rates compared to those in urban areas, there is no shortage of takers.
“When you look at these apartments or gated homes, you will realise they are not far from the main roads, and are not far from urban centres, making it less of a hassle for many to access their workplaces,” Kihara said.
He said following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has received several enquiries from people who want to change residences after their financial fortunes changed.
“There have been lots of enquiries from when the pandemic landed for affordable houses from those who were tenanting in high-cost addresses,” Kihara said.
With arable land fast diminishing in rural areas, giving way to concrete jungles, the future of the real estate sector appears bright.
The downside, however, is the once food secure areas are now becoming net buyers of food.
This has seen agriculturists such as John Kimani advocate for laws to safeguard arable land.
He said the country should go the Chinese way where arable land and land for real estate development is clearly demarcated.
“When you look at the real estate sector in this country, most of the built-up areas are in agriculturally rich areas. And with farmed land shrinking owing to sub-division and eventual development, the once food-secure areas are turning into food deficit ones,” Kimani said.
Robert Kangor, a consultant and manager at Access Metro Homes, a real estate company based in Nakuru, said there is a downside to the new craze of developers flocking rural areas.
“It can take years for investors in real estate to begin reaping benefits. Acquiring a piece of land is one part and constructing a house on it is another... loan repayment regimes could see one pay high interests when inflation and currency depreciation are added to the mix,” Kangor said.
“Those buying plots and actualising their homeownership dreams by investing in homes are, however, better off than those investing in high-end flats without a target client in mind. Poor infrastructure will also not bring high-end clients to sleepy villages.”
Reuben Njoroge, who had invested in rental houses on two plots learnt this the hard way.
“I was forced at one instance to lower rent to attract tenants,” Njoroge said.