Property developers ride on holiday homes wave

A high-end three-bedroom apartment in Nyali. [Courtesy.]

When the time comes and you need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, will you seek refuge in that holiday home in the countryside or a high-end hotel outside town?

Developers’ recent appetite for holiday homes may just be the clearest indicator of where people’s preferences lie.

Perhaps because of the Covid-19 disease, which has dealt a devastating blow to the tourism industry, stories about the rising popularity of holiday homes have been fewer than they should.

Naivasha is one of the areas that have become attractive to developers of holiday homes.

The town’s proximity to Nairobi, its scenic landscapes, wildlife parks and the lake have put the town in the sights of property developers.

It is awash with resorts and entertainment joints, which have made the lakeside town popular with merrymakers - at least before Covid-19 dampened activities.

Naivasha is heavily reliant on domestic tourists. Weekdays have seen it become popular with conferences while weekends are full of leisure activities.

Some of the high-end developments in the area include the Great Rift Valley Lodge, Long'onot Gate, Aberdare Hills Golf Resort and Osotua Luxury Resort.

The town now boasts so many holiday homes that it looks almost as if it was purely set up as a getaway from the craze of the city.

Land prices around Lake Naivasha have skyrocketed with an acre selling for up to Sh16 million.

Osotua General Manager Jimmy Musangali told Home & Away in an interview earlier this year that the lakeside town offers a “rare pinch of uniqueness” owing to its diversity.

“Natural and physical resources, birds, wildlife, plants and even the people and lodges sets Naivasha apart from any other location in Kenya,” he said.

 “Whether it’s conferencing, safari, expedition or holidaying … it’s all a mere two hours away from Nairobi to get yourself, friends and family the time of your lives.”

Osotua sits on 10 acres with a beachfront to Lake Naivasha. Houses include three- and two-bedroom units selling for Sh42.5 million and Sh37.5 million each.

It also has studio units selling at Sh17 million.

Musangali notes that at Osotua Villas they have guaranteed homeownership and revenue sharing. The revenues are generated from the conferences and weekend visits by holidaymakers.

The coast of Kenya has always been a potent tourist destination for both foreign and domestic visitors. Investors keen to make a fortune off that have gone into holiday homes’ development.

When Superior Homes bought 105 acres of land in Kilifi’s Vipingo and started the construction of 372 housing units, the holiday homes wave was just kicking in.

Even as Covid-19 raged on in 2020 and holidaymakers were denied the chance to visit their favourite coastal destinations, Superior Homes continued with the development of Pazuri at Vipingo.

The aim is to sell but the developers recognise that some buyers may not live there permanently.

For such buyers or people who rent the houses, Pazuri will probably be seen as a hub for holiday homes. Each house allows different rooms to be accessed independently where the owner wants “to maximise investment income” and use them as homestay facilities.

Hotels do not quite give the same ‘home-away-from-home feeling and as bookings in some of Kenya’s busiest hotels drop, holiday homes have recorded increasing popularity.

“There are no walls within Pazuri Vipingo and garden areas are separated from each other by soft landscaping features,” Silvano Inyangala, the project manager, told Home & Away. 

For investors who wished to make investment returns on their houses, Superior Homes had an option of such buyers marketing them as holiday homes.

In the same area, Centum’s Vipingo Development Ltd has constructed Awali estate, an exclusive gated residential estate situated 600 metres off the Mombasa-Malindi Highway.

The estate is already complete, comprising of 152 units including 90 bungalows and 62 maisonettes spread on 30 acres.

Some purchasing houses and leave them empty so they can find there whenever they are tired of the urban rush.

Others opt to rent the houses out to visitors for nights or longer stays.

With the lucrative market for holiday homes, many property owners have converted their houses into Airbnbs.

Couples on honeymoon, business travellers and tourists find privacy in Airbnbs, which are cheaper.

A 2018 report by Airbnb indicated that Africa is the fastest-growing destination for the business, with over 3.5 million visitors coming into the continent that year and booking stays.

“Of the top eight fastest-growing countries in the world for Airbnb guest arrivals, three are located in Africa: Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique,” the report said.

“Kenya saw a 68 per cent increase in bookings. Other countries saw the bookings more than double, like Nigeria which had 213 per cent growth of guest arrivals and Ghana at 141per cent.”

James Ouma, a bank employee who runs an Airbnb in Mkomani, Nyali says he spotted the business opportunity from the high number of visitors Mombasa receives throughout the year.

“The coastal region is a tourism and leisure environment. People come for business, group events and team buildings,” he says.

“Putting a property up for rent doesn’t give as much profit as one would expect. Airbnb profits are twice as much, sometimes three times.”

Getting clients at the start of the venture was the biggest challenge, Ouma says, which he tackled by starting with friends as guests, seeking referrals and offering discounted rates for longer stays.

He says he makes on average Sh80,000 per month from his rented two-bedroom property for which he charges Sh2,500 per night.

December sees a windfall due to the increased number of travellers to the coast, says Ouma, and he makes up to Sh200,000 in that festive month alone.

In Nanyuki, Steve’s Cottage, a decent-looking house which is on its website is described as “a homely, simple burnt brick cottage” off the Nanyuki-Meru highway charges $40 (about Sh4,400) a night.

Reputable hotels in the area cost way more, with a quick check indicating that a good number of them charge over Sh6,000 a night.

For the cost, space and convenience that holiday homes bring, their popularity might just help them survive the corona pandemic.

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