Property investors moving to the Coast

Real Estate

By Willis Oketch

The first Mombasa Home Expo held eight months ago was an eye opener for real estate investors with interests at the Coast. Since then, demand for property in this seaside resort town has risen tremendously, evident in the high number of complete and upcoming residential and commercial developments.

Property guru Mwenda Thuranira, who is also the chief executive officer of Myspace Properties, says that business in real estate is booming at the Coast.

"The home expo attracted hundreds of people and since then, business in Mombasa has picked up," he says.

"This town is also a port area and it attracts many investors, especially foreigners. Since the port started handling cargo from Southern Sudan, demand for houses and offices has gone up."

For a long time, both North and South Coast have remained favourites for foreigners who have invested heavily in the region. Italian real estate developer Eric Govani confirms the market is great, especially for apartments and villas.

"People want to own holiday homes along the beaches and they are selling like hot cakes," he says.

Presently, Govani is developing apartments and villas in Diani. The price tag for a one bedroom apartment is Sh18 million while a three bedroom villa is going for Sh28 million.

In order to attract foreign tourists, holiday homes and hotels have to meet international standards and be similar to those found in other popular leisure spots such as South Africa, Spain and Portugal. According to Govani, investors have shifted from building hotels to putting up fully furnished luxurious homes because most of their clients prefer them.

A fully furnished house on sale in Nyali, Mombasa. Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard

"To accommodate the changing demands, we now furnish and equip the apartments, which makes work for the buyer easy," he says. "In fact, most prefer to check into their new homes armed with nothing else but a suitcase."

This trend has also caught on with Kenyans who desire to own holiday homes at the Coast. Alice Wahome, the Managing Director of Shikara Ltd, a real estate company, says all her developments are sold out.

"I have handed over what I have developed and already people have booked more than 50 per cent of the properties I plan to build next year," she says.

"Investors seem to love Mombasa because of its warm climate throughout the year. It is the best location for people who want holiday and residential homes," she adds

According to Wahome, the preference by most investors is apartments.

"The rush for apartments went up after the first Mombasa Homes Expo in April, which was an eye opener for many people as far as real estate in this region is concerned," she says.

"I participated in the expo and discovered it was a great marketing opportunity for my projects. Now I want to develop two apartment blocks — one specifically targeting young Kenyans while the other will be designed to suit the tastes of mature couples with grown-up children," says Wahome.

Most investors at the Coast are of Asian and Arabic origin. Besides owning homes, most run businesses in Mombasa, too. However, more locals are investing in the region.

"There is no need of buying a plot in Mombasa just to brag about it," advises Wahome.

"It is better to buy a ready-made house or apartment as an investment and if you can’t live in it, rent it out and earn an income from the property. This is better than keeping an undeveloped plot."

The second Mombasa Homes Expo is scheduled to open on December 17 and will run for four days.

Affordable houses

"We are expecting more exhibitors this time round," reveals Thuranira. His company, My Space Properties, is the organiser of the event, which will be taking place twice a year.

"So far, financial institutions, real estate companies and related produce and service providers have booked their stands and will participate."

Interestingly, the expo inspired an interest in Swahili homes and more developers have ventured in this area. "Competition is stiff in Mombasa and businessmen and women have become very creative," says Thuranira. "Most of them also advertise via the Internet as this is where they are assured of securing a global market."

According to Thuranira, many holiday homes are located in Mombasa’s upmarket Nyali and Vipingo estates.

"People love the serenity and security of these areas," he says. "The estates are also close to the beach and offer great views of Indian Ocean. Many tourists are also preferring homes to hotels because it is cheaper and cosier and they can cook and eat what they want."

Most holiday homes are fully furnished and feature swimming pools and other recreational facilities.

Major players in the real estate industry at the Coast are of European origin, particularly Germans and Italians. Hacienda Development Holdings Managing Director Adam Tuller says his company has developed affordable houses at Mwakirunge area.

"Our low cost houses are of high quality and are fitted with fixed solar power and water," he says. "The project also contains a shopping centre, schools and hospitals. Our objective was to provide a lifestyle associated with the rich to low income groups who are our main target."

The downside to the construction boom at the Coast is the gradual extinction of Swahili homes. According to lawyer Patrick Ochwa, traditional homes are making way for high-rise buildings.

"Swahili houses are being pulled down in Majengo Kisauni, Mtwapa, Shanzu, Magongo and Utange areas and in their stead, highrise buildings are being constructed," says Ochwa. "Many families are selling their houses to give room for modern developments."