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Syokimau's new lease of life

By - | November 1st 2012

Barely a year ago, the word ‘Syokimau’ sent shivers down spines of prospective investors in real estate. But today it is buzzing with activity, writes HAROLD AYODO

The chills began after mainstream media aired footages of bulldozers reducing palatial homes to rubble as heavily armed police officer kept vigil.

Heartbroken homeowners watched their homes being flattened on the controversial 4,674 hectares of land allegedly belonging to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

Many would-be buyers of houses and plots avoided Syokimau like a plague after Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea said title deeds in the area were fake.

According to Mabea, a Gazette Notice dated August 26, 2010 that allegedly converted part of Syokimau from leasehold to freehold was also bogus.

The KAA also raised a red flag that some of the buildings in the area were constructed illegally along flight paths and had to be demolished.

Following the sequence of events in Mavoko Municipality within Machakos County, prospective investors in real estate kept a wide berth.

Realtors concur that selling property within a radius of ten kilometres from where the palatial homes were demolished was a nightmare until recently.

However, today things are looking up for Syokimau. Private developers are trooping back to Mavoko Municipality as demand for homes in the area increase.

Take the case of Salis Park Estate, which is situated seven kilometres  from where the demolitions took place eleven months ago.

The controlled development comprises 73 luxurious four-bedroom maisonettes and two bedroom apartments four kilometres off Mombasa Road.

 Salis Park Limited — developers of the gated community behind the Mastermind Tobacco Company Limited — say homebuyers are back.

Salisbury Limited director Mwangi Nderitu, says they resolved to start Phase one by selling the semi-detached homes at Sh9.95 million.

 “We started getting buyers as soon as the show house was ready...initial owners are moving in January next year,” Nderitu says.

According to Nderitu, majority of their buyers are attracted to the amenities out of Nairobi that include a boundary wall, electric fence and landscaped gardens.

Others include a cabro-paved driveway and parking, sheltered garbage cubicles, self-contained guardhouses, borehole, water treatment plant, and solar water heater.

For Pauline Ndunge, it took extra due diligence before her husband convinced her they buy one of the houses as their first family home.

Popular features

“We liked the features of the homes which include an open lounge, separate dining, spacious verandah, private garden and parking for two cars,” Ndunge says.

The first floor has a master ensuite with two additional bedrooms complete with inbuilt wardrobes and a children’s playing ground.

 However, selling the homes was initially not easy following the dark clouds that hang over Syokimau.

“Response was bad at the beginning and we had to convince buyers that we were the registered owners of the land,” Nderitu says.

 They even had to distance themselves from the name ‘Syokimau’ as it remains a scar to many affected homeowners yet to be compensated.

“The area is now called Katani as the place where the demolitions occurred is approximately seven kilometres away,” Nderitu says.

He says that more homebuyers are comfortable with the fact that renowned commercial banks like the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) finance the projects.

“Buyers are over exercising due diligence and believe that commercial banks are doing the same before funding,” Nderitu says.

According to Nderitu, they may complete the remaining two phases by 2015 following encouraging responses from buyers.

“We have even organised an open day on October 27 and 28 so as to reach out to prospective buyers,” Nderitu says.

Even the National Social Security Fund is planning to construct a whooping 30,000 low-cost houses on 960 acres to tap into their growing returns from the property market in Mavoko.

Finance Minister Njeru Githae said during a recent NSSF AGM that the housing plan had been selected as one of the flagship projects under the Kenya Vision 2030.

NSSF acting Managing Trustee Tom Odongo  said the fund was seeking partners willing to invest in the property market.

“We did an international tender last year and our options remain open...we cannot say how much it costs at the moment,” Odongo said.

The Government also recently set aside 250 acres of land for development in Mlolongo within Mavoko Municipality.

The Sustainable Neighbourhood Programme is a sub-programme of the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme between the State, UN- Habitat and the Government of Finland.

The project entails mixed housing development that caters for all income groups within one location and where infrastructure and social services are shared.

Separately, construction and expansion of Mombasa Road and Katani Road off Mombasa Road is a plus in the area.

 The expected opening of the newly constructed Syokimau Railway Station before the end of the year will also have a ripple effect in real estate within the county.

 Many would opt to live in Syokimau and its environs as the train is expected to take 15 minutes to Nairobi Railway Station.

Infrastructure upgrade 

The new electric train could boost real estate within Machakos County targeting commuters from Syokimau, Kitengela, Athi River, Machakos and Mombasa Road.

Realtors concur that even commercial and residential real estate developments in Mlolongo township are changing fortunes in Mavoko.

Initially, Mlolongo was known for weighbridge, heavy commercial trucks stopover, and joints for nyama choma (roast meat).

Today, the areas leading to Syokimau and Katani locations are considered the future upmarkets of Nairobi, following their palatial homes.

Tysons Limited Marketing OfficerDan Arum says the resurgence of Syokimau and Katani will call shots in real estate in Machakos County.

“Construction of residential and commercial buildings has shifted to top gear just before Mlolongo, into Syokimau and Katani and past Athi River,” Arum says.

He says construction of gated communities, high-rise apartments and industrial go-downs are changing the face of the area.

“Prices of homes and apartments have shot up in the areas following increased demand, clean environment and security,” Arum says.

According to him, the areas are offering alternatives for professionals who desire good life, but cannot afford high-end properties.

“Three bedroom master-en-suite homes in the said areas are currently selling at between Sh9 million and Sh10 million up from below Sh8 million last year,” Arum says.

The realtor adds that the county has reaped from benefits of the expansion of Mombasa Road that led to a beehive of activities in real estate.

“Private developers are literally scrambling for any available parcel of land they can put their money on,” Arum says.

And with the flurry of activity in real estate in parts of Machakos County, fraudsters are also burning the midnight oil and even selling government land to unsuspecting buyers.

Recently, the government raised the red flag over a brewing land crisis in Athi River and its environs following scarcity of land in Nairobi.

Moreover, the East African Portland Cement Company placed advertisements in mainstream dailies to fight off encroachment into its land.

Private developers had also allegedly grabbed tracts of land belonging to the Kenya Meat Commission.

Lawyer Peter Mwangi says private developers must exercise caution and due diligence before paying for property in a thriving real estate market.

“It is safer to seek the services of a registered advocate of the High Court of Kenya to be in charge of your transactions,” Mwangi says.

According to Mwangi, the best cushion is to seek registered property with either a title deed, or a lease certificate and conduct an official search.

“Cheap is usually expensive...prospective investors must undergo the required steps before buying a home or plot,” Mwangi concludes.

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