Developers bet on decor to attract tenants
By Kevin Oguoko | December 25th 2014
Catchy posters on black background, headlined ‘New Luxurious Bedsitters’, are hard to miss in Zimmerman area a stone throw away from the Thika Road Superhighway’s Roysambu footbridge.
The posters have figurative language with words such as ‘extremely spacious’ and description of the finishing including in-built gas cooker effortlessly getting one’s attention.
Even though directions are not indicted on the poster, it was not hard tracing the building with everyone we asked seeming to know which building we are talking about by the mere mention of bedsitter units with in-built gas cooker.
Fitted kitchen in apartments may now be a cliché in units in leafy suburbs of Nairobi in Kileleshwa and Lavington area but to this area, it is a feature to behold.
We had to wait for about 15 minutes to be attended to by a smiling Joseph Kinyanjui as he was attending to other potential tenants.
It is a happy festive season for him and his employers. The units are moving fast. As we finally get to interact, we find out that since the units were advertised for rent in 27 th November this year, 31 units have already been sold of the 101 units up for rent. That is an average of over one unit occupied per day.
Part of Joseph’s selling approach is to sit back and let the features of the house do the talking by merely pointing at the fittings and smiling.
He starts by presenting the match talked about in-built gas cooker, which requires a tenant to just come with a gas cylinder and get cooking with little hassle.
The gas cooker strikes out from the granite kitchen working-station slab. The cooker is controlled with European designed shiny round metallic knobs, while the gas cooker itself is mounted on top of ceramic glass making it visibly stylish than conventional gas hobs. The kitchen tap is a long curved ball tap.
Other features in the average size room include MDF kitchen cabinets, spring hinge wardrobes and a cast iron sink right outside the bathroom.
The bathroom itself has hot shower option operated by yet another ball tap. The toilet is a European designed back-to-wall toilet with a larger base and a small but high-pressure water tank. The attention to detail in the bathroom is evidenced by an iron rode towel hanger and tissue paper hanger covered with a steel sheet.
“With these executive finishing that we have borrowed from upmarket developments, we are able to charge more at Sh8500 per bedsitter,” says Kinyanjui.
He adds: “We are making much more money as opposed to if we had instead developed one bedroom units, which would have taken up space currently occupied by would bedsitters and charged it at Sh15,000.”
The tenants also share a well-lit gypsum ceiling on their balconies. A feature that has been popular with restaurants in various outlets in town.
The mini paradise would have been inches from perfect were it not for the heavily packed concrete jungle that is the view when you look outside the window.
Barely 100 metres from the bedsitter building is a two bedroom units’ building standing out with its bright yellow and orange exterior walls in the middle of unpainted buildings.
One of the immediate things that this building strikes out is the protruding balcony on the front. On our way inside, we find one Justin Chege, the caretaker of the building directing a tenant’s noisy Subaru out of the parking lot inside the building’s ground floor.
“You can not find a building with a parking lot inside the building anywhere around here. Residents have been made to get used to parking their vehicles by the roadside. And it is not just here. Take a look around in Eastlands,” says Justin Chege.
He adds: “The owner of the building decided to make this little space improvements in the design of the building in the hope that the residents would find it unique and less stuffy like all other buildings in the area.” We headed to the first floor of the building, where one of the three remaining units is, having passed the wide staircase that is rare according to Chege as developers seek to save on space.
The living room of the unit is of average sized with blue painted walls and ceramic tiles on the floor. The bedrooms are fitted with wood cabinets and a dressing mirror which Chege was all too proud to point out first thing we entered one of the bedrooms. “Fitted dressing mirrors are also unique in this area. The walls as you can see are painted differently as you move from one room to another creating a vibrant vibe across the house,” says Chege. Never mind the awkward combination of blue and green on the walls.
“We also have DSTV installation already set up. All you have to do is come with your decoder,” says Chege.
Irrespective of the interior design, externally the building cannot escape problems associated with neighbourhoods.
One of the major problems that tenants look on when hunting for an apartment is the availability of water.
“On top of supplying water storage tanks, the building sources it’s water from the major pipe that supplies a large portion of Thika road area and not the local pipe which supplies this part of Zimmerman and characterised with low pressure,” says Chege.
He adds: “The connection to a further but high pressured source is more costly but ensures that our tenants are supplied with water throughout.” The units are on rent at Sh18,000 per month. While the average rental price for a bedroom in the area ranged between Sh12,000 to Sh16,000.
“Our prices are a bit higher. But with what we are offering, it’s worth it, right?” Poses Chege.
The bedsitter development has a number of students from the nearby USIU campus in the area. As Ronald Omyonga, a Nairobi based Architect who has designed similar unique developments in this area explains, as the rent and housing prices rise in low-mid income areas so has the demand for quality.
“This is a trend that has been happening all over the world. People are learning to live within their means by sorting out units within their budget. This has led to the rise in smaller units in the form of bedsitter, studio apartment and one bedroom units,” says Omyonga. He adds: “The real question is however how are you going to make your development stand out from the rest. This has seen many developers from low-mid income areas borrowing a leaf from their high-end counterparts. The tenants don’t seem to mind paying extra for quality. They have an idea of what they should be paying as per each level of quality.”
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