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What apartments buyers are willing to pay for

By Peter Muiruri | June 11th 2015

About two decades ago, living in a flat was considered a key characteristic of the urban lifestyle in Kenya. It was the dream of every ‘new arrival’ in the city to climb the stairs into a relative’s apartment on the third floor.

However, what was considered “luxury” was nothing more than four white walls and a corridor that led to one or two other rooms. Among the common amenities was a communal watering point in the courtyard where residents would take turns drawing water.

That was then. Today, the apartment lifestyle has changed, with modern flats bearing little resemblance to their older cousins. Dotting the skyline in Nairobi’s leafy suburbs of Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington and Westlands is row-upon-row of lustrous apartments. A similar trend is being witnessed in other urban areas in the country.

And they are no longer the humble abode of lowly civil servants but the modern middle and upper-classes that fancy the higher things in life. They are also popular with diplomatic and expatriate communities.

The shared amenities now include Olympic-size swimming pools, fitness centres, expansive lounges and gazebos. For a tech-savvy generation, having a Wi-Fi zone is an added advantage. A development at the Coast, for instance, has gone a notch higher and installed a movie theatre for residents.

The Shaza, a new development in Shanzu Beach, consisting of 76 units, has been touted as one of the most exclusive holiday communities at the Coast. From infinity pools to an art gallery, the apartments are targeted at the well-to-do in society.

According to General Sales Manager Susan Gichara, the apartments were conceived out of a desire for people to enjoy an exclusive lifestyle in a secluded communal setting.

It is perhaps the only such development to include a movie theatre for residents as well as an art gallery to promote the local artisan community.

Even for those on short holiday stays, the units are fully-furnished, complete with cutlery, linen and toiletries.

Quality services

“We are very passionate about providing a homely environment at the Coast where luxurious living was only associated with high-end hotels. People are becoming more sensitive to their lifestyles where quality of service delivery is key,” says Gichara.

The apartments owned by Shanzu Beach Resorts Limited, sell for Sh28 million for a two-bedroom unit and Sh64 million for an elaborate four-bedroom duplex.

“There are many looking for such property as long as it has the right features. You must appeal to people’s feelings if only to get closer to their hearts and get them to loosen their purse strings. We must sell to people through a personal connection,” says Gichara.

The only drawback, she says, is the mushrooming of structures that want to ride on the tag “luxury apartments” without the amenities and lifestyles to match.

Employing the services of the best marketing agencies in the region, such luxury apartments leave nothing to the imagination with their suave marketing catchphrases.

“Savour the sophistication of the avant-garde open plan kitchen, as you appreciate the attention to detail through the spacious lounge, on your way to the glass balcony offering breathtaking scenery,” states the Trident Grand Riverside online feature.

This development on Riverside Drive in Nairobi consists of 56 apartments in twin towers. When the development is completed (Tower One this October and Tower Two in May next year), the apartments, consisting of three, four and five-bedrooms, will be the epitome of luxurious living in the area. Upon entry, one will be met with a five-metre water work to “rejuvenate the mind”. A double volume lobby leads to high speed lifts, similar to those found in top notch offices in the city.

There will be a trendy gym, steam room and decked swimming pool to boot. These lifestyles, though, come at a price.

Excellent views

A three-bedroom duplex with excellent views of the Arboretum and measuring 5,153 square feet sells for Sh85 million, while a slightly bigger one goes for Sh90 million. The 6,454-square-foot penthouse sells for a whopping Sh100 million.

According to Zahra Majid, Pam Golding’s selling agent for this property, investors from abroad coupled with the local elite are among those snapping up the property.

“We have a good mix of buyers - and some have paid in cash as they realise that these lifestyles are what they are looking for,” says Majid.

She says such elegant apartments represent the new urban living where convenience is the key.

“It is all about home finishes and convenience. The interior, including the kitchen, floor and the lighting have been sourced from Italy. It is all about the aesthetics of the apartments and not just a functional building,” says Majid, who has been certified as a Gold Club agent by Pam Golding in South Africa for her role in the sale of such high-end units in the country.

The water feature seems to be a recurring theme for apartments in Nairobi. Within the same area, Suraya Property Group is putting up a new project aptly christened the [email protected], a name derived from some of the famed waterfalls around the world.

The apartments are said to offer “premium building standards and a sense of quality through the apartments’ interior and exterior schemes complimented by exemplary detailing and tasteful specifications.”

According to Sue Muraya, a director at the firm, the apartment lifestyle is now in vogue, especially for those who want to live near large urban centres. She says aesthetic features within apartments have become a new selling point for an urban population that can no longer tolerate previous conservative lifestyles.

“The current apartment architecture at the Falls creates a visually exciting building, while creating privacy for individual units. The apartments are finished to the highest standards with PVC doors and windows, imported, high-quality ceramic tiles and exquisite kitchens and wardrobes,” she says.

The latest entrant into this world of luxurious apartments is Garden City Mall on Thika Road with its 420 apartments, duplexes and town houses. The ‘Village’ boasts a heated swimming pool, solid bamboo flooring and glass balcony balustrades.

Welcome to the new, urban lifestyle.

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