Bedsitter or one-bedroom? Why size is king
By Graham Kajilwa | May 20th 2021
If you live in a bed-sitter, you might feel insecure to divulge such information, as it attracts all manner of unpleasant comments and sarcasm from some quarters.
A lot of the time this is because of the perceived small space.
“Bed-sitter ukianika nguo mbili na socks inakaa kama boutique (If you air two clothes and a pair of socks in a bed-sitter it resembles a boutique),” reads one comment on social media.
But when one combs through advertisements for bed-sitters online, they always use the word ‘spacious’ without telling exactly the size of the house in square metres.
And if they do, as development management consultant Johnson Ndege notes, rarely do tenants care to know the exact size.
“They (tenants) look at absolute value rather than unitised value,” says Mr Ndege. This is also the case even when one is looking for a house to buy,” he says.
“A house selling at Sh10 million and it is 100 square metres, tells you that house is sold at Sh100,000 per square metre.
“And if the house is worth Sh15 million and the space is, let’s say 200 square metres, it tells you that house is selling at Sh75,000 per square metre,” says Ndege.
From this, a buyer would think that the Sh15 million house is expensive because of the absolute value (total price) rather than technicalities of the unitised value.
Landlords and developers know this too well and in some areas in the city, a house considered not as spacious such as a bed-sitter ends up being more spacious and charges more rent compared to a house with one or two bedrooms.
All this is in a bid to target a specific clientele or tap a readily available customer base for houses whose prices have already been determined by the market to maximise profits.
For example, it is common to find a one-bedroom house that is way smaller than a bed-sitter, but still attracts tenants because it is has a bedroom.
A development site, www.thebrands.co.ke, also details this bias in house preferences despite indicating the ideal sizes for bed-sitters as three metres by four metres.
“The above are some dimensions that can be used for your bed-sitter rooms. They can, however, be increased,” reads the site.
“Tenants will always look for spacious bed-sitters. You should hence make sure the rooms and units are large enough.”
But how spacious is ‘spacious’?
Ephraim Murigo, secretary general of Urban Landlords and Tenants of Kenya, says there are a lot of dynamics that determine the size and amount of rent a landlord will charge.
He says when the landlord finishes a house, they have a picture of the type of tenant they expect.
“If the house is in Lang’ata or Huruma, and both of them are one-bedroom, do not expect the rent to be the same,” he says.
Mr Murigo says the area and price of land play a major role.
“A bed-sitter in South C is equivalent to a three-bedroom house in Zimmerman. A one-bedroom in Muthaiga is more expensive than a two-bedroom in Ngara,” he says.
“Why? Because of the area. A bed-sitter in Huruma or Ngara can never be the same as a bed-sitter in Kilimani.”
He says the size, number of bedrooms and cost of rent starts with the price of land where the investor wants to put up the house.
If the land is expensive, then a one-bedroom, despite being squeezed, will cost more compared to another area where the land costs less.
“The area cannot be compromised. Try to see how much a 50 by 100 space in Lavington is and compare the same area in Embakasi.
“In Embakasi it will be like you are getting it for free. In Lavington, you will have to sweat even before you buy the land, leave alone the other intrigues of how the house is done,” says Murigo.
As a stakeholder in the sector, he says he has championed for a statutory body that will regulate the sizes and rent depending on the area of the house, and how old the building is “...so that we do not have issues where a landlord increases rent at will.”
This has not happened yet, which he attributes to “conflicting interests” among other stakeholders.
Ndege says the dynamics of size have been manipulated at times by investors to lure a certain market demographic.
“You remember a developer once said “we are able to do houses for Sh1 million” and it became sensational. What typical consumers did not know is that the house was 25 square metres,” he says.
“You will find someone saying they have a bed-sitter that they are selling at Sh1 million and the house is perhaps 15 square metres, and you might say the house is cheaper because you look at the absolute value, while it could actually be more expensive than your next door house that is selling at Sh3 million and is 40 or 50 square metres.”
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