New. This is the three-letter word that is in vogue among rental property owners.
It certainly decides how soon your houses are occupied. If a building is new, or has a newish look, then it is a key selling point.
“People want new houses. I do not know why,” says Urban Landlords and Tenants Association Secretary General Ephraim Murigo.
It seems that Nairobi residents no longer get wooed by utilities such as water round the clock, reliable electricity or type of house.
Even before the paint dries or the contractor collects his tools, it is not a surprise to find the house already occupied.
And almost every advert of a property for sale or rent will scream ‘new’, which means it is a factor that always works in the business.
“Brand new beautiful bedsitters now letting in Lower Kabete,” reads an ad by one of the realtors in the city, where the units are renting at Sh13,500 per month.
While Mr Murigo lists security, availability of water and modern finishing as some of the reasons that attract a tenant to a new apartment or flat, he admits that it is a phenomenon that is yet to be clearly understood.
He says it has become a trend that if a house is done today, in just two weeks, it is already fully booked.
Sometimes the houses are booked even before they are completed.
“Why? Because they believe that the person doing the finishing will be mindful of how properly the house will be finished,” he says. “In my view, that is why people like new flats.”
This is what also attracts Robert Otieno whenever he is hunting for a house. The Umoja resident says while old townhouses or flats may have the basic amenities such as water and power, new apartments have new designs.
“Some of these old houses do not have master bedroom ensuite, for example,” he says.
Samuel Tiriongo, director of research and policy at Kenya Bankers Association, which does quarterly reports on real estate, agrees.
“An apartment block that was built many years ago did not factor in things like open kitchen or space…nowadays we see apartments with detached servant quarters,” he says.
He says the additions make the houses attractive.
It is also the reason behind the government’s housing agenda that has seen some of the old houses being marked for demolition so that modern apartment blocks are put up.
Buxton Estate in Mombasa County and Old Ngara Estate in Nairobi are some that will be replaced in an extensive urban renewal project in the two counties.
Another trend, says Dr Tiriongo, is that there is an upward surge for new apartments in high-end areas such as Kileleshwa where high-rise buildings were not common.
He, however, says there is a limit on what makes the apartment attractive.
“If you beyond four storeys, you will see lesser demand,” he says. “People want to live together but if it goes beyond a certain limit in terms of numbers (of occupants), you start to lose that interest.”