The pros and cons of city vs satellite homes
By Peter Theuri | August 12th 2021
Most people love the good city life. And the nearness to facilities and social amenities, and the higher rate of appreciation for real estate or property. With this, the good feeling of being a city dweller is sensible. And owning land or living in urban areas is everyone’s dream.
But have you ever thought of the experience of owning land outside urban areas? Of living in the quietude of the village, probably not very far from the urban but far enough to earn the moniker “countryside”?
Kennedy Murimi, the director of Denver Group Ltd, a real estate company, reckons that devolution was a game-changer for rural Kenya, noting that more people have been lured to the countryside.
“Many government functions have been devolved and this has led to expansion and infrastructure growth in towns away from the city,” Murimi says.
“We have seen the expansion of roads, establishment of hospitals, and many county governments’ functions that have led to increased jobs. You do not need to come to Nairobi for key issues as they have been brought closer to the people.”
Such factors, says Murimi, have increased demand for land outside the city and led to many people preferring to live in satellite towns.
“Investors willing to cash in on real estate should consider satellite towns. The majority of people are looking to settle and invest in these areas. Demand for land will continue increasing since devolved functions are being established. In a few years, land away from the city will attract very high prices,” he says.
Land surveyors concur. “Of course the process of marking out fixed boundaries is more rigorous and painfully long as compared to general boundary surveying in the countryside,” says Bernard Wanjohi, a Nyeri-based land surveyor.
“Processes such as subdivisions are much easier in the rural areas. The rural areas afford farmers’ large tracts of land which they can cultivate at a little cost and reap high agricultural value,” Wanjohi says.
Analysts say most land in rural areas is freehold land where owners don’t pay land rates or worry about a lease renewal, even as those in urban areas pay.
Loice Noo, a sociologist, explains that culture plays a main role in investment decisions in regard to land ownership. This favours investment in land in rural areas. A belief that people should build houses in their rural homes suffuses. Such people must acquire land in their ancestral homes.
“A house is a symbol of status. It is also a symbol of authority and security to some,” she says. “If one does not put a house in their ancestral home, they are regarded as people without status and authority.”
Alex Muema, the Managing Director of Ndatani Properties, argues that while a rural home is not put up for economic purposes, it can still make financial sense.
Thus, owning a house outside the city while having to work within also shows economic ingenuity.
“If you are near a town like Nairobi or Machakos, it is better to operate from your home to work. That makes economic sense rather than rent a house in town when you are able to build your own home and commute every day,” he says. “Some of my friends live in Kitui which is 150km away and work in Nairobi.”
Living in the city has been known to treat people to endless traffic congestion, rising insecurity and disruption in the provision of amenities. This has been the norm with increasing population and often, incompetent administration. Some of the city’s top estates do not even have sewer lines, depending on exhauster trucks to cart away human waste.
Nairobi was recently ranked by Mercer as the 145th most expensive city in the world, dropping from position 95 and indicating cheaper living conditions for expats. However, the city was also ranked as the 20th most stressful city in the world by German company Vaay.
The Vaay report can hardly be disputed. Many people fancy life outside the confines of the city. According to Murimi, affordability attracts people in buying land outside the city.
However, even as people want to be away from busy urban areas, they ought to consider location and access to the city. “Location determines a lot about the land and real estate. Land close to the city will fetch higher value over time compared to one that is far from the metropolis. Currently due to devolution, the price for land within the outskirts of the city has started going up and its demand has increased,” says Murimi.
“Land is affordable within these areas outside the city and the majority of individuals can afford to buy. The importance of buying land away from the city considering the price is that growth will be fast due to developments and key sectors being set up by the State and private sectors.”
The serenity outside the city lures many people into land buying in satellite towns. If facilities that are available in the city can also be found in these areas, then the bigger reason is to buy land and settle here.
For Murimi, most individuals consider other things as well before settling to buy land. “First, they will check accessibility to their workplaces, security, availability of amenities, and transport,” says
“Well, land in the outskirts of Nairobi, for example, has good road networks serving the city, and the environment is conducive for people to live. Land away from Nairobi is seeing a rise in demand since the development of key social amenities due to the devolved functions of government have improved and land is cheap for many people to buy.”
Private investors, he says, are building schools and hospitals to cater for this demand with supermarkets, financial institutions, and companies relocating their offices away from the congested city.
“In most towns away from Nairobi like Kiambu and Machakos, there is a good environment for people to settle away from the hustles and pollution of the city.”
Wanjohi, however, says those who own land in the urban areas are at a higher risk of being disrupted as the government acquires more land for development.
This might be economically disruptive even though some people make more money from such acquisitions.
As many people look for a way to live away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the attractiveness of countryside ranches will only grow, with every small rural township transforming into the next big town.
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