Land at the Coast is a hot potato, rife with issues touching on historically unresolved grievances, absentee landlords, inter-communal tensions as well as the lack of title deeds.
Amidst all this, three business partners saw a niche for a real estate agency that was willing to do all the legwork in ensuring due diligence was performed in all land transactions. One of them is Josphat Marete, an IT specialist who smoothly transitioned into property management through their real estate company, Inuka Africa Properties Ltd.
They would be able to guarantee clients their land was safe to buy, develop and settle or experience the coastal strip’s world-famous atmosphere. The company, which began with a single parcel of land which cost less than Sh1 million, has been able to issue over 4,000 title deeds to its clients.
Inuka Properties is marking its seven-year anniversary. Mr Marete tells Enterprise how he, and his co-directors, Joseph Mbugua and Kelvin Ngigi did it.
When we decided to venture into real estate, the three of us decided to give this vision our all. I stopped what I was doing to totally concentrate on our new venture because I believed I could pull it off as long as I diligently stuck to the principles we had decided to operate by.
My partners did the same, quitting their jobs, securing loans and liquidating assets to ensure that we gave our all into serving the people of Coast in this particular volatile business. We had seen that it could be done if one was willing to exert themselves and keenly follow up on records. We set out to unravel the land riddle at the coast.
We had seen a niche in the market which was a big opportunity for us. People want to settle on the Coast or build holiday homes but buying property here has always been synonymous with gambling and many many have lost their investments.
After brainstorming the problem and determining a way to solve the problem, we couldn’t wait to roll out our services. We were determined to facilitate non-risky settlement at the Coast.
We were also lucky enough to get into the market at the right time. Therefore, a moment of trust will always be required when you are to seize the opportunity and take that leap of faith.
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Start small and grow with experience
We began by buying and subdividing land in the rural areas away from the town at cheap prices, making a modest profit. In a way, we were opening up the rural areas to investors which worked well.
At that time, we were also working with other organisations, confirming particulars of parcels of land they had on sale and then helping them get clients.
Our business is focused on helping settle people on the Coast and we remain focused on the goal and earning our keep in the process.
Investing in the proper systems
We got the software to automate all our business systems. This takes care of invoices, issues receipts and prints relevant documents making everything that we do transparent to the customer.
The system updates clients on all the processes and progress of a property purchase. It also notifies clients on time that their documents are ready. We ensure that the privacy of our clients is not compromised.
Our client relations managers do bookings online and our customers can track the process of procuring their documents online anytime.
A business like ours is built on integrity. We have to deal with customers truthfully and if this sincerity isn’t extended by staff who directly deal with clients, the business will not stand the test of time.
Therefore, we hire professionals as well as other people whom we train to be ambassadors of the company.
They have to undergo an orientation period of up to six months so that they can internalise the values and professionalism of the company besides the requisite business requirements.
They are educated on what to pitch to the customers so that we do not promise what is beyond the company’s deliverables, code of dress as well as other fine points.
Among those we employ are young single mothers in need of a job. Given a chance, they are eager to make it in life as well as the youth, some of whom are seeking a career path. You find that in doing our part in contributing towards jobs to this particularly vulnerable demographic, we are grooming the property agents of tomorrow who will carry the right set of values as the industry continues to grow in our country.
We have changed the policy of the past from what used to be the sale of bushes and uninhabited forests to opening new frontiers where people can settle and have their homes.
Whenever we subdivide land, we ensure access roads and amenities like schools, hospitals churches or mosques police stations as well as playgrounds are properly marked out.bWe invested in a grader to make proper compacted murram roads which are maintained all through. It was cheaper than hiring earth-moving machines all the time especially since these kinds of access roads require periodic maintenance so that they do not regress back into jungles.
We have partnered with a building company that constructs houses for our clients with a payment period. The payment period is staggered for two years to make it easier for them to own homes.
All this is to ensure that our clients enjoy 360 degrees of service as promised in our charter.
Acquisition of private land
Land acquisition requires diligence.
My expert advice is that before you pay for a parcel of land, first familiarise yourself with the property you wish to buy. A search through the registry to see under whom the land is registered followed by a visit to the area chief as well as a talk with the neighbours is also important.
Then you should search through the county office for the rates after which you should pay a deposit, fence the land and in case no issues come up, pay the balance. It is a process that should take no less than three months. However, the better option would be to buy through a registered company that will conduct the due diligence for you.
Inuka began in an office with three directors and three employees in a tiny office in town. As we grew, we needed a bigger place and we are looking forward to building premises that will be our headquarters in future.
We have been conducting business in Coast but will be rolling out to other counties as soon as we are ready and as long as they have policies that are friendly to our business model.
We have been upgrading as we go, did not have the equipment we have today and are looking forward to being the one-stop shop for all services related to the property industry.
We have managed to excel, largely due to integrity and hard work and we ensure that our growth is measured and precise.
We measure our success by the success of our clients. We are aware there is lots of competition in the industry but our lane shall always be straight and narrow and do not copy anyone.
Dealing with challenges
In Coast, it’s hardly possible to carry out land transactions without encountering some sort of challenges. Sometimes you have to deal with disputes over boundaries - whereas sometimes matters of succession arise.
We deal with them the best way we can. However, even the seemingly biggest problems have simple solutions. We have had to pay for surveys of entire areas, only to realise that boundary issues which were giving an area a bad name were in fact non-existent.
This of course creates harmony in the areas and neighbours exist in peace as a result. On matters like succession, we have had to settle out of court where land that hasn’t been inherited the rightful heirs get their full share.