Recent events in the investment sector, especially the politics of land, have left many couples at a loss on the best way to invest for themselves and their children.
Real estate has traditionally been deemed the best investment option for the super rich. Of late, the not-so-rich have also got onto the bandwagon, buying pieces of land all over the country.
Unfortunately, some land buying sprees have left the investors hugely disappointed. This is because some officials in the Lands ministry and land sellers collude to duplicate titles, and the same land is sold to more than one person. Because of this scam, some counties have frozen the sale of land and title transfers until the mess is sorted out.
But if you really want to go ahead and invest in land, I advise that you take serious precautions before handing over your hard-earned money.
This obsession with owning a piece of land has gripped many families. If your friends discover you don’t have a plot to your name, they will be incredulous. They will wonder which part of Kenya you have been living in.
Late last year, I joined a group going for a ‘site visit’. In the bus, excited would-be investors kept talking about the wisdom of possessing land.
“You know, land is like gold; it keeps appreciating,” one man told his neighbour in an effort to strike up a conversation.
They ended up talking throughout the journey, discussing their plots in Molo, Eldoret, Nairobi and many other places. And they had plenty of time to trade tales as the journey began in Nairobi’s central business district, and wound through Ngong Town and Kiserian, then onto Magadi Road, where we spent an eternity before finally diverting into a vast, dry piece of land.
There was no town nearby, or any social amenity to warrant the high cost of land; Sh600,000 per acre. I quipped that the place was too far. But the woman seated next to me responded, “Far from where?”
Well, she had a point. I was thinking in terms of my base in Nairobi and my ancestral home in Nakuru. How would this land in the middle of nowhere be beneficial to me and my family?
This thought that lacked an adequate answer helped me make up my mind not to sink my family’s six-figure investment in the barren acreage. Instead, I decided to enjoy the trip and bask in the enthusiasm of the prospective landowners.
There was also drama to behold. When the vehicle stopped at the site, some young men carrying weapons approached us menacingly, claiming the bus had passed through their land yet they had not given their permission. The organisers appeased them by dishing out some money. This incident cemented my decision to not take up the offer.
Later, I came to learn that when the land was subdivided and some people tried to fence their plots and build homes, the hostile young men returned. They declared that the entire area was pastureland for their animals, and that they were not going to tolerate ‘intruders’.
Well, not all land buying ventures end this way, but as investors look for affordable areas in which to invest, the destination is likely be in someone else’s ancestral village. So, before you buy that land, whether you consider the area far or not, ask yourself these questions: Of what value is this land to my family and me? Will we settle here? Will we sell it at a profit? Are there facilities nearby that will boost the appreciation of the land?
Don’t just buy land because ‘everyone is buying’. Buy it because it will give you value for your money.