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State should vet real estate agents to weed out rogue ones


Early this year, Joseph Kamau was looking for a house to rent in Umoja, Nairobi. He met an agent who operates from a makeshift office.

The agent told him there were many vacant houses.

Kamau, after showing satisfaction with the said houses paid the agent his rent plus a deposit.

The following day, the makeshift office was nowhere to be seen and the agent number was switched off.

Many gullible tenants undergo these scenarios in many parts of Eastlands in Nairobi. And it is for this reason that the State must restore sanity in the real estate management business by weeding out unscrupulous briefcase agents, who are incompetent to do the business thus giving the sector a bad name.

One way of achieving this is for the Real Estate Licensing Board to vet all housing agents operating in the country. This will help eliminate criminals from the business.

The government should also ensure that all housing agents have business offices, registered firms, operational contacts and valid business licenses.

The agents should also have the capacity, and pre-requisite academic qualifications to do business.

They ought to possess certificates of good conduct from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), and tax compliance certificates among other requirements to do genuine business.

 Sarah Aluoch, the managing director of Sarahfine Sarahfine Investments Ltd says they have witnessed cases of criminals operating as housing agents - who steal from rich tenants.

Some of these agents are inexperienced in property management and are just gamblers in the business thus they destroy those who are doing an excellent job. 

Other challenges in the sector include rising interest rates and over-taxation by the Kenya Kwanza administration, she notes.

According to an expert on real estate development, lawyer cum economist Charles Ayoro, the sector has not fully recovered from the Covid-19 menace.

Ayoro says lack of affordable houses, volatile markets, shifting and uncertainty in political climates, environmental changes, rising mortgage rates, growing online competitions, numerous taxes, landlords who backtracked on paying commissions even after signing the agreement deal with the agent, the stress in selling a property and changing technology have worsened the situation in the real estate business.

A good agent is more purposeful with serious networking, has mastered the art of communications and maintains good relationships with clients.

Aluoch observes that an agent must be truthful, honest, trustworthy and passionate about his or her work as this will make clients have confidence in him.

The same is expected of landlords and landladies. If there is an issue, an amicable solution is required.

The State must now put its foot down to bring sanity into real estate development by controlling rogue estate agents and contractors who do shoddy jobs.

According to Ayoro, the current heavy rains and floods have exposed contractors who did shoddy jobs as the rainfall brought down houses that were built on quick and shifting sand.

Keeping a good tent is essential to a sound investment strategy.

A serious and genuine property manager must foster a positive relationship with the tenants by promptly addressing issues like house maintenance.

This should be communicated to the tent promptly. One of the reasons that can force a tenant to leave your premises is poor attitude, lack of trust, and being dishonest on the part of the property manager.

This usually increases vacancies in houses and reduces the rental incomes for the landlords and landladies according to Aluoch.

Ayoki Onyango is a communication Consultant

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