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Why Naivasha is now a second home for the wealthy

REAL ESTATE
By Wainaina Wambu | February 18th 2021
Osotua Luxury Resort.

Along Moi South Lake Road, Naivasha, final touches are being put on yet another high-end residential property ahead of a planned Easter opening.

Already, half of the 55 units at Osotua Luxury Resort, with prices ranging from Sh17 million to Sh42.5 million, have been snapped up.

The resort is one of the many luxury estates that dot the lakeside town, offering the rich a breathtaking escape.

Naivasha’s proximity to Nairobi, its scenic landscapes, wildlife parks and the lake have put the erstwhile dusty town in Nakuru County on the wealthy’s property radar.

The many resorts and entertainment joints have also made the lakeside town popular with merry makers, who have baptised the town “Vasha.”

Naivasha also does not heavily rely on foreign tourists. Weekdays have seen it become popular with conferences while weekends are full of leisure activities including weddings.

A passenger train from Nairobi to Naivasha on the standard gauge railway has also made it easier and cheap to access the Rift Valley town.

Some of the high-end developments in the area include the Great Rift Valley Lodge, Longonot Gate and Aberdare Hills Golf Resort.

This has seen land prices around the lake skyrocket. The most popular properties are around Lake Naivasha with an acre going for about Sh16 million.

Osotua General Manager Jimmy Musangali says the lakeside town offers a “rare pinch of uniqueness” owing to its diversity.

“Natural and physical resources, birds, wildlife, plants and even the people and lodges sets Naivasha apart from any other location in Kenya,” he told Home & Away.

“Whether it’s conferencing, safari, expedition or holidaying … it’s all a mere two hours away from Nairobi to get yourself, friends and family the time of your lives.”

Tourists can visit, among others, Lake Naivasha National Park, Hells Gate National Park where they can do lake Safaris or bike expeditions.

Tourism aside, corporates are also organising out of town conferences and retreats in the area.

“With world-class luxury lodges available in private conservancies or within the park accommodation, Naivasha has never been better,” Musangali said.

But who is the typical investor in the Naivasha luxury homes?

Most are well-heeled professionals or investors with more than two homes.

They are upper middle class, frequent travellers, aspirational and enjoy the good life.

Overall, trends emerging after the Covid-19 pandemic show there is a growing market for second homes.

In a market survey by property firm Knight Frank, 18 per cent of respondents said they were likely to buy a second home as a result of the pandemic.

This was attributed to them looking for a retreat or safe haven in case of future outbreaks or disasters, and to improve their lifestyles during periods of uncertainty.

“The pandemic seemingly provided the motivation some buyers needed to commit to buying a second home,” said Knight Frank.

“Similar to primary residences, buyers of second homes are prioritising home offices, greater privacy and outdoor space when choosing a second home.”

Head of Development Consulting and Research at property firm HassConsult, Sakina Hassanali, also said the restrictions in movements and lockdowns to global travel last year sparked an appetite for secondary homes among the wealthy.

“These are people who used to travel for holidays and are now buying holiday homes close to the city,” she told Home & Away by phone.

To understand this type of investor, Osotua’s design and interior decor provides a case study.

The estate has fully furnished hotel units with a restaurant, swimming pool and conference facilities.

Its concept and design is fused with “African influence with contemporary and tribal chic finishes”, the resort says.

Osotua sits on 10 acres with a beachfront to Lake Naivasha and houses are made up of 15 three-bedroom villas and seven two-bedroom units selling for Sh42.5 million and Sh37.5 million each.

It also has 30 studio units selling at Sh17 million.

Musangali notes that at Osotua Villas they have guaranteed home ownership and revenue sharing. The revenues are generated from the conferences and weekend visits by holidaymakers.

“Investors not only get a second home, but earn returns as well,” he said.

The villas are managed by Icon Hotels Group, a pan-African hospitality management chain operating in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Benin.

“If you own a home here you then give it to the operating company to manage and let it out for you, and you get your returns as agreed,” said Musangali.

This is mostly because the home owners only come to the villas for holiday and do not live there full time. But when they visit, they get keys to their houses and only pay a small service fee.

Patrons are treated to top level service and the target is three-fold, aiming for the 28 to 40 age bracket of local, international and business clientele.

“These are people who appreciate holiday getaways and luxury stays in the country and international market who actively holiday in Kenya or are interested in trying out a different African-based experience,” said Musangali.

Patrons to the villas are charged Sh20,000 per room “for proper inventory management”.

“Even when we are doing financial projections we do per room,” said the general manager.

For the conferences, which mostly happen during weekdays, the resort targets businesses and event organisers who require out-of-city facilities that align with their brand positioning.

Naivasha has also seen growth in AirBnbs - the online marketplace connecting people who want to rent their homes or extra rooms with visitors looking for accommodation in a certain location.

Aside from tourism, Naivasha’s other mainstay is horticulture with scores of flower farms found in the area.

Moi South Lake Road is one of the main arteries leading to the numerous resorts, flower farms, parks, Lake Naivasha and the Olkaria Geothermal fields.  

Previously, Moi South Lake Road was in a poor state leading to incessant complaints and demonstrations by hoteliers and flower farmers, but the road has since been refurbished.

Some resorts in Naivasha include Lake Naivasha Resort, Burch’s Resort Naivasha, Enashipai Lodge, Sawela Lodge and South Lake Lodges.

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