Real estate activity shifts to the countryside over cost
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
The skyrocketing land prices around the capital city and other major towns across the country, coupled with improved infrastructure in rural areas are sending real estate investors to the countryside.
The insatiable demand for land has seen cooperatives, land-buying companies and individuals go for large tracts of land in the rural for speculation purposes, housing projects or subdivision for resale.
After Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu and Kajiado counties where land availability has shrunk and prices hit the rooftop, Nanyuki, Rumuruti and Nyahururu in Laikipia county are the current centres of action.
Investors in the lucrative real estate business are scrambling for available land in the said areas. Middle-income earners have also not been left behind due to the affordable cost of the land there.
For instance, Eden Park and Country Gardens, a real estate firm which previously concentrated its investments in Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Murang’a counties is working on a 4,200-acre project about 23km from Nanyuki town near Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
The land, according to the director of the firm Joseph Njoroge, was bought 19 years ago, and it was impossible to sell it to small holders then despite being affordable.
“Nobody was willing to buy it because of its location. Many people wanted properties around Nairobi and other major towns.
They felt that buying land in the outskirts of Nanyuki was a waste of time,” Njoroge told People Daily.
Since the advent of devolution, which has been credited with transforming regions through infrastructure and other amenities, players in the sector have been camping in the area where they ferry their clients for viewing.
Today, Njoroge says his firm is selling the land at Sh380,000 per acre, although they still sell smaller portions.
He said the region is a bee hive of activity as far as the property sector is concerned, adding that his firm has already sold 3,000 acres of the land.
“People no longer care where the land is so long as it’s affordable and accessible.
This says any time a development begins, roads are constructed, electricity, water and security are fixed and this is happening in Laikipia; that is why Rumuruti and Nanyuki town have become a new destination for real estate,” said Njoroge.
For instance, an acre of land in developed areas in Kiambu will cost an investor between Sh20 million and Sh150 million depending on the location while in Nanyuki the same is offered at Sh380,000.
Nanyuki and Nyahururu towns are relatively developed with the former currently hosting the Laikipia Executive and County Assembly offices.
Its terrain and climate has attracted foreigners who are putting up homes, high-end hotels and holiday destination. The town also hosts a Kenya Air Force base and a British Army Training base.
On the other hand Rumuruti town is the gazetted county headquarters due to its central location, and various offices have been under construction, which has attracted real estate players to the area.
A number of big players have camped in the area including Mukima and Ridge Company, Kiloran Developers, Angaza Real Estate Ltd, Panari Investment Ltd and Maiyan Homes and Country Resorts as well as Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club Resort.
John Mwaniki, the director of Jekmas Services, a real estate firm, said availability of affordable land and infrastructure development is what the estate industry needs to thrive, saying distance is no longer a matter of concern to potential homeowners.
“With good roads and other amenities, real estate players will definitely camp in an area they previously shunned,” he said.
But despite the factors supporting the real estate sector in Laikipia’s major towns and their outskirts, according to a recent report by Cytonn Investments the sector continues to face challenges which include lack of structured planning regulations.
Further, according to investors, the area still has poor road network making it a challenge to easily access some parts of the vast county.
Water and electricity connectivity, experiences of human-wildlife conflicts over pasture and insecurity also dim the attractiveness of the area.
Investors also need to be cautious because with the vibrancy in the sector, con artists have also invaded the industry and many buyers have been swindled millions of shillings for non-existent plots.