Patricia Githu is involved in the construction of Juja South Estate, the Sunset Park Estate, andSue Muraya does not look like your usual developer. Or even sound like one. She looks like person who should be trading stocks at the Nairobi Securities Exchange or maybe negotiating agreements with diplomats at the United Nations. Sharp, focused, and always dressed to look the part, Sue, however, can teach you one or two things about brick and mortar. Not one or two things, actually, but a whole lot of things. Consider this: The ever-smiling woman witheyebrows tweezed into a constant stun has a footprint in every major property hotspot in Nairobi, has numerous ongoing projects worth hundreds of millions of shillings, and is dreaming of starting many others.
She is the brains behind Fourways Junction along Kiambu Road, about a kilometre from Ridgeways, Lynx Apartments on Ngong Road, Rosslyn Heights and Gardens in Gigiri, Spring Valley Business Park, and her pet project, the Sucasa apartments off Mombasa Road at Mlolongo, among many others. With such a portfolio, Sue considers herself an authority in real estate, so she goes that extra mile to stamp that self-assurance on everything that she touches. It might not translate into the Midas touch popularised by Midnight Star, the American pop group, in their self-titled album of 1988, but you can feel Sue in most of her creations, see her minimalist, yet extravagant touch on the finished product. Her Fourways Junction, for example, has cluster houses, apartments, office blocks, and now a shopping mall, three-star hotel, a business park, a school, retirement home, and country club, while the Rosslyn Gardens and Heights development, a 39-unit project with exclusive four- and five-bedroom villas, has quietly yet elegantly transformed the skyline of Gigiri.
“As much as most developers would like to put up affordable houses, poor infrastructure often discourages them as it downgrades their developments or, where it must be improved at own cost, raises the price of the units, resulting in low uptake. But we do it differently by locking the contractor to agreed unit prices so that we do not have fluctuations that inconvenience buyers,” she says.Over the years, Patricia and Sue have observed a growing interest in the property market, but, unfortunately, that interest is being suppressed by high lending rates by banks. Most home buyers would rather go the mortgage way, but in a scenario where, according to Sue, “the rates are almost twice the base lending rate”, few would dare ask for mortgage financing.But, even as lending rates stifle the industry, the outlook, at least for both Sue and Patricia, is quite encouraging.“The quality of workmanship and
expectations speak volumes about the industry,” says Patricia. “The prospects for the future look good because the demand is increasing against a low supply, therefore no developer can single-handedly satisfy the market. We have come from a time where real estate was for mature people to a time where it is the in thing. One has to either own land or a house. And if that thinking persists, it will keep us in business for a long time to come.
”Their dream is to offer both high-end and low-end housing, but it is the latter that has proved difficult to achieve. The industry is currently debating whether it is possible, under current policy — and infrastructural and financing conditions — to really put up low-cost housing and still remain profitable. The thinking is that, with prevailing land prices and material costs, low-cost housing can either be low-quality or incentivised by the state.Sue, however, has decided to go it alone as she delicately balances the needs of the middle income earner and those of the lower segment, for whom housing remains an unmet need.“We are trying to achieve this by coming up with different housing models that cater for different segments through appropriate pricing. If, for instance, you would like to own a Sh2 million house but do not have the money in cash, the easiest way to go about it is to pay the deposit at construction stage, then start saving and paying in tranches as construction continues. By the time you move into your house, its value will have appreciated way above the initial Sh2 million costing.”It is not easy to quantify the success of her Sucasa project in Mlolongo (she says it has proved to be quite a hit), which seeks to bring home ownership closer to the unbanked at low prices. Her Sh900,000 bed-sitters target the young investor looking for a place to start the climb up the ladder, but she also has one- and two-bedroom units
that start at Sh2.1 million.“Most Kenyans cannot qualify for mortgage but they save through saccos and chamas. This means that they can afford these low-cost houses without the pain of high interest rates. All we need is more developers going this way, more investors thinking of the man or woman who cannot afford a mortgage, and you would not believe how the industry would take off.“Most of the clients
we interact with apply for mortgages but some do not qualify. This does not means that we do not work with them. We have to sit down and come up with a way out so that they do not fail to purchase the houses,” says Sue.
Source: Daily Nation