Stolen fine cutlery: dark side of renting out holiday homes

Some paying guests pick small things from holiday homes. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • At Maiyan Villas in Nanyuki, furnishing a single villa costs about Sh4.9 million and when you walk into any of the six houses, each oozes elegance and opulence with attention being paid to the tiniest of details.

Buying a home then spending millions of shillings to renovate or furnish it and letting strangers stay in it, even if they are paying, can be daunting for some. With all the inherent risks that can be involved, however, this concept seems to be picking up in Kenya.

At Maiyan Villas in Nanyuki, furnishing a single villa costs about Sh4.9 million and when you walk into any of the six houses, each oozes elegance and opulence with attention being paid to the tiniest of details.

“It’s pretty much the same thing with hotels which buy and furnish beautiful spaces that people can pay to stay in,” says general manager Omar Ikram.

“I think the concept of buying holiday homes and letting them out to holiday-makers works well if you give your investors options. We are very flexible, you can choose to buy a house and keep it for yourself, give it to us for housekeeping or give it to us for management,” he says.

“We haven’t experienced any challenges so far and all our current owners allow guests in their villas.”

This concept is more acceptable to home owners now due to the onset of websites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing whose popularity has been fuelled by the need for cheap accommodation as well as discerning travellers looking for a home away from home.

Still, while Airbnb has luxury properties listed, it is mostly popular with people travelling on a tight budget. It is for instance cheaper to stay on a seafront house by a private beach in Malindi than it is to stay in a seafront hotel by a private beach.

This leaves room for developers offering bespoke homes and personalised experiences to cater to a specific luxury market.

Andrew McGhie, founder of East African Retreats which lists several individual-owned properties such as Olohoro Onyore in Champagne Ridge and Maridhiya House says, “People are more used to allowing paying guests into their homes now than they probably were a few years ago. There are also more opportunities to list homes with websites such as Home Away which are very popular in America and Europe although they haven’t caught on here yet. I believe they will.”

Andrew adds, “Such holiday homes are continuing to come up to meet the demand. Traverse are comfortable choosing a house or apartment rather than a lodge or hotel these days, and then you have specialists like me who curate holiday homes and choose the ones that are particularly suitable for the market.”

No matter how streamlined the process, however, just as with hotels, there is always the risk of unpredictability.

When you have candid conversations with hotel staff, one of their main woes is usually guests making away with non-complementary items like towels, bathrobes, hair dryers, décor items, bedding and more, some of which are expensive to replace.

As an individual home owner, you will always have to replace little things like books and cutlery if you are lucky not to lose anything hefty.

Will Knocker, proprietor of Silole Sanctuary which lies on the boundary of Nairobi National Park, has been running this business for over 10 years.

“I have two houses in my property; I live in one and receive guests in the other two bedroom cottage. I bought it and improved it by for instance furnishing it and adding a beautiful verandah that overlooks the park,” he says.

“Generally speaking, the guests we get are good. What we sell here is peace and quiet; nature and serenity,” he adds.

“Because we are in the city, however, we do get a lot of party people who can be disrespectful with things like cigarette butts or leaving stains in the bedrooms. Staying amidst all this beautiful nature is a paradox for people looking for a place to make noise in.”

Still, even with the challenges involved, more people are looking to invest in holiday homes for paying guests as opposed to buying houses to rent out monthly.

Some, like Mr Knocker, buy homes and run the business themselves while others invest in development properties like Vipingo Ridge in Kilifi.

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