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Enterprise

Lawyer mints money from apartments he doesn’t own

Patrick Obuya
Patrick Obuya, Airbnb entrepreneur, in one of the apartments he manages. PHOTO | EUNICE MURATHE 

After graduating from the University of Nairobi with a law degree last year, Fredrick Obuya didn’t look for a job to ply his trade in the courtroom. Rather he veered from his career professional path and plunged into hospitality business through online platform, Airbnb.

Eight months down the line, he has little regrets as he is making admirable progress in this line of business.

Mr Obuya markets apartments to visitors who want a more home-away-from-home experience at an affordable cost.

He started off with a friend’s four-bedroom house at Sunset Lane in Nyali. He furnished it with all the frills and extras to make a visitor’s stay comfortable. He then took pictures of the apartment and posted on the Airbnb. And just like that he was in business.

“I had stumbled on Airbnb during my days in campus while looking for a vacation rental in Diani,” he says, adding that he had to learn about the business as he went along.

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“When I started renting out my friend’s place, I drew a whole contract on the business because the house needed a lot of stuff and I had to buy things like bed sheets and toiletries. I would take 60 percent of the money made and my friend remained with the 40 percent.”

Within three weeks, he got his first client who rented the whole place for two weeks and five days. She paid Sh39,000. This was very encouraging to him as this was a pointer to the business’ big potential.

And after just a month sampling Airbnb entrepreneurship, he knew this is just what he wanted to do.

He looked for more properties and sought to sublet them or rent them out. He would advertise the houses on Airbnb and his social media platforms.

Soon the business was growing at a good pace as he took on more apartments. Currently he manages a number of properties on behalf of the owners.

“I do not own any apartment, I just manage them,” he says.

“ More people started reaching out for me to manage their houses. There are those houses the owners already have them on Airbnb so I just manage them. Some I just promote on social media sites and also get business through referrals,” e says Mr Obuya who has hosted guests from Australia, USA, France, Kenyans, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes he takes his guests around the town’s attractions.

His apartments rent for between Sh6,000 and Sh20,000 per night, depending on the season. Over time he has gathered up to 50 plus listings, some of which are on Airbnb and others that are not on the platform.

In December 2019, he averaged Sh100,000 earnings on Airbnb.

At the moment he is building a business website to place more short term rentals to maximise income.

He also offers classes on how to be a successful Airbnb host.

The entrepreneur is seeing rosy prospects for Airbnb as the platform offers Kenyans a more affordable stay in destinations than hotels.

More holidaymakers and business travellers are opting for furnished apartments, which accord them more freedom and privacy, and are more cost-effective than staying at a hotel, especially for families and groups.

“It is not like a hotel where you go to sleep knowing that tomorrow morning at 9am I will be checked out. During high season this place will go for Sh20,000,” he tells Enterprise in an interview in one of the apartment he manages.

“If you compare our rates with hotel rates during the high season this is quite affordable and you can have a family of six here.”

But the business is not just about cash rolling in. There are challenges too. Before renting out on Airbnb, he advises, you have to know that it might get to a time especially during low seasons when you have to dip into your pockets to pay rent.

“During the high season you might make five times your rent but come low season you don’t make as much. You have to save up,” he says.

Also, some guests make away with valuables and some destroy them. This will be replaced at a cost.

“Some guests are also rude and disrespectful,” he says.

Mr Obuya has house rules and manual that guests have to follow.

“I normally request that they send me a copy of the identification cards. I have also convinced some apartment owners to install CCTV cameras outside. Before a guest leaves we check that everything is in place,” he says.

While Airbnb started out as a community just for individuals renting out their space or properties on their own, the accommodation listing site is now slowly shifting to property management, with single operations turning over huge sums of money.

Like Mr Obuya, more hosts are making money following the Airbnb model of leveraging other people’s properties.

The growth of Airbnb has caused some landlords to switch their properties from long-term rentals, which are mostly aimed at local residents, to short-term rentals mainly for visitors.

Mr Obuya says Airbnb and other accommodation listing sites have made apartments more attractive, and not just for long stays, but more people are buying them with the sole purpose of renting them out short term in places like Nyali where most guests to Mombasa prefer to stay.

“It has become more of a business. Hotels and resorts are also embracing the same thing,” he says.

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