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Enterprise

NSE-incubated Myspace seeks to scale up with new products

My Space chief executive officer Mwenda Thuranira
My Space chief executive officer Mwenda Thuranira during the interview at his Nairobi office on April 10, 2019. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

After a decade building houses and managing properties in Mombasa, realtor Mwenda Thuranira approached the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) seeking funds to scale up his business with some new products being in the pipeline.

This, he says will revolutionise Kenya’s property market with the firm planning to launch new products such as Tenant Purchase Schemes (TPS) under a ‘rent-to-own’ model as well as a loans’ comparison real-time platform.

“I need funds to enhance my capacity to respond pro-actively to market dynamics in a way that enables us to give customers a one-stop property shop,” he said.

“Clients walking into our offices should be able to access a property list, get a feasibility study report and receive an updated catalogue on the cheapest loans in the market.

His firm, MySpace Properties, decided to pursue listing at the bourse to gain the trust of Kenyans as well as access fresh funding to drive change on property dealings.

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“That will also give us impetus to push for formulation and operationalisation of a real estate course to help us restore the sector’s reputation,” said Mr Thuranira.

Entry into NSE means opening his firm to public scrutiny and ushering in new investors who will take a slice of his profits. It also means he has to incorporate a management board to transform the firm from a family-owned business to a listed entity.

40-year old Thuranira sold his first property while working as a construction worker in Texas, Dallas in America, where he gone to study piloting. He did eventually acquire a private pilots license from Orlando Flying School.

“On graduation day, I discovered I had a fear of heights and hence daily flying was not my thing. I immediately changed careers for the construction sector.”

However, his Jamaican employer vanished with the workers’ wages.

Smartly-dressed people kept visiting the construction sites where Mr Thuranira worked, which opened his eyes to the wide array of careers he could take up in real estate.

This saw him enroll for a six-month real estate course and later study real estate finance, giving him firsthand information on property deals, mortgage setup, loans as well as other forms property financing arrangements.

He bought an old house at Sh200,000 that he renovated at Sh80,000 before selling it two months later at Sh420,000. This deal ushered him into a new career of property business. He kept buying old buildings in sought-after locations, renovated them and then sold them at a premium.

“As the business grew, I partnered with ranchers to subdivide land where we put up houses for sale. In America, getting a mortgage takes three days compared to Kenya’s six months. I spent profits earned on buying land back home in Nairobi and Mombasa.” he recalls.

While his Kenyan land purchases were aimed at building tourist villas and residential units for wealthy American families eyeing holiday homes, Mr Thuranira found himself heading home for good after the homes’ sector collapsed due to the 2004-2007 US financial crisis.

Among properties he developed in Mombasa include Rose Apartments, named after his mother, and One Twiga Apartments, Links Plaza which he co-developed with a co-investor who was part of the consortium that built the luxurious English Point villas.

Within the Riara area of Nairobi, Mr Thuranira is now putting up 54 apartments and is currently engaged in a joint venture development for a Sh2.5 billion exclusive and high-end Kiambu Road development that will see 60 mansionettes built on a 20 acre piece of land.

In 2017, MySpace Properties raked in Sh78 million in turnover, which Mr Thuranira believes could have been higher if the processes of transferring land and mortgages were streamlined.

“Kenyans need a structured real estate sector that they can trust. This could help reduce bottlenecks along the value chain, thereby reducing the cost of putting up property or buying ready-made units,” he says.

MySpace Properties has since been placed on the NSE Incubation Programme, known as Ibuka, where its books as well as its management structure will be streamlined ahead of listing.

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