A few years ago, some of the factors affecting the choice of a house or its price were bedrooms, bathrooms, type of the house, backyard and not necessarily if the location had a gym or not.
Fitness had not really caught up yet and the many people who went to gyms had no qualms going far. However, gyms inside gated communities or for residents only has become the new attraction for homebuyers.
They want to walk next door to a gym and walk back to prepare and go to work or exercise at 4am or 10pm.
At 4pm on a Saturday in Gym House –a fitness facility in Nairobi’s Nyayo Estate- it is drizzling outside and temperatures have dropped. But at the entrance, the air feels warmer and moist, punctuated with sweat. On my left, a man is running on a treadmill, beads of thin sweats trickling down his body. A woman is cycling one of the five stationary bikes.
Evans Wattimah, 40, a resident and a fitness enthusiast says had he not been the estate gym, he would have be elsewhere catching up with friends.
He says estate gyms are advantageous because they encourage consistency in exercising.
Like Evans, Ian Kimathi, 23, is an avid gym-goer. He lives along Thika Road. He goes to the gym to train for boxing and bodybuilding.
He says he prefers estate gyms because they are cheaper yet they are as equipped as those in the Central Business District are.
“With your own gym or one that is far, you cannot be provoked to keep going,” he says, adding that fitness facilities in the estate offer convenience of time, and the flexibility in the operating hours is what he needs. “This gym is just meters away from my home. I just walk,” adds Evans.
Richard Omoro is the owner Gym House. His gym, he says, serves over 400 clients on a bad business month. The subscription hits over 600 in a good month.
“We’re tapping into a market with fitness maturity as Kenyans appreciate the essence of exercising,” he said, adding that there is more potential that is yet to be tapped.
“These clients want to keep fit but cannot have their own fitness rooms. These are the people we endeavour to serve, by coming up with a facility next to them,” says Richard.
Well-equipped estate facilities lure more clients.
“It is the machines such as bikes and treadmills and weights and well aerated group fitness rooms that entice people to subscribe to an estate gym,” he says.
The estate gym serves mainly men and women aged between 40 and 60.
“This age group needs someone whom they are comfortable with to walk them through their fitness journeys and fit in their schedules. We open from 4am and close at 10pm,” he says, adding that they experience a big morning crowd.
While there are opportunities in running a gym in an organised gated community or an estate, there are challenges. Especially, without transparency and good delivery of services, investors could loses clients very fast once they start lamenting in estate WhatsApp groups.
In terms of rent, the estate gyms are not cheap. They pay steep rents to be close to fitness enthusiasts.
Njeri Njoroge, a portfolio manager and a property expert at Regent Management says people nowadays prefer communal gyms to customised home gyms.
“For gated communities though, property developers include fitness and sporting zones. Sporting centres in estates translate to a rise in value of the homes,” she says.
Bruno Obodha, a property consultant and Home Afrika group commercial director says rent is also higher than in estates without gyms.
Some properties add a five per cent increase on the normal rent for the service and maintenance of the resident gym.
“Lifestyle has notably changed. This has got renters appetite for fitness rise and their penchant for settling in a residential with gym facilities has had a spiral rise as well,” he said.
On valuation of the property, Njeri Njoroge, a property expert, says, the appraisal of property depends on whether the property is commercial or residential.
“When selling the property, the owners put up a higher margin compared to neighbourhoods that do not have such amenities,” she says.
Including a gym facility, she says, changes the look, the perception and has a direct reflection of the social class of people living around and this, is what most people want to associate with.
However, she warns that would be slightly expensive for tenants.
“Gym subscriptions are done separately or sometimes catered for in the service charge whether the tenant uses the gym or not,” she says.
Bruno says second time homebuyers of property are likely to favour houses near sporting areas.
“As people are becoming more aware of the need to keep fit, a realtor is risking having a property without a sporting area. You may find that nobody will express interest in renting such homes eventually,” he said.