Nairobi’s real estate scene is slowly being reshaped by evolving cultural shifts in a new generation, influenced mainly by millennial’s desires.
In the 70’s, housing estates were designed and constructed with the traditional definition of the African family structure — a man, a woman with several children living together — in mind. This influenced both the neighbourhoods, types of houses as well as living arrangements that first time house tenants sought.
For millennials, dynamism of thought processes and more liberal-centric individual lifestyles are playing a big part in this new renaissance.
Many youths’ views on marriage, number of children and extended family accommodation are changing. What were traditionally built as family houses are slowly being pulled down to accommodate apartment blocks or being converted into offices. Anthropologists have tried to model socio-economic ramifications of such changing family dynamics to inform industries and businesses. In Nairobi’s more formal neighbourhoods, housing developments must factor in future demand given the lifespan of a house is 30-40 years. Would such houses still have demand a decade from today? More so if they are mortgage financed. Ngong’ Road’s changing skyline occasioned by new multi-storied apartment blocks shows a trend likely to be replicated across similar neighbourhoods.
What is strange though is that despite existing supply and demand, there seems to be a mismatch in the speed of meeting each of the two party’s expectations.
It takes a bit long to get a tenant and a landlord’s quest for the “perfect house”. The real estate industry has no statistics on parameters like average time to lease/sell a house, average length of occupancy, age of tenants and other data useful to the competing owners and tenants.
Perhaps a lesson could be taken from the medical world’s organ donor programmes on efficient donor-recipient matching. In such established systems, the overriding principle is not just getting a recipient, but also “perfect matching” for a guaranteed long term solution.
For us, utility efficiency is paramount because beyond a certain timeline organ usefulness is lost. Thus, any house staying vacant for a couple of months is a financial loss for the developer.
To rethink the strategy, focus needs to shift and more resources allocated to “matching” these two parties. In the transplant world case, lots of time and resources are put to evaluate both the donor and recipient. Understanding the needs of these two is useful. A starting point is to have a central “clearing house” for those in need and suppliers.
A very fragmented system is not good, more so for those financing and building houses. Given the geographic reach of the small individual realtors, perhaps it is time a universal open and trustworthy system is implemented. Best so if run by city planners.