When Purity Wanjiru was shopping for an apartment to live in with her family, a swimming pool and a gym were some of the amenities she prioritised.
Her search led her to an apartment in Nairobi’s Kilimani which has a communal swimming pool and a gym.
It was a perfect fit as she could go to the gym and her children swim regularly. Then coronavirus pandemic hit hard, forcing the closure of the communal swimming pool and the gym, following the Ministry of Health guidelines on gatherings and physical distancing.
“We stopped using the common swimming pool while the gym was also locked after Nairobi turned into the epicentre of Covid-19,” says Ms Wanjiru.
For now, the only communal service that they sharing is the lift and many residents avoid it, opting to use the staircase to access their homes.
“A majority of people often opt to walk using the stairs to their houses,” says the mother-of-three.
Another homeowner John Mumbo, says he picked his apartment in Nairobi's Lavington because of its state-of-the-art fitness centre.
Twenty families live in the two and three-bedroom apartments.
“We have a huge common area at the rooftop which families can use for gatherings while keeping a social distance but people now prefer their balconies,” says Mr Mumbo. Although he does not like swimming, he says that those who had been frequenting the communal pool are missing out as it has been closed.
“The children are missing swimming especially at this time when they do not have much going on with closure of schools,” he says.
Shared or communal facilities such as clubhouses, swimming pools, lifts, concierge desks, and gyms have been significant in luring homebuyers to upmarket estates.
Homeowners and renters were more inclined to decide to buy or rent a house with lounge areas or communal bar, pushing developers to invest heavily in such attractions. Such features also increased the cost of the house or rent.
But will such homes be a hard sell in the future as people shy away from sharing?
Felix Onyango, the chief executive officer of Dominion Valuers—a real estate firm— thinks it is too early to explain the effect Covid-19 will have on communal facilities or gated developments.
He says the shared facilities will continue to feature in developments with homeowners taking lessons learnt from the prevention and handling of the virus to guide them in the usage going forward.
“Covid-19 has been here for about five months now and the best we can do at this point is to offer opinions,” he says.
However, Bonke Omwayi, the managing director of Step-Villas Real Estate Consultants differs in opinion. He says that going forward property buyers may become conscious of personal amenities.
“Since you cannot do away with apartments because the demand is high and they are built on a smaller piece of land, what the focus might not be after coronavirus is the common amenities which have been essential before,” says Mr Omwayi, adding that the only thing that might remain in the lift which could also be a personal choice as one can use the staircase.
He points out that he chose his apartment because of his children wanted a swimming pool.