Ten years ago, Duncan Mitchell was not making a luxury property purchase. At that time, Vipingo Ridge in Kilifi, where he owns two houses was nothing but just sisal farms.
Mr Mitchell, a British conservationist, and his wife loved the area so much that they decided to buy land.
“We knew what we wanted and were optimistic that the estate would grow,” he says, sitting outside his house built on what was once a 2,500-acre sisal estate.
On their plot whose price has risen five times is a one-storey house with a blend of Kenyan and Singaporean décor, borrowed from his stay in the two countries.
The house has an open layout with an eat-in kitchen and a bar. Beyond the foyer is a living room with sliding glass doors that opens to a patio overlooking a property lined with indigenous trees and bougainvillea flowers on one side, and a swimming pool on the another.
“For a million dollars I would not sell this house. I have never been so happy. I love the climate here,” he says.
He adds: ‘‘My wife recently came from England but I did not accompany her back.”
Mr Mitchell has also bought another house just off the Vipingo Ridge PGA golf course which he plans to sell for Sh70 million.
Over the years, Watamu, Manda, Shela, Kilifi have been courting a new type of property buyers from Nairobi wealthy politicians to foreigners who were previously tourists.
Captivated by the unspoilt white beaches and laid-back lifestyle, they have decided to retire in Coast and make themselves at home.
Mr Mitchell, for instance, had lived in Nairobi’s Karen and at Tamarind Village in Mombasa before moving to Vipingo Ridge.
Homeowners in the coastal town say demand for property is expected to rise further due to construction of the dual carriageway from Malindi to Mombasa.
The area is helped by an increase in number of airlines flying daily to and from Nairobi attracting buyers of second and third homes.
Also, house-hunters are attracted to the low land prices compared to upmarket estates such as Runda and Nyari in Nairobi where an acre costs Sh68 million and Sh109 million respectively.
‘‘Ten years ago, an acre at Vipingo Ridge cost $80,000 (Sh8.1 million) and now the same land is going for $400,000 (Sh40.6 million), says Mr Mitchell.
Giancarlo Bonanno who has lived on the ridge for six years argues it is cheaper to live there than in the Nyali in Mombasa.
“If you want to buy a piece of land in an exclusive area as this you would have to pay between Sh90 million to Sh100 million an acre. I paid Sh15 million. Living here costs me Sh55,000 a month [service charges for playing golf and security],” he says.
Mr Bonanno says the wealthy want a very tight security detail and exclusiveness, the biggest expression of affluence.
“Some of us sleep without even locking the doors. The estate is surrounded by three metre high walls and is patrolled 24 hours by highly trained security personnel,’’ he says.
In Vipingo Ridge, one can either buy land and build or purchase finished villas that range from Sh25 million for a two-bedroom unit to Sh45 million for four-bedroom.
According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report, more super-rich are considering to buy homes in Kenya this year, with the majority being from India.
Other foreigners have already found a new home in Msambweni, South Coast of Mombasa where they spend their lazy days on dhow excursions or in the open ocean, fishing or swimming with dolphins.
Thomas Gronlykke, an architect who works at a Nairobi-based company owns a beach house he has named ‘Munje’.
The 10-bedroom house which he designed himself is built near private white sands under a 400-year-old baobab tree.
Mr Gronlykke from Denmark says he came to the laid-back, unspoilt Msambweni in 1986 and later built the home with his son.
“We found a one acre beach plot full of indigenous trees and a baobab tree probably more than 400 years old. We designed a courtyard type of house with small nooks and crannies to preserve the trees,” he says.
In 2011, his son Saina came back from the UK with a Master’s degree in engineering, and together they started a property development company. So far, he has designed Msambweni Beach House, an exquisite hotel in Ukunda and Radisson Blu in Nairobi.
Mr Gronlykke also builds responsibly. His elegant one storey family house has closed ventilation under the eaves, therefore naturally cools itself and it is mainly powered by solar.
In the house, the ardent art lover and collector has hang works of famous artists from Paul Gauguin, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Karel Appel, Hans Meyer Petersen and Kurt Trampedach. He is now selling the Msambweni home for Sh90 million.
About one-hour drive past Vipingo Ridge, there is Mandharini Villas. When the developers of the 22 houses relocated to the Coast, they brought with them a recognition that luxury travellers are a different breed from those of a decade ago.
Mwihaki Kahiga, Mandharini manager says what courts holiday homes buyers is not just the serene beaches but exclusivity.
“People want privacy and comfort. A property sells better if it is luxurious, if it is near a private beach and has a central point where people can interact,’’ she says. Most holiday home in Coast nowadays have golf courses, tennis and basketball courts.
Ms Kahiga says besides the European holidaymakers and expatriates the demand for homes by rich Kenyans is rising.
“We have a mix of both Kenyans and expatriates. The villas range from Sh38 million to Sh50 million,’’ she says.
Kenyans in the diaspora are also driving up the property sales says Hassan Shapi, the developer of Jasmine Villas in Diani selling at Sh18.5 million.
“We have sold five villas already and the buyers are all Kenyans some living in Nairobi and others in the US. The property owners only come here for holidays,’’ says Mr Shapi.