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Off-plan buying for Kenyans in eye of storm


This year started with murmurs about a housing company whose dealings were not quite above board. By February, the firm, Simple Homes, was unmasked as one of the biggest cases of fraud in the local real estate scene. Earlier this month, The Standard and its sister station KTN, shone the spotlight on Gakuyo Real Estate and Ekeza Sacco, where buyers are crying foul.

Those affected say their romised homes are not forthcoming. Claims, Thika-based bishop, David Ngari of Calvary Chosen Centre, dismissed as his political detractors were targeting Gakuyo Real Estate Company and Ekeza Sacco, which he owns, to destroy his business and church.

There have been quite a few cases of buyers purchasing houses off-plan only for the final product to be suspect. Either the developer used different fittings or lower quality of products than promised, or services that had been promised were not provided.

In the recent past, Home & Away has covered a few of such complaints from affec6ted homebuyers who said they were short changed by developers after the delivered product differed from what was promised. In some cases, some amenities were not delivered at all, setting the scene for claims and counter claims by the sellers and buyers. For some, the problem has been ove-promising and under-delivering. For others, however, it is nothing short of outright fraud and conmanship.

In one case, adeveloper promised to dig a borehole, but went quite after selling his units, forcing buyers to spend Sh6 million digging the borehole in addition to digging trenches for storm water drainage.

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But what sets the stage for such a state of affairs? The answers is close to our hearts. The desire to own homes, one that many Kenyans can readily identify with.

Home ownership craze

“There is a home ownership craze going around. We are slowly moving away from the tradition where people only build their houses in the rural areas for retirement. Now, it is building where you live and work,” says James Angwenyi, a homeowner.

According to Angwenyi, this craze is what has put some potential homeowners at a cross-road with developers who are eager to take advantage of desperate clients.

According to George Muhati, a psychologist, developers are now using a psychological approach and a game of the mind as a sale tool.

This after realising that the rising middle-class, have grown an appetite for living large in attractive gated communities that harbour Jacuzzi’s, shopping malls at a subsidised price. Enterprising investors have come up with mouthwatering property plansand computer made graphics that are turning on the restless young potential homeowners, who when they envisage this end product in their imaginations, they can’t let go.

“The dazzling investors are taking advantage of this vastly rising group of middle class chaps. They are creating what these guys are looking up to impress, that is why due diligence is paramount,” says Muhati. According to Muhati, our fathers rarely trusted banks or developers with their money, but they have also fallen victims of pyramid schemes.

Equally, after shunning banks and property developers, those that did trust these banks and developers with financing models are the ones owning mega properties in the major cities, something that has changed the mindset of the many who are now looking up to banks and developers for lucrative financing models.

“When I first started working as a clerk with the government in the Planning ministry in the 1990s, the big banks were in control of all major cities in Kenya,” Ezra Wanjohi, a former national government planner, says.

“But you can see now it is the big house-builders. We have moved away from being controlled by the big banks to industry pace-setters,” he says.

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