Bridging gap between home owners and tenants isn’t easy
Briefly describe your journey to become an estate agent.
I previously worked for different organisations as a social researcher, sales and marketing. The experience gave me a good background in understanding different lifestyles.
Since the job involved a lot of interaction with people, data collection and travelling around the country, I got to understand the up market, middle and lower residential areas, which became useful when I joined real estate in 2005.
What inspired you to start your business and how is it running one in Kenya?
Business requires consistency, professionalism and resilience. Real estate is a male dominated industry, therefore it’s tough. Hut Property Managers was registered in 2008.
Having lost my job during the 2007/08 post-election violence, I was left with nothing. My best friend advised me to start my own company — she even loaned me money, and would fuel her car for me to use during working hours.
My inspiration was job security and real estate provided that. I needed to take charge of my life and future through self-employment.
From your experience, why do we need property managers?
Property management is the core of real estate industry as it enhances the relationship between tenants and landlords. It’s more than just renting or selling a house.
Property managers offers holistic services to home owners, from rent collection, caretaking services, security, general maintenance of the property, and portfolio review.
Even though many landlords still prefer doing it themselves, a property management company is a huge asset for them, especially since many landlords have their regular jobs and find it hectic to deal with day-to-day issues concerning their properties or tenants.
What is the most challenging thing about property management in Kenya?
The challenges are many because you manage people too. Currently, our challenge is attracting, maintain quality tenants and lowering operating costs.
Since Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, there has been a total shake up of the market in Kenya, especially high end residential and commercial properties.
How do you convince a home owner who has been receiving rent for the last 15 years to reduce it by over 20 per cent?
People paying mortgages are not in a position to negotiate their rent, yet the sector does not care when markets fail.
The impact of the pandemic has left many property managers in a dilemma. The call for people to work from home, created many vacant spaces in office building; have been vacant since 2019.
There have been many cases of people being duped by real estate agents, how can one tell a genuine from a fake one?
When people visit the salon, they ask whether the person can do the job or not. They just don’t pick anyone on the streets. Why don’t we do the same with estate agents?
It’s easy to tell, simply request for their registration certificate or log into Estate Agents Registration Board (EARB) website. Registered agents names are published in Kenya Gazette annually.
Agents are given individual certificate to practice. There is low public awareness about the EARB, the body mandated to register estate agents.
But soon it will be impossible to practice real estate business without a license and there are serious penalties for those who are not registered.
What are the risks do non-licensed agents pose to the industry?
Those practicing without licenses are not real estate agents. You can’t offer legal services if you are not a lawyer. You need a license that allows you to do that.
Many people practicing as estate agents are actually not agents, they are doing it as a side hustle; therefore, they have no interest to register.
The other issue is the wait-see attitude by many agents who have been in business for years, since no one has been penalised for practicing without a license, it is business as usual while they are aware of the existence of a regulator EARB.
What kind of property are Kenyans buying at the moment and what advice would you give someone seeking to invest in real estate?
Kenyans are buying land. There is still a big demand for housing. Those interested in investing in real estate should not ignore the importance of due diligence, engaging lawyers, surveyors for conveyance no matter how small the property or the value is.
Many Kenyans often skip this to save money and entrust the agents or seller with everything. So much money has been lost because of ignorance. It’s sad and disturbing.
How have companies in the real estate sector adapted to technology?
Technology has transformed our world. Any competitive real estate company has adopted technology for selling or renting property as well as property management.
The ongoing digitalisation of land records is critical for the future to enable the public to access land record and do transactions online.
Your parting shot.
Regulation is the key for any industry to blossom. It is essential for economic growth of the country. Kenyans should normalise to have a culture of doing things within the law.