REAL estate is currently one of the booming businesses at the Coast especially in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties.
The coastal city of Mombasa has seen a tremendous expansion of the construction industry which for a long period was stagnant.
By the start of the millennium, Swahili houses were the face of the Mombasa town and its outskirts. Storey houses were only found within the town centre.
To date Mombasa does not have a building that goes beyond 17-storeys; the tallest building remains the government-owned 17-floor Bima Tower found within the Central Business District along Digo Road.
Mwenda Thuranira, the chief executive officer of MySpace Properties, says with proper structures Mombasa's CBD has a potential of becoming the next Dubai.
In reality, Mombasa's CBD only stretches along the Digo road, since the town is surrounded by residential homes in Old Town, Ganjoni, Kizingo, Bondeni, Mwembe Tayari and Majengo areas.
Nyali, which used to be a residential estate for who-is-who in Mombasa in the 90s, is now becoming a business hub with sky scrapers and commercial building sprouting up each day.
The future of Mombasa's business centre now seems to lies in Nyali since the CBD cannot be expanded and Nyali is just a few kilometers from the main town.
MySpace Properties has done a number of projects in Nyali and other posh residential areas in the region and has helped flourish the real estate business in Mombasa.
Thuranira says he came back to Kenya in 2008 from the US, where he had gone for studies, and he saw an opportunity to invest in real estate.
Back in Texas USA, where he was studying piloting, Thuranira says he saw an opportunity to venture into real estate and decided to give it a try.
“However in 2008 there was financial crisis in US and real estate business went down prompting many individuals to quit. I came back to Kenya to start a company and Mombasa became my first choice as I had already set up a base in the region.”
He says he had fallen in love with Mombasa since he was a young boy: “We used to come to Mombasa with my family and while at Mama Ngina drive, I would point at some the houses next to the shores of the Indian Ocean saying one day I will have a house facing the beach,”
At around 2008, after coming back to Kenya, Thuranira says there was no single real estate company in the region.
He says he did a six-month survey on the sustainability of putting up such a company in Mombasa town, which at that time was not being considered for massive development.
“I found out that people were building homes, but no single company offered sales and marketing services for those who wish to buy or sell their property,” he says.
“To me this was a problem identified and I saw an opportunity to invest because I believed where there is a problem there is always an opportunity,” says Thuranira.
He has since helped grow the real estate industry at the Coast and his company has become a house hold name.
Since MySpace entered into the real estate market at the Coast it has been able to transform a number of things.
The CEO says they entered into the market during the ‘dark days’ when estate agents were seen as people whose interest was to swindle clients.
However, property agent business is now seeing as a genuine business which has been able to employ thousands of people.
“We have been able to restore dignity in this noble business. We are now thinking of how best we can improve the business to be able to employ thousand of other jobless youth in this country,” says Thuranira.
However, there are challenges that hinder the smooth growth of this industry among them lack of proper government systems.
According to MySpace CEO, there are a lot of bureaucracies involved when one wants to get approval for a plan of a house or property.
An investor will be forced to walk in and out of government offices for more than six months to get his/her plan approved. These bureaucracies scare away investors.
Another challenge is project financing since apart from Housing Finance, he says Kenya lacks standalone mortgage companies.
Thuranira says banks are the ones which offer mortgage assistance unlike other countries where mortgage companies are different from financial institutions.
“We should have independent mortgage companies which have specialised in offering assistance in real estate development,” he urges.
The future prospect of this business is really promising and by the year 2030, about 50 per cent of Kenyans will be living in urban centres.
Thuranira says with emerging new projects like the Lappset project, Dongo Kundu by-pass and mining in the region, this will open up new developments and demand for houses will significantly rise.
The hotel industry stakeholders have been complaining that real estate businessmen are taking over their businesses by coming up with apartments that are posing competition to them.
However, Thuranira says hoteliers need to give their clientèle good reasons why they should opt for their hotels and not the fast rising furnished apartments.
He says visitors prefer apartments to hotels because of the comfort. Apartments are free compared to hotels which operate on a timetable and food menus.
Thuranira says in an apartment people can eat or cook whatever they like while hotels just offer buffets. Apartment also accommodates large families unlike hotel rooms which are designed for couples and small families.
“Free advice to hotel owners, repackage your services and focus more on conferencing and entertainment, says Thuranira.
He says the reason Mombasa is not growing as fast as Nairobi, is because most of most multi-national companies have offices in Nairobi.
He says if real estate developers can attract those companies to this region, demand for secure office places is going to increase and obviously Mombasa will construction of skyscrapers.