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Friday, March 13, 2009

Investing in Property in Kenya is foolish


Another reason why I do NOT believe investing in property in Kenya. I also blogged on why I don't invest in property in Kenya... Here is the link to that.

AFTER planning approvals, AFTER construction permits, AFTER construction, AFTER occupancy permits, AFTER... AFTER... the government wakes up and condemns the Westgate and Ukay malls.

I do not have the full details on the matter... nor who is right or wrong...

The concept of property rights simply does not exist in Kenya.

Examples:

- Land-grabbing by the political elite (jomo 'crooked wa ngengi' kenyatta & cronies) in the 60s & 70s.
- Land purchased from the 'White Farmers' redistributed to the politically connected. Real landless lose to the already landed in the 60s.
- Expropriation of property & businesses of Kenyan-Asians in the 1960s & 1970s.
- Forcible removal/eviction of 'up-country' folk during the Likoni clashes in the 1990s.
- dan moi would sign away government land as a reward for his cronies.
- Forcible removal (through violence) of Kikuyus from many sections of the Rift Valley in 2008. 
Fake Title Deeds and 'missing' files at the Lands Office.
- Adverts in the newspaper on a regular basis about caveats on land for sale (or not for sale).
- Signboards all over Nairobi proclaiming "This Land Is Not For Sale".

I believe in investing in Africa (incl Kenya) but not in land or property. For residents/citizens,I recommend at most a modest (or affordable within their portfolio) house but not much more than that!

Now... I am thinking how much exposure Kenyan banks have to 'condemned' land or buildings. I am worried...

Of course, while pretending to care about the environment... the government is on a tear condemning fragile eco-systems like the Tana Delta & Masai Mara.

41 comments:

ke said...

The rule of law begins with property rights. A lot of people think it's the constitution, but property rights are the bedrock of all modern societies. Without it, you are screwed.

Orengo, the lawyer, should know this. I understand he is trying to tackle a problem, but is this the best solution?

The entire city needs a more comprehensive redevelopment plan that will involve a whole slew of ministries, from roads, to water, to local government, etc, etc...

I don't understand why policy makers in kenya don't study how other cities in the world have dealt with this issue of redevelopment and renewal.

India is currently implementing an urban renewal program in new delhi. They should look at that and at other cities in the world like Singapore city or even cape town.

MainaT said...

Orengo has been another big disappointment. Everytime he opens his mouth, he is being RAO's dog. Instead of getting on with a job that is super urgent. We need land maps and title deeds that work. We need the maps to be integrated into every bit planning that is done. Otherwise, it'll be two step forwards one backward.

PKW said...

Poor Nakumatt, first Thika road, then the Downtown fire, then this?

I was reading that piece on Business Daily in the matatu-they call them taxis here- this morning and the funny thing is that I was thinking of your earlier post.

Bottom line for me is that everything is risky. I will take a calculated risk and buy land and/or property in Kenya and/or Uganda...some day! I never feel like I get much value from rent. It's exhorbitant, and I don't think it's getting cheaper any time soon.Another thing that makes it attractive is that payback periods for real estate are relatively short (or so I think), and returns have been sky-high of late. Even though you bought and sat on it for the legal 24 months in Kenya or 5 years in UG, we're talking in the neighbourhood of 300% or so in the past 3 or so years.

I honestly think Orengo is doing the right thing as far as the environment is concerned,though the motive is dubious at best. The government should own up and compensate investors. It's the govt that has failed everyone by failing to have city/town plans, being corrupt, and painfully slow at practically everything.

CT, you never answered my question in the earlier post. Where do you invest in real estate, outside of Africa? The West are sinking sands right now.

coldtusker said...

PKW: Only invest in property near where you live... or can be around for a while.

Outside of Kenya... no idea but the best time to buy is when prices are low... and populations are growing at a rate that is manageable.

The USA (in some areas) fits the bill. Why?

Strong property rights. Low prices (for now). Mortgages available (20% down). Population growth of 2%.

coldtusker said...

ke: I agree. The endemic theft is coz there are no 'rights' to anything in Kenya.

And a complete re-think is needed for Nairobi. I agree we need to save the rivers but more can be gained (using less money) by 'fining' the defaulters then putting the cash to good use by securing the up-river (catchment areas) as well as down-river (by recycling & water treatment).

coldtusker said...

MainaT: Protest letter from owners of Westgate to Ministry of Lands received a response... Oops!

Westgate should sue orengo for defamation.

PKW said...

CT: I see the point clearly, but how many regular Africans in Africa (i.e. not looting politicians or superwealthy businesspeople-probably through connections to politicians- have what it takes to make a downpayment, let alone the monthly payments in a place like the U.S.? If you're talking residential property, you probably need upwards of $20K to put down before you can get a mortgage for a (wooden) house in the USA that you'll totally own after 30 years. That means that if I 'bought' the house now, I'd be 60 or 61 when I fully own it, unless, of course, if it appreciates in value and I can sell it to buy another one. Heck, I'd rather fully own one in 5 years, and that'll appreciate in value much faster-ideally, that is. There's also rationale in borrowing and oaying in 30 years if you can get higher returns elsewhere. Thing is though, I'm yet to get anything offering higher real estate returns outside of Kenya/Uganda- the only places I'm learning about.

Population: the 5% so growth rate in our region (or thereabouts) is bad in absolute terms, but it's an opportunity dressed up as a problem. If I could, I'd be planting/buying food and houses right now. For sale to Kenyans.

Anonymous said...

Land ownership in Kenya is overrated. This "Kenyan disease" was brutally misused in the late 90's by a city planner in city hall and he raked in millions selling river riparian land, bypasses and electricity, water and drainage way-leaves to unsuspecting investors! The Lands Ministry caught on and Forests Ngong and Karura and some gazetted historical buildings were "sold" in that period. This was the period that the land between Mombasa Road and the National park was sold to industries for me the biggest crime because Nairobi's charm is in the fact that when you drive from the airport to the city you saw wild animals before getting to the city.

The thing is all this land (wayleaves, riparian areas etc.) are marked up in maps at city hall. The planners rely on peoples ignorance to scheme them out of cash.

The thumb rule for any land deal is to NOT buy any piece of land that has a measurement that is either 6,9 or 18 metres length or width on any side, it is probably a way-leave. Any land that is next to a road, river, sewage line, military installation, high power line, forest etc. should be treated with the most utter suspicion! If the deal is a "bargain" i.e. say KSH1m in an area where an acre goes for about KSH3m think twice about it. Another thing is to check if there is a court case involving the piece of land. Most land owners will "sell-off" land to others even though there is an ongoing ownership dispute in court! The government can be stopped by a court order from destroying a building that is being built illegally till judgement but the court does not stop the developer from carrying on with his plans... developers do carry on 100% of the time with their plans passing on the risk to others.

The City Council does not mind giving you a building permit. They are interested in the fees that they get. The only thing is they suppose that you make sure your architect has checked out the location and knows the future plans that were or are in the 1973 Nairobi master plan. This is why the city council contradicts itself by giving building permits to someone only to revoke it later when the building is built.

Maria said...

Let me state this Land and property is a good investment to make in Kenya.
The rents and value have more than risen over 1000% in the past 15 years. But before you invest do your due diligence that you don't buy the properties which are on wetlands, grabbed land or on road reserves.
All these problems have come as a result of corruption from the City Council, Lands office, Nema and all other ministries involved.
Kenya is sinking in the rot of corruption.

However for investment look towards home you'd never go wrong and if the worst comes to the worst you can always sell it and recoup all or even more of your money.

coldtusker said...

PKW: Well, risk/reward. And you can buy REITs in the USA. For direct ownership... always buy where you are!

Over-population means an increase in agitation to disenfranchise genuine land-owners.

coldtusker said...

Anon: Thanx. Interesting. Who is this city planner?

Maria: Past does not predict the future.

With all the scams (fake Tile Deeds) at the highest levels... my chances of getting scammed are very very high.

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In my opinion, investing in Kenyan real estate properties need not be complicated. This is because there are a wide variety of real estate options to suit the needs of every kind of buyer.

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Do insurance companies have cover for those eventualities when your property is demolished? If not why. Is it too much of a risk to them. Or do they attribute that to negligence on an investors part.

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