At the foothills of Africa’s second-highest mountain, Kenyan developer Ronald Ndegwa is building a multimillion-dollar leisure development targeted at high-income buyers. The 123-acre Mt Kenya Holiday Homes and Golf Resort development will eventually have 95 homes for sale, and also features a wildlife conservancy and a nine-hole golf course.
The project has attracted a mix of Kenyans and expatriates, with women making up more than 55% of the buyers.
“We have had slightly more women buyers. It is mostly women in their late 30s and early 40s. The ladies are very good in decision making – if they like the place they buy it. If they like a brand and they can associate with the lifestyle – they make the decision very quickly,” says Ndegwa.
Traditionally, high-end real estate projects in Kenya were targeted at male buyers. But Ndegwa says women are “significantly financially empowered”, and are making high-value purchases. Some of the homes have been bought by women investment groups, commonly referred to as chamas.
A four-bedroom villa at the development costs about Ksh.30m (US$296,000).
Some of the buyers have opted to relocate to the project, but the majority are using their homes for weekend visits or to lease out. The development also attracts weddings, corporate events, and tourists climbing Mt Kenya.
Property development challenges
“I had owned the farm for 10 years and I was excited by the possibility of transforming it into a tourism product. The Mt Kenya tourism circuit had inadequate quality bed capacity and this was limiting tourists visiting our area and the numbers of people climbing the mountain,” says Ndegwa.
Some of the challenges the entrepreneur has faced include accessing financing to fund much-needed infrastructural developments.
“When you are… selling to people off-plan, cash flows is always the most difficult one. When you go to the bank they ask you for four to five years audited accounts and your business is not even that old. They tend to judge you from history instead of based on the promise,” says Ndegwa.
“It is only after we started winning some international accolades that the same banks that were turning us away started calling us. It is a pity that our banking model wants to help you when you succeed, not when you need help to succeed.
“Now we have a good track record and we are working with a regional financier to tap into the diaspora and the mortgage markets.”
Initially, getting buyers was also difficult, partly due to the existence of several other golf developments in Kenya. There have also been concerns about delays in completion of some projects.
“Some of the projects have not seen the light of day, yet people paid deposits. But when we did the infrastructure and developed the golf course, we started attracting buyers. We are also home owners in the development so we could show people that we are not trying to build, sell, and exit,” notes Ndegwa.