, The numbers, the developers tell me, show the popularity of the golf estate concept, “We’ve already sold 20 percent of the units in a span of three months. I know people who’ve been selling for three years and they’ve done only 15 percent. I’m actually pleading with people to buy soon because very soon the prices will go up due to demand,” Wamae says of Buffalo Hills Leisure and Golf Village.
“In terms of sales we are halfway or past halfway the project. And we still have time to bring in more buyers so we are very happy,” Karuri says of Longonot Gate.
The same, Njihia says, holds true for Thika Greens, “We’re getting a lot of offers. People would really like to be where the golf course is.”
Location is everything. So much so that buyers are willing to pay a premium, “The golf course is a major consideration in terms of pricing. The plots outside the golf village are selling at Sh600,000 for an eighth and a quarter acre within the golf village is going for two million (shillings).”
Location and prestige, those involved in the golf estates seem to agree, drive the popularity of golf estates.
“When somebody tells you he’s selling you a house where there’s a golf estate, a club house, maybe there’s a retirement village, the concept which is Migaa, you feel like you really have to buy it. It belongs to people of that class, of golf,” Pius Mochere, a Mortgage Advisor with Kenya Commercial Bank says. One of the projects he offers his counsel on is the Sandstone Golf Estate planned for Naivasha.
Sentiments Karuri shares: “A lot of families who are keen to live in golf estates do not necessarily play golf but they consider it a prestigious sport. They believe that it brings along family prestige. It enhances your social status. So what happens is that only about 15 to 20 percent of those people who are buying in golf estates actually play golf.”
Location is critical to the success of a golf development. Two factors come into play: given these developments span close to 2,000 acres enough land has to be available and secondly, the developments cannot be too far from the capital.
The Buffalo Hills golf village for instance was not initially planned for until more land became available, “Phase one was already done but it did not comprise a golf village,” Wamae says, “the idea came around January when we were offered this land by the owner.”
“Somebody wants to build an estate and you can’t get that big piece of land near the town. You’d get it on the outskirts like Naivasha and Thika,” Mochere concurs.
““While I chaired the Architectural Association of Kenya [between 1998 and 2001] we were already propagating for communities that can decongest the urban areas.” Karuri adds.
Njihia admits the congestion in the capital has residents of the city seeking refuge outside the city but insists a balance must be struck. It cannot be too far, “People are moving from Nairobi, getting a place to relax is harder. Thika road has made it possible to have the best of both worlds making it a half hour commute.”
And this is just the market Buffalo Hills targets, according to Wamae; “We would like to have people who can afford to live in a golf estate, drive to work and come back.”
An advantage Karuri says Longonot Gate also offers its buyers; “There’s a good number of new generation retirees who are coming out of very comfortable living in the urban areas and they don’t want to retire in the rural area. They also don’t want to retire in the city.”
Their high potential for success aside golf estates are, as indicated by Njihia earlier, capital intensive affairs.
“We don’t have adequate infrastructure to support the large projects coming up. So the private investor is being forced to do what government should do because you don’t have the ability to fast track a government programme and if you don’t provide those services your project will not be occupied. You have to put that budget on the table and do it yourself,” Karuri says.
However, even with the cost implications taken into account, Wamae is of the opinion the only way for golf estates to go is up, “A majority of Kenyans within the last five years have moved to a very high end bracket in terms of their salaries and remuneration. As a result the market is actually demand driven. And it is likely to exist for some time. I can assure you that even when we get a second developer coming up with the concept, the concept is still likely to pick up.”