Imagine waking up in the morning and having your breakfast as you take in a panoramic view of Nairobi from your 14-floor home. After the meal, you grab a book and climb to the rooftop terrace, slump into a comfortable seat, kick off your warm slippers and wiggle your feet as you feel the fresh dew on the grass caress your soles.
Welcome to the new and game-changing trend for Kenya’s high-end residential estates, which now allow you to enjoy a leisurely swim on the rooftop of your 12th-floor apartment while your friends and neighbours watch the latest blockbuster film at a mini-theatre on ground floor, free of charge!
From golf courses, piped gas and roof-top terraces to elevated swimming pools, mini theatres and food grinders, Kenya’s developers have begun to pack their developments with fine touches, literally selling not just homes, but lifestyles.
Billions of shillings have been pumped into massive real estate projects across the country, with developers competing to offer visually appealing estates packed with unparalleled splendour, state-of-the-art amenities and majestic architecture.
Ms Sue Muraya of Suraya Properties thinks this has been long overdue as “buying a home is all about choosing a lifestyle”.
“A new home binds the family more closely as you enjoy happiness and joy whenever you are home,” says Ms Muraya. “Investors need to come up with projects that match one’s expectations and lifestyle. You have to resonate with the home owner’s needs, class, taste and preferences.”
Her firm is currently putting up two developments at Riverside and Lavington, Nairobi, that will boast waterfalls, gardens on the seventh floor, and heated, elevated swimming pools.
“It’s all about thinking about the needs of clients and making their dreams come true,” she says. “These are apartments, but we have designed them to give one the feeling of living in a maisonette or villa. Just because you live in an apartment does not mean you cannot enjoy a terrace.
“It is also all about packaging property trends and lifestyle into a product. You want to have a pool but at the same time want to accommodate the parking lot. All you need to do is raise the pool so that the car park goes beneath it.”
Most of the times, the area, location, and size of the plot determine what the development will hold, and these in turn become guides on the features the project will have. Developers and architects strive to offer the most out of these determinants.
Mr Abdullahi Dahir of Hazen Properties says that, in attracting the high-end market, you need to have the wow factor, and this means thinking outside the box.
Hazen, who are currently developing the Everest Court in Kileleshwa, say they have decided to up the game by offering a five-bedroom master-ensuite apartment billed as a trendsetter in the market.
“Most people will always build up to three-bedroom apartments, but we have decided to offer five bedrooms plus expanded floor space. That’s the selling point. Land is difficult to come by, which is why we are offering the market a house big enough to live in comfortably with a large family, and within a serene neighbourhood,” Mr Dahir says.
“Rarely, if ever, will you find an apartment with three ensuite bedrooms, a family room and servants quarters. It’s about capturing the niche market. People like homes that are practical, and that offer an independent living space.”
Because of the changing trends and rising expectations of buyers, developers are now tasking architects to build unique residential buildings that will resonate with their clients’ tastes and lifestyles.
The market’s appetite for luxurious developments, therefore, is making developers generate innovative concepts that are set to change the face of most counties.
Every aspect designed to enhance quality of life
According to Ocean Seven Director Mahmud Visram, it is the appetite for unique and luxurious developments that is driving players within the industry to become innovative.
“In cities like Dubai, this concept is very popular and we have introduced it here after extensive market research. Every aspect of Ocean Seven has been designed to enhance quality of life, setting new standards for luxury living in Kenya.
“The ocean and the pristine, white sandy beaches are a perfect backdrop to life at Ocean Seven, and an Olympics-length swimming pool has been worked into the expansive 17-acre garden,” Mr Visram says.
The Ocean Seven development, being put up where the former Sun ’N’ Sand Hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi, stood, has roped in Arup, a global firm of service engineers, designers and consultants who are behind some of the world’s best architectural masterpieces, including the Sydney Opera House in Australian and Beijing Olympics Stadium in China.
The cost of owning a house in these developments is above-average, but the benefits are deemed to outweigh the price.
Property valuer Peter Mwangi says the exclusivity of these multi-billion developments portrays the kind of targeted clients as the features offered in them are among the first in the real estate market within the Eastern African region.
“The developers are trying to cash in on a niche market that has a high taste and would like to have everything under one roof. The market is looking for innovative designs, creative use of materials, and land use plan, among others, and home owners are willing to pay heavy premiums to get to these neighbourhoods,” Mr Mwangi says.
Such estates are a common feature in countries like Egypt and South Africa, and Kenya is quickly catching up as developers are targeting the upper end of the market, which knows what it wants and is quick to close transactions.
“The market is yearning for a different kind of real estate that will include leisure, comfort and luxury. That is why developers are willing to sink in billions to provide such outstanding projects. With a market that is willing to pay, we will soon start seeing eco-friendly residential estates, compete with the latest IT trends,” says Mr Mwangi.
As the new residential homes become the new currency, exuding affluence and pride, developers will strive to provide luxury abodes that present the trappings of the home owners’ lifestyles, and designs that speak about their character.
For the home owners, the homes will speak of their newly acquired status, affluence and pride.