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Understanding the world of real estate: A vast and lucrative venture

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Global real estate market was valued at US$9.8 trillion in 2023 and is predicted to reach US$14.54 trillion by 2030.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The real estate industry is one of the most diverse and profitable sectors globally.

Market intelligence provider, Next Move Strategy Consulting, indicate that the global real estate market was valued at US$9.8 trillion in 2023 and is predicted to reach US$14.54 trillion by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate of 5.8 per cent from 2024 to 2030.

This can be attributed to various factors such as surge in urbanisation, and accelerated growth and industrialisation in developing countries, such as Kenya.

This vast and intricate industry therefore employs a huge number of people who all play vital roles in shaping the built environment we inhabit.

From architects envisioning futuristic skylines to various types of engineers ensuring structural integrity, and from surveyors mapping out the lay of the land to interior designers crafting spaces that evoke wonder and emotions, each profession adds a distinct thread to the rich landscape real estate development.

Today, we look at some of these professions and the roles that each play.

Architects – the design gurus of the built environment

Architects stand at the forefront of shaping the built environment, crafting innovative structures that blend functionality, sustainability, and cultural relevance.

From iconic commercial skyscrapers in cities, to sustainable mass housing projects or private residences, these professionals play integral roles in realising their client’s architectural dreams.

In Kenya, architects are governed by the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) and the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS), and they undergo rigorous training and accreditation to ensure adherence to professional standards and ethical practices.

There are various types of architects:

Residential architects specialise in designing homes, either for individuals who are looking for a home that reflects their lifestyle and preferences, or businesses or people looking to build homes for commercial purposes.

They blend aesthetics with functionality to create sanctuaries of comfort and style. Commercial architects, on the other hand, navigate zoning regulations and spatial requirements to design office complexes, retail centres such as malls, and hospitality venues that foster productivity and engagement.

Landscape architects integrate natural elements and ecological principles into the built environment, creating sustainable landscapes that enhance biodiversity and mitigate environmental impact.

They also champion eco-conscious practices, incorporating renewable energy systems, passive design strategies, and locally sourced materials to minimise carbon footprint and promote environmentally friendly constructions.

Engineers – the guardian of structural integrity

Engineers in Kenya are the guardians of structural integrity, ensuring that buildings and infrastructure projects withstand the test of time and environmental pressures.

Regulated by the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK), engineers work closely with architects to not only ensure the built environment is appealing, but is also structurally sound, practical and safe.

Structural engineers are tasked with creating frameworks that withstand the forces of nature and human activity.

Whether designing skyscrapers that pierce the skyline, bridges that span expansive waterways, or residential complexes, structural engineers employ advanced engineering principles and cutting-edge technologies to ensure the stability, strength, and durability of built structures.

By analysing complex loads, stresses, and dynamics, structural engineers mitigate risks associated with structural failures and ensure the safety of occupants and communities.

Civil engineers, on the other hand, play a vital role in shaping our landscape, overseeing the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects that facilitate connectivity, mobility, and economic growth. From roads and highways to water supply systems and sewage treatment plants, civil engineers employ their expertise in hydraulics, geotechnical engineering, and transportation planning to address the diverse needs of urban and rural communities. By integrating sustainable practices and resilient design principles into their projects, civil engineers can contribute to sustainable development agenda, enhancing quality of life and promoting inclusive growth.

Geotechnical engineering, which is a branch of civil engineering specialises in soil composition analysis, geological formations, and groundwater conditions to assess the stability and suitability of building sites.

Environmental Engineers: Stewards of Sustainability

Environmental engineers play a crucial role in promoting sustainability and mitigating the environmental impact of construction projects. By integrating green technologies, renewable energy systems, and environmentally friendly materials into their designs, environmental engineers minimise carbon footprint, reduce energy consumption, and preserve natural resources. From wastewater treatment facilities to green building certifications, environmental engineers champion eco-conscious practices that align with Kenya's commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Surveyors – because boundaries are critical

Surveyors are the cartographers of the real estate industry, mapping out the terrain with precision and accuracy, laying the groundwork for development projects to take shape.

Land surveyors are entrusted with the task of accurately defining property boundaries, conducting cadastral surveys, and preparing land title documents that form the foundation of property ownership and land administration in Kenya.

Governed by the Institute of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK), land surveyors employ state-of-the-art surveying equipment and techniques to measure and demarcate land parcels with precision and reliability. Land surveyors play a crucial role in preventing land disputes, supporting land registration initiatives, and promoting secure land tenure systems.

Quantity surveyors are the custodians of cost management in construction projects, responsible for estimating, budgeting, and controlling costs throughout the project lifecycle.

Also regulated by ISK, quantity surveyors employ their expertise in construction economics, procurement, and contract administration to ensure that projects remain financially viable and within budgetary constraints.

By quantifying materials, labour, and resources, quantity surveyors facilitate informed decision-making, optimise resource allocation, and mitigate financial risks for clients and stakeholders.

Building surveyors specialise in inspecting and assessing the condition of existing structures, identifying defects, and recommending remedial actions to maintain safety, functionality, and compliance with building regulations.

Under the purview of ISK, building surveyors conduct thorough inspections of residential, commercial, and industrial properties, providing property owners, investors, and insurers with valuable insights into the structural integrity and maintenance needs of buildings.

Interior designers – creating one experience at a time

Interior designers wield their creative prowess to transform spaces into vibrant, functional, and aesthetically pleasing environments.

From residential sanctuaries to commercial hubs and hospitality venues, these professionals infuse their designs with cultural influences, sustainability principles, and innovative solutions. The governing body for designers in Kenya is the Interior Designers Association of Kenya (IDAK).

Residential interior designers specialise in crafting personalised living spaces that reflect the lifestyles, tastes, and aspirations of homeowners.

Real estate

Each profession adds a distinct thread to the rich landscape real estate development.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

With an eye for detail and a keen understanding of spatial dynamics, these designers curate furnishings, colours, and decor elements to evoke comfort, style, and functionality.

On the other hand, commercial interior designers focus on optimising the functionality, aesthetics, and brand identity of commercial spaces such as offices, retail stores, and restaurants.

By integrating ergonomic furniture, innovative layouts, and strategic lighting solutions, these designers create environments that enhance employee productivity, customer engagement, and brand loyalty.

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, interior designers champion eco-conscious principles and practices, integrating renewable materials, energy-efficient systems, and biophilic design elements into their projects.

Real estate agents and property managers

Real estate agents and property managers serve as indispensable guides, navigating clients through the complexities of property transactions and ensuring the efficient management of real estate assets.

From facilitating sales and leases to overseeing property maintenance and tenant relations, these professionals play vital roles in driving the growth and sustainability of the real estate industry.

Real estate agents in Kenya serve as trusted advisors, assisting clients in buying, selling, or leasing properties while providing expert guidance and negotiation support, and are licensed by the Estate Agents Registration Board (EARB).

Commercial real estate agents specialise in leasing, sales, and development of commercial properties, matching tenants with the perfect office space or investors with lucrative investment opportunities.

Industrial real estate agents play a vital role in the acquisition and disposition of industrial properties such as warehouses, distribution centres, and manufacturing facilities, catering to the unique needs of industrial clients.

Land agents specialise in the acquisition and sale of vacant land, guiding clients through the process of land development, zoning regulations, and environmental considerations.

Leasing agents represent landlords and tenants in lease negotiations, ensuring that lease agreements are fair, equitable, and legally sound.

Property managers serve as the custodians of real estate assets, overseeing day-to-day operations, maintenance, and tenant relations to maximise property value and investment returns.

Residential property managers ensure that rental properties are well-maintained and tenanted, handling everything from rent collection and lease enforcement to maintenance requests and tenant disputes.

Commercial property managers oversee the management of office buildings, retail centres, and mixed-use developments, implementing strategies to attract and retain tenants, optimise occupancy rates, and enhance the overall tenant experience.

Facilities managers focus on the operational efficiency and functionality of buildings, overseeing maintenance, repairs, and renovations to ensure that facilities meet the needs of occupants and stakeholders.

Asset managers take a strategic approach to property management, developing and implementing investment strategies to optimize asset performance, mitigate risks, and maximise returns for property owners and investors.

Community association managers specialise in managing condominiums, homeowner associations, and cooperative housing developments, ensuring compliance with governing documents, managing common areas, and fostering a sense of community among residents.

Appraisers and financial analysts

Appraisers play a critical role in the real estate ecosystem, providing unbiased assessments of property value that serve as the foundation for informed decision-making in real estate transactions, financing, and investment.

Real estate appraisers conduct thorough inspections and analyses of properties, taking into account factors such as location, size, condition, and comparable sales data to determine fair market value.

Property valuers specialise in assessing the value of properties for taxation, insurance, financial reporting, and litigation purposes, providing expert opinions that stand up to scrutiny in legal proceedings and regulatory matters.

Land appraisers focus on valuing vacant land and undeveloped properties, considering factors such as zoning regulations, development potential, and environmental constraints to determine land value.

Appraisers in Kenya are regulated by the Valuers Registration Board (VRB), which sets standards for professional practice, education, and ethical conduct in the valuation profession.

Financial experts specialise in providing investment advice, financial analysis, and risk management solutions to real estate investors, developers, and other industry participants.

Leveraging their expertise in finance, economics, and market dynamics, these professionals offer insights into market trends, investment opportunities, and portfolio diversification strategies.

Financial experts may belong to various professional bodies such as the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) or the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society of Kenya, which provide accreditation, training, and professional development opportunities for financial professionals across different sectors, including real estate.

Construction managers and workers

This last category forms the backbone of the real estate industry. Construction managers are entrusted with the responsibility of orchestrating the entire construction process, from initial planning to project completion.

By coordinating the efforts of architects, engineers, subcontractors, and workers, construction managers ensure that projects are delivered on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards.

Some of their responsibilities include: developing project plans, schedules, and budgets; procuring materials, equipment, and labour; managing subcontractor relationships and contracts; overseeing site safety, quality control, and regulatory compliance; resolving project challenges and mitigating risks; and communicating progress and updates to clients or their employers.

Construction workers form the skilled workforce responsible for executing the physical construction tasks on-site, ranging from excavation and foundation work to finishing and landscaping.

From carpenters and masons to electricians and plumbers, these craftsmen bring their expertise and dedication to every aspect of the construction process, ensuring that projects are built to specification and quality standards.

While there might be many more people who are involved in real estate projects depending on their types and scale, these professionals form the core of the real estate industry and the built world.

Together, these professionals contribute to the growth, sustainability, and vibrancy of Kenya's real estate sector, shaping the nation's built environment and enriching the lives of its residents.