What you need to know:
- The units are going for Sh6.7 million, compared with Sh10.5 million for a similar house in Kitengela.
- Many banks and leading retail stores have established branches in Ruai, while motor vehicle retailers have set up yards.
- Most buyers are young professionals and business people who want land to build homes and settle here.
Just 10 years ago, the stretch of Kangundo Road between Kamulu and Malaa was a dusty, gravel thoroughfare running through an expansive, largely deserted, semi-arid area.
“There were few vehicles using this road. World Vision had set up a relief food distribution point at Joska to cater for the few, local inhabitants,” says Charles Nyanje, a sand-harvester-turned-land broker in Malaa.
I meet Mr Nyanje at 11am on a Thursday in a dimly-lit bar in Joska, where skimpily dressed women and “land brokers” are interacting closely.
Mr Nyanje explains that back then, insecurity was a big problem. “Armed, bhang-smoking goons used to terrorise motorists in private cars and there was no police station. Only lorries carrying sand and passenger buses were allowed through,” he recalls. But the tarmacking of Kangundo Road has transformed the neighbouring areas into residential suburbs with modern houses.
The road is busy 24 hours and is lined by lush food and vegetable farms at intervals. Increased settlement in Koma, Kantafu, Malaa, Joska, Kamulu, and Ruai along the route has seen the once-sleepy towns come to life.
Thanks to improved public transport, businesses have opened in the growing towns, which now boast supermarkets, hotels, nyama choma joints, bars and thriving open-air markets. A number of schools and medical facilities have been opened along the route, adding to the public amenities.
“This speaks of a growing socio-economic zone on the outskirts of Nairobi, where the city’s ever-growing population has found a new dormitory. There is an influx of people into the area,” says Stephen Munyiri, who bought land and invested in Malaa town.
He has just finished building his family house, an expansive luxurious maisonette. “Unlike what I build for my clients, this one is very personalised. Constructing and transforming spaces is my passion,” says the civil engineer.
He has built five three-bedroom (all en suite) bungalows with modern finishes and ceramic tile flooring for sale. “I imported all the fittings and finishes. I have to give quality since I am targeting the upcoming young people entering the middle class,” says Mr Munyiri.
The units are going for Sh6.7 million, compared with Sh10.5 million for a similar house in Kitengela. “It is all about the location…the name,” says Mr Munyiri, who used expanded polystyrene styrofoam (EPS) panels to cut costs in order to deliver affordable houses.
“Prospective buyers hesitate when they learn that I did not use stone. They question the strength and durability of EPS. Yet these panels are good for a hot locality like this one since they regulate temperatures and are also earthquake proof,” he says. Those who do not buy ready houses build their own, and the different house designs reflect the cultural diversity of the stretch, which is highly cosmopolitan.
A major beneficiary of these developments is Ruai town, whose importance as a commercial hub has grown. Ruai sits strategically on the Eastern side of Nairobi at the junction of Kangundo Road and the Eastern bypass that leads to Mombasa Road and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), and to Thika Road through Kamakis. The dualling of Outering Road has also helped ease traffic between the city centre and Kangundo Road, adding to its attractiveness.
Many banks and leading retail stores have established branches in Ruai, while motor vehicle retailers have set up yards. “But it is the land merchants and hardware retailers in Ruai who have benefited most from the influx,” says Mr Nyanje, adding that the high demand for land has seen its value appreciate. “Compared with areas like Utawala and Syokimau, land on Kangundo Road is still affordable,” he says.
Fanaka Real Estate Ltd is one of the land buying companies that has been selling serviced plots along Kangundo Road and the Eastern bypass. “We have been here for three years and we have seen people come and settle,” says Mr Moses Muriithi, the firm’s founder and director.
He buys huge tracts of land in Kamulu, Joska, Malaa, Kantafu, Ruiru East and Koma Hill which he subdivides into 1/8-acre and 1/4 –acre parcels, which retail at between Sh200,000 and Sh1 million. At Kamakis, which touches the Eastern Bypass, the price of land has gone up from Sh450,000 per quarter acre and is now retailing at between Sh1 million and Sh3 million.
Most buyers are young professionals and business people who want land to build homes and settle here, Mr Muriithi says. The firm allows payments in instalments for both chamas and individuals. “This has enabled us to accommodate even people with irregular income, business people who will definitely make money and be able to pay within the agreed period,” he says.
The firm specifically looks for land that is not far from the road. “People living here also need somewhere safe to be able to commute to work. That is why we have located all our projects close to the road,” he offers.
Before he started the company, Mr Muriithi, an IT expert, bought land in instalments using his savings and Sacco loans. “By the time I started Fanaka Real Estate, I already had eight plots in different prime areas of Nairobi,” he reveals. In 2015, he consolidated all these assets as part of the company.
He invested Sh10 million in both cash and land to constitute Fanaka Real Estate Ltd, which has eight staff members today. He attributes the growth of his company to the fact that their clients get clean, ready title deeds. “I give my clients a copy of the title deed to do their search at the Ministry of Land before they commit to pay,” he says.
Once the client has paid, their title deed is processed in a month, which he says has won them clients’ trust. The affordability of land has also contributed significantly to the growth of the area; it is only in towns along Kangundo Road — Ruai, Malaa, Kamulu, Joska, Kantafu, Juja (off Thika Road) and Koma Hill — that one can still find affordable land on the outskirts of Nairobi.
“In other areas, land costs about four times as much as it does here,” says Mr Muriithi. Although these locations have high potential for development, it wasn’t until two years ago that this was realised. Private schools, hospitals, public service vehicles (there are currently four matatu Saccos plying the route), and other businesses have opened up in the locality to take advantage of the growing population.
To improve security, four police stations have been set up, with one each in Ruai, Malaa, Koma Hill and Joska. Notably, unlike in many other areas where land matters are tricky, most of the land on Kangundo Road have clean titles held by the original owners. At a time when land around Nairobi is diminishing, this locality still has large parcels. Those with a good business sense move into the area, acquire land cheaply then subdivide and resell it at affordable rates but still make a profit.
“The value land in this place is appreciating very fast. The potential is very high,” says Mr Nyanje. Due to its peaceful nature, Kangundo Road has attracted people from all parts of the country, who co-habit peacefully. “Even if you were to look at these title deeds, you would find that there is no ‘dominant’ community here,” says Mr Muriithi as he signs some ____ transfer forms at his office.
Besides, this is a locality where people know each other. “You find people coming with their friends or relatives to buy land. They then build homes and settle here as neighbours,” notes Mr Nyanje. Interestingly, even when the real estate sector was undergoing a rough time during the prolonged electioneering period, the land merchants on Kangundo Road were doing good business.
“The property market in this locality has been very active in the last two years,” Mr Muriithi says. That is what prompted Fanaka Real Estate Ltd to collaborate with a construction management company, Pacific Realty Investments, to help their clients build on the land they have bought. Pacific Realty Investments has built two-bedroom houses for as little as Sh1.7 million and three-bedroom ones for Sh2.1 million.
The company manages the construction process right from the architectural designs and house plans, through the approval process until the electricity and water connections. It also installs a bio digester for waste management. “This has helped transform rent payers into home owners within budget and timelines,” says Mr Muriithi. The locality is secure, Mr Munyiri says. “You see, this is Machakos County, and although it is close to Nairobi, the security dynamics here are quite different from Nairobi’s.”
Still, Mr Munyiri is not taking any chances. He has erected a perimeter wall, installed an electric fence, and has a sturdy gate that is manned by a watchman at night. “The people who are settling here — my clients — are people who really know what they want,” he says. Each of the three-bedroom bungalows he has built sits on a 50x100 piece of land, part of which is a parking bay that can accommodate four cars, and has a landscaped, planted lawn.