The real-estate sector has not been left behind. An interview with a leading realty company in the Kenyan coast My Space Properties reveals how Internet has been the game changer.
The chief executive of My Space Properties Mwenda Thuranira says prior to setting up the website, traffic was mainly restricted to local investors looking for land and a few Kenyans in the Diaspora who might have heard about the company from relatives through word of mouth.
“Within months of setting up the website, we noted it could be more useful when local interested buyers, who are Internet savvy, started inquiring through phone calls and email. In the long run they would buy the subject properties,” he said.
The website that now boasts of almost 400,000 views, he says, has transformed his business adding that of every 10 people asking for land, at least two are Kenyans in the Diaspora looking to invest at home.
“Out of these 10 people at least half have known of the company through the Internet,” he breaks it down further.
The Internet, he says, has made it easier for those with questions on property to receive quick answers including multimedia content.
“Most investors want to know whether the properties have titles, whether the properties are in a secure area, whether the properties have a borehole (residences) and the terms of payment. Questions we can answer from even our living rooms, night or day, weekday or weekend thanks to the internet,” he said.
He however regrets that many real-estate agents are yet to take advantage of the Kenyans abroad despite statistics showing that Diaspora remittances have surpassed revenues from tourism and coffee.
According to Mwenda, Kenyans abroad are too willing to invest home but the government is yet to offer information on the relevant areas of investment. He says increased questions from Kenyans living abroad have led him to begin adding more content to his website to help customers make informed choices.
“We have everything on our site from available properties for sale or to let to legal requirements when buying land in Kenya,” he said. “Although it is yet too early to imagine a day when Kenyans living abroad will surpass sales to local Kenyans they have far much financial muscle and their investments look well thought through.”
He further expresses that although this year local buyers and developers were “hard hit by the high interest rates real estate agents who did not have the Diaspora market were basically out of work the whole time.”
He says the portal has helped him market his properties all year round as compared to exhibitions such as the Mombasa Homes Expo, which he also organizes.
Mwenda says that with Internet penetration fast increasing and more young people graduating into the middle class status, time has come for the sector to also step up and provide the market requirements that are only possible with application of ICT.