Over a year ago, Kimotho was not happy with his job as it was offering little earnings amid increased competition from other agents.

housing deficit

But his fortunes have changed as Kenya continues to experience a construction boom, which has led to a housing glut that has seen many landlords struggle to get tenants.

The landlords are mainly relying on the housing agents like Kimotho to get tenants as many of their houses, particularly apartments, remain vacant for months.

It is, thus, the best time to be a housing agent especially in satellite towns in Nairobi as the job is well-paying, with some of the agents demanding up to a month’s rent to get tenants for the landlords.

“I am enjoying my job,” Kimotho, who operates his business in Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi, said Monday.”I just have to look for at least four tenants and I would be a happy man the entire month.”

The residential and commercial hub is among satellite towns in the capital Nairobi that has experienced massive construction of houses, leading to a glut. There are more houses in the town than tenants, thus, the brokers play a bigger role in ensuring which houses are occupied.

Every week, Kimotho walks in different estates in the town scouting for vacant houses. He then collects the details, most of the times without the landlords’ knowledge, and then uses them to search for customers.

“I have a small office in Kitengela town. Potential tenants come to me and once they describe the kind of houses they want, I take them to view them and even negotiate for rent.”

Normally, the agent informs the landlord of the potential tenant once he is certain that they would get into the houses.

“I cannot inform the landlord when I am not sure if the tenant is serious. But once he shows commitment by paying 9.8 U.S dollars, I negotiate with the landlord my fee before I link the tenant to him,” he said.
As many other agents, the fee ranges from between 10 and 100 percent of a month’s rent.

“Majority of the landlords who are paying up to a month’s rent are those whose houses have stayed vacant for long,” said Kimotho.

Nahashon Juma, a landlord with a block of flat in Ruai, on the east of Nairobi, said it is one of the worst times to be a landlord in Nairobi.

“The housing agents collect information on our houses without our knowledge; get details of how long they have stayed vacant and use them to demand a higher fee. Most landlords are paying because they are desperate to get tenants.”

His three-storey flat has 12 two-bedroom houses and only seven of them are occupied. The rest of the houses have been vacant for several months.

“The housing glut has worsened our plight because as a landlord, I am now at the mercy of the agents because I want return on my investment. I must give them the money they demand or risk remaining with a vacant house,” said Juma, noting that the much he has ever paid an agent is 60 percent of the 147 U.S. dollars a month rent.

Antony Kuyo, a real estate consultant with Avent Properties in Nairobi, acknowledged that the housing glut has worsened the plight of landlords as agents smile all the way to the bank.

“Some of the agents do not even have offices but they are very powerful. If you refuse to pay for their services, your houses will remain vacant since they will conspire not to tell potential tenants of their existence or they may quote a higher rent,” he said, noting that the high agent fee is the reason most landlords are declining to return house deposits. Enditem

Source: Xinhua


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