In a previous article “Starter Homes”, I mentioned that the estimated construction cost of a one-bedroom unit would be about $15,000. This would be a newly constructed unit complete with infrastructure and the relevant ownership documents. This price may seem steep.

Even then, building a small one-bedroom unit on the basic 50 ft by 100 ft plot makes no sense! This plot can comfortably accommodate three more units. Yes, this would bring development costs to about $60,000, and may seem like a case of “if you cannot afford bread, eat cake!”

Not really. Cooperation is the missing link.

We were told that a land title is proof of ownership of land – of everything on it, above and below it. Not anymore. The Condominium Property Act (2001) defines ownership of a unit bound by the floor, ceiling and walls. In short, someone can own the space above you and below you. This means that if four people worked together, they could develop a 50 ft by 100 ft plot with four one-bedroom units and each have a title. Cooperation is the key.

And here is another possibility. Rental unit owners sell off their properties every now and then. A real life example: For half the price ($7,500) one can own a one-bedroom unit – the catch is, the landlady is selling 7 of them at a go. Getting seven ready buyers is tough – but it needn’t be.

It is necessary to learn to work together towards big goals. We do very well on short-term goals – a wedding, the after-party, a trip to Mombasa, Arusha, Kigali, etc. However, when it comes to five-, ten-, twenty-year goals, people mysteriously disappear. So what can be done to cultivate the culture of cooperation?

It starts with the individual. Start saving for the down payment of your starter home. If you are gunning for a $15,000 starter home, work out a plan to save at least 30% of this amount in a given time frame. With this goal in mind, your mindset will change. You will work towards earning more and spending less. I must caution you that these savings should be personally managed. A house is too expensive and personal an investment to leave in the hands of a group. I recommend you open a personal account with a collective investment scheme. These are regulated by the Capital Markets Authority and managed by professional fund managers. The returns are better than bank saving accounts.

Next, find like-minded people to walk this journey with. This is made easier by you having adjusted your outlook and habits. Like attracts like. Together, you can search for good deals that will get you started.

In real estate, due diligence is of the utmost importance. Before you pay for any property, ensure that it has been checked out thoroughly. With condominiums, a land surveyor and an architect are indispensable. If the structure is storeyed, you will need a structural engineer, not forgetting a lawyer to help you draft any agreements that you make to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The culture of cooperation develops slowly. You will get bruised along the way; but the biggest risk is to take no risk at all.






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