Real estate sector 59 years down the road

Real estate has become a one-stop centre. Photos by Umar Nsubuga

The economy is evolving with each passing day, thanks to the technological era. This includes the value of the real estate. 

Worldwide, the real estate business is growing steadily, and Uganda is not exceptional.

 For close to four decades, the talk of a growing and vibrant real estate in Uganda has spread all over. Real estate dealers and experts note that this has been visible despite Uganda’s economy being unpredictable.

 Over time, several different real estate players have come on board and in some instances, individuals buy and sell properties in any part of the country due to the growing population and demand.

 This is depicted by the increasing number of mortgage facilities offered unlike in the past.

 Irene Katono says her grandfather bought land in Jinja over 50 years ago at sh50. This is nearly impossible today.

 She says the land is costly and the price varies depending on where the land is bought.

In 2015, the government through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, was to embark on a countrywide registration of all real estate dealers for regulation and issuing licenses of operation.

This was aimed at wiping out fake real estate dealers who dupe Ugandans in land deals.

David Kireli, a civil engineer says the real estate industry has evolved over the years; it is big and vibrant.

 He explains that in the past, we never used to have condominiums, buying buildings or real estate companies. These he says, however, started in the late 90s.

 “The kind of people engaging in real estate business has grown. People trust real estate companies and some individuals. Besides, the buyers now want to buy something completed, especially for people living in the diaspora,” Kireli says.

 He notes that real estate has become a one-stop centre. People living in the diaspora want to spend less time on investments.

 Abdu-Wahab Nyanzi, an architect says the real estate business is ruled by the buyers and sellers just like any other business. The most asset in it though is information.

 “Knowledge of assets on the market and knowledge of the existence possible buyers is one of the aspects that keep the business moving. Today information on all this can be obtained at one’s fingertips at a click of a button,’ Nyanzi says.

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 This means that the buyers can now obtain firsthand information about offers on the market.

 He adds that buyers can also quickly compare prices, make analyses of locations, and establish what the future trends for a particular place might be.

He further adds that on the part of brokers, it is much easier to reach out to the market faster.

“They can now evaluate potential buyers, appraise a prospective offer and target specific markets. In a nutshell, information has exponentially grown the sector,” he explains.

 Why the sector is booming

Kireli explains that the peace which exists in the country has led to the growth of the sector.

 “The country has a conducive investment environment that has attracted the growth of the industry,” Kireli says.

 He adds that the population growth is another factor impacting real estate, making it vibrant but also affecting the way land and building are being divided because of big families. 

This makes people resort to selling land into small plots rather than an acre. 

 “People used to buy acres. Today they are plots because of big families,” Kireli says, adding that the population growth is putting pressure on the land, forcing companies and individuals to set up condominiums.

 “If it is a block of six units today, it is more profitable to sell it as a small unit (condominium),” he adds.

 However, the real estate industry targets the average Ugandan. 

“We are in a capitalist economy. The poor are only protected by the land act. When it comes to the housing sector, it is purely business, and it’s for those that can afford it,” Kireli explains.

 But he says the trend can be altered through government intervention by coming up with policies and projects specifically for the poor.

 He adds: “National housing Corporation, the Army, police and prisons engineering brigades should be engaged to construct low-cost houses, specifically for the poor.”

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 In addition, the government can also intervene in the banking sector so that the poor can get affordable housing mortgages.

Future of real estate industry

According to Kireli, the future for real estate will always be bright only if peace is maintained.

 “Peace is the single most important factor of economic, social and political growth. And once there is economic, social and political growth, people will always sale, buy or develop land and buildings,” he adds.

 According to Knight Frank report of 2019, there has been a rise in the various sectors of the real estate industry. 

The report indicates that in the residential suburbs of Nakasero, Naguru, Kololo, Mbuya and Bugolobi an increase from 69% between January 1st and June 30, 2018, to 78% in 2019 was recorded. 

 ‘Citing an example of Somalia, a war-torn zone; what is there to write about Somalia in the real estate sector, for the past 30 years?’ he asks. 

Impact on real estate sector growth

The numerous land issues such as grabbing of land seen in the country are likely to impact the real estate.

He comments that these challenges will always be there.

“What’s important is to have robust and vibrant legal policies and systems to address then.”

 Kireli further adds that unless the systems are streamlined, and enough sensitization done, these incidences can affect the speed and investor confidence in the sector. 

This he says is why President Yoweri Museveni had to institute a special commission mandated to fast rack the sorting out of land issues.

 Abdu-Wahab Nyanzi, an architect says that the trend in land grabbing and dishonest acquisition of property is damaging the industry.

 “A big percentage of this business is built on trust. Once the players realize that they could lose their investment to unscrupulous people, they will not invest or will not invest as much,” he says.

He adds that the market will end up with speculators looking to make a quick buck with no real intentions to grow the industry.

 He further adds that this makes the property very unattractive to potential investors.

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