The Sh1 billion property market in Nakuru County has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic fears.
As uncertainty continues, industry players have warned that the impact is causing massive financial losses and disruption that has shaken the property market.
At least seven registered Real Estate Agents in the county are staring at losses as transactions diminish by the day.
Hundreds of commercial and brokerage agencies are not spared either and could face one of their worst recessions with a negative growth if the Covid-19 crisis continues.
For instance, land transactions worth millions of shillings on the shores of Lake Naivasha have been suspended since buyers have shied away.
Land transactions and commercial leases involving millions of shillings on the outskirts of Nakuru town have been put on hold as the land office has been closed. Banks have suspended loan disbursement to developers.
Apart from hundreds who work directly in the real estates and commercial agencies, many are worried about their job security. Lawyers specialising in conveyance business have also been hard hit.
“There is a major impact since the government took sweeping measures to address the spread of the pandemic and the Sh1billion property market has greatly been shaken by coronavirus pandemic,” said Mr Wilson Gitu, a director at Njoro Enterprises, a Real Estate Agent.
He said the closure of the Lands Registrar’s office is a major blow to the industry that was picking up from a poor economic performance last year.
“Apart from the key industries associated with the fast growth of Nakuru town, land transactions are key contributors to this spontaneous growth that has come to an abrupt stop. Many transactions along the financial value chain are at risk of being cancelled,” said Mr Gitu.
Mr Gitu who is also the vice-chairperson of Nakuru Business Association raised a red flag over the looming loss of income and jobs.
“This is a difficult situation we are in at the moment. No one is spared including lawyers, property managers, rent collectors, maintenance crews among others as the sector has grinded to a halt,” added Mr Gitu.
The official said that banks have suspended further land transactions as crucial land documents such as title deeds have to be charged and cleared by the lands office.
He said this month, very few tenants have moved houses as they monitor the situation and this has put new developers with vacant properties.
“Some of the developers have bank loans and many were hoping to start repaying their loans in April and May but with no tenants coming, they are now stressed and are likely to postpone their financial obligations,” said Mr Gitu.
However, amidst this uncertainty, he says this is an opportune time for the lands office to automate its operations to speed up land transactions.
“Physical documents such as title deeds could have a designated point for processing as the rest of the process are executed online,” said Mr Gitu.
Land cartels that have been conning unsuspecting land buyers are also feeling the heat.
“Many land buyers and developers have been conned out of their hard earned money by cartels who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic crisis,” said Mr Gitu.
The closure of the land registry is a pending headache. The suspension of succession matters that had been concluded at the courts are likely to be prolonged and cause anxiety among feuding families.
“Many families which had concluded their cases in court after waging a long legal battle had submitted their documents before their lawyers for the subdivision of land but this has now been suspended and might cause further conflicts in many families seeking to inherit properties of their kin,” said Mr Gitu.
One of the affected person is Mr Richard Owino who was looking forward to sub divide their late father's seven-acre piece of land in Ngata area.
“My father was a polygamist and this succession matter has dragged in court for the last five years and just when we had concluded it, coronavirus disrupted our succession plans,” said Mr Owino.
The Director of Muigai Commercial Agencies James Muigai said with the coronavirus pandemic, collection of rent will be a big headache for the sector players.
“We are just hoping this coronavirus pandemic will not escalate and government will put stringent measures to ensure a seamless flow of cash,” said Mr Muigai.
Mr Muigai said some of his clients including colleges and individuals had written requesting to be given more time to pay March rent.
“Many are seeking for a rent-free holiday, late payments and reduction of rent but that depends on the property owners some of whom have bank loans to service and with this kind of tricky situation, it will depend on the government directives and interest rates if they will be reduced,” said Mr Muigai.
Mr Sam Kiguru, a director at Jojean Property Ltd said the fear of the coronavirus has forced potential buyers to withhold their money.
“No worried person spends money and that is the situation we are facing now in the property sector in Nakuru County. Many have postponed their transactions and have adopted a wait- and- see attitude,” said Mr Kiguru.
He said many tenants’ sources of income have been disrupted, resulting into a major slowdown in payment of rents since the fear gripped the country.