Buying a home abroad has long been considered a sound long-term investment, but would you invest in land in Kenya? To assess the options, Phil Clisby looks at Malu Ranch near Naivasha
ith ongoing uncertainties over Brexit and the economy as a whole, it may be prudent to look further afield than the usual suspects when investing in property overseas.
Although Spain continues to be at the forefront for Britons looking to own a second home abroad, for those wanting somewhere a little more exotic, with the added bonus of helping to conserve the natural landscape and wildlife in that area, Africa offers myriad opportunities.
The potential for better capital growth and higher rental yields than buy-to-let property in the UK, as well as having your own holiday home to use when you want, make owning a home abroad a very attractive proposition. And it’s one that people from the UK, in particular, are increasingly looking at.
According to www.aplaceinthesun.com, the second half of 2017 saw a 36 per cent increase in web traffic from people seeking the latest properties for sale and essential buying advice compared to the same period in 2016.
One such opportunity is Malu Ranch, an 1800-acre privately-owned property in Naivasha, Kenya. This natural wilderness – just 75 minutes by road north of Nairobi, or a mere 20 minutes by air – is home to dik-dik, eland, bushbuck, waterbuck, impala, hyena, leopard, buffalo, zebra, colobus monkeys, warthog and more.
It is the last remaining indigenous cedar and olive forest on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley and is an important habitat for flora and fauna. Within its confines, you will find more than 40km of hiking, walking and biking trails through forests, along spring-fed streams and down to the Malewa River.
Not far from Naivasha can be found a number of other parks and reserves – each easily reachable for day trips – such as Hell’s Gate, Nakuru, Aberdare, Mt Longonot, Lake Bogoria and Lake Elementaita.
At the helm of Malu Ranch is Kenyan entrepreneur Kim McKenzie, an energetic, humble guy who clearly has a good eye for business. In addition to managing the ranch, he established The Kikoy Company and in his spare time dabbles as a helicopter pilot.
He believes the risks in investing in property in Kenya are so negligible that it is almost certain people will earn a big return on their investment.
In particular, prices in “Naivasha and other areas continue to rise sharply as demand for quality ‘country properties’ with a bit more space, [located] further from the smog and traffic, grows”.
Other factors contributing to the expected increase in land value include a new superhighway that will pass within 11km of Malu, and a high-speed railway line linking Nairobi to Naivasha and beyond, which is set to be completed in the next few years – all part of the Kenyan government’s strategic growth and development plan, Vision 2030.
According to estate agency Knight Frank, the property market in Kenya as a whole is set to recover in the first half of 2018, following a period of uncertainty and moderate price growth. Nairobi and Mombasa have been attracting interest from both local and international buyers, with currency movements making it cheaper for foreign investors to buy property in the country.
Ben Woodhams, managing director at Knight Frank Kenya, says: “Kenya has a long-standing reputation as a destination for holiday home ownership, and with the political turbulence behind us, we are forecasting an increase in such investments in line with a strong economic recovery in 2018.
“Factors making Kenya an ideal investment destination include a projected 5.8 per cent GDP growth rate in 2018, rapid urbanisation and an expanding middle class.”
So how does the Malu Ranch investment work?
Well, investors purchase a licence over a 10-acre or so plot on which to build a home – enabling them to ‘enjoy and conserve the natural environment’, says the company.
Simultaneously buyers acquire shares in the Malu Property Management Company, which means they then have a say in how the property is maintained and managed.
Considerable investment, in the region of US$2m, has been ploughed into Malu’s infrastructure, including the development of a championship golf course next door to the ranch.
Once a plot of land has been purchased, the owner is free to build on it. The guiding principle behind the building approvals process is that the houses must fit in with the lie of the land. “While we want buyers to create their dream homes, we want them to do so in keeping with the environment. The conservation of the natural beauty is our primary objective,” states the company.
Buyers can use their own architects or choose one of the pre-designed and approved options. “All we ask is it fits in with the natural landscape.”
“Buying a plot on Malu is not simply a commercial transaction,” explains McKenzie. “It’s an opportunity to acquire your very own parcel of African wilderness, to build your dream home and to become part of a like-minded community passionate about conservation.”