Lifestyle communities: The emerging shift in real estate

The real estate residential sector has witnessed numerous trends that are gradually being embraced with changing times and customer preference, with individuals looking for developments with unique features that help improve their quality of life. 

Lifestyle communities aim at offering a comprehensive and luxurious work, live and play environment and are differentiated by their location, unit size and designs, quality of finishes, array of amenities and facilities and thus have an associated feel of prestige. 

Also known as a common-interest community, this is a residential neighbourhood with one or more unique features aimed at enhancing the quality of life for its residents by offering convenience, comfort and all-round luxury. 

The setting is mainly communal with large shared common spaces. The main unique features include but are not limited to fitness facilities such as; gyms, walking and biking trails, swimming pools, golfing amenities and boating facilities etc, and for these communities privacy and security are a top priority for most residents.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Area 

Development of lifestyle communities offering salient features has been on an upward trajectory as the need for convenient modern lifestyle by Kenya’s growing middle class creates a ready market. The developments provide prestige and exclusivity sought by affluent individuals in the context of high rise residential units in targeted markets such as; Westlands, Kilimani, Limuru Road, Thika Road and Upperhill. Some of the key lifestyle communities include;

The Alma– The project is located in Ruaka and it consists of 477 modern apartments. It comprises of one, two and three bedroom apartments (standard and premium) priced at Sh7.9m, Sh12.4m, Sh16.4m and Sh17.5m, respectively. Amenities within the development include; swimming pool, roof-top gardens, children’s playing fields, day care and nursery, clubhouse with a glass walled gym, aerobics and lounge area, a commercial hub that features a mini market, restaurant/café, beauty spa and pharmacy among others.

Enaki Residences – Located in Rosslyn, the project sits on a 22-acre piece of land with the residential resort occupying 9.6 acres. Residential units comprise of one, two, three and four bedroom units priced at approximately Sh12.5m, Sh16.4m, Sh29.1m and Sh49m respectively. There are also studios priced between Sh6.5m and Sh8.9m and duplexes priced at Sh34.4m, Sh49.2m, Sh54.5m and Sh60.2m depending on size and the location of the unit within the building. Amenities at Enaki include; a grand reception lobby, concierge, fully walkable site, golf cart route, designated guest parking, staff lounge & facilities, caretakers flat, resident stores, gym and juice bar.

Mi Vida Homes – It is located at Garden City, along Thika Road and sits on 4.5 acres overlooking the Garden City Mall. The development, which is set for completion in 2021 will have a total of 208 units. It consists of one, two and three bedroom units priced at Sh8.4m, Sh12m and Sh15.7m, respectively. Mi Vida Homes’ amenities include; an indoor gym with yoga and fitness studio, a multipurpose sports court, barbeque deck, swimming pool, integrated intercom system and a 300 metre outdoor jogging track among others. 

Purple Haze – The project is located along Kitale lane, off Dennis Pritt Road in Kilimani. It sits on a 2-acre plot, with differentiated two, three and four bedroom units. The two bedroom units range from 140 SQM- 169 SQM and are priced between Sh23.5m to Sh27.5m, while the three-bedroom unit sizes range between 169 SQM- 175 SQM and are priced between Sh27.5m – Sh29.5m. The 416 SQM and 492 SQM four bedroom units are priced at Sh78m and Sh80m, respectively. Amenities at Purple Haze include; a swimming pool, clubhouse, gym, sauna and a roof garden among others.

One West Park – It is located off Mpaka road in Westlands. The development consists of 145 apartments and 380 parking spaces on 0.8 acres. The units are 190 SQM for a two bedroom, 209 SQM for a type (A) three bedroom and 227 SQM for a type (B) three bedroom, 255 SQM for a four-bedroom unit and 311 SQM for a penthouse, and are priced at Sh24m, Sh30m, Sh34m, Sh45m and Sh72m, respectively. Amenities include; two heated swimming pools, two heated generators, a jogging track, social hall, games room and a fully equipped gym.

The Ridge – Located in Ridgeways, the Ridge sits on a 9.9-acre piece of land fronting the Northern Bypass. The residential development consists of 54 SQM one bedroom, 99 SQM two bedroom, 124 SQM three bedroom and 225 SQM four bedroom apartments, priced at Sh9.6m, Sh18.1m, Sh24.1m and Sh30.5m, respectively. Amenities at the Ridge include; a swimming pool, children’s playgrounds, landscaped courtyards, a health club, retail and office space consisting of a mini-mart, convenience stores, salon and laundry among others.

What supports growth of lifestyle communities

Kenya’s urbanization and population growth rates have remained relatively high at 4% and 2.3%, compared to the global average of 1.9% and 1.1%, respectively. This rising population presents an ideal market for lifestyle communities in urban areas and opportunities for real estate solutions to meet the growing demand while presenting comprehensive living conditions. 

The growing middle class demands for comprehensive and ideal living conditions given the increased disposable income. The middle class prefers solutions that are comprehensive and offer great convenience thus the growing preference for lifestyle communities.

Lifestyle communities boast of top-notch amenities such as gyms, walking and biking trails, swimming pools, golfing amenities, reliable supply of water, sauna and security, which offer convenience and a prestigious feel to the residents. 

Due to the relatively large scale of amenities for many occupiers in the units, developers are able to offer amenities and services at a relatively lower unit cost, therefore benefiting both the developer and the buyer, and 

The continuous improvement of road networks such as the recent dualling of Ngong Road, the ongoing construction of Nairobi expressway and upgrading of Waiyaki way and construction of the Northern Bypass, opens up areas for development of investment grade real estate which encourages developers to explore lifestyle communities as an option, as they offer relatively high returns.

Challenges

Despite the numerous factors that have supported the growth of lifestyle communities, their development has been constrained by a number of factors, key among them being that developers face barriers to adequate financial access which more often leads to project delays as they mostly rely on traditional sources of funding such as bank funding which is hard to secure due to the risk of defaults, while structured financing for real estate developments such as Real Estate Structured Notes and Real Estate Investment Trusts face slow uptake due to lack of sufficient market knowledge on the products. 

Limited access to mortgage funding due to stringent requirements for borrowers to meet eligibility criteria coupled with inflexible mortgage maturity for buyers hinders uptake of units within lifestyle developments, 

Infrastructure remaining underdeveloped such as inadequate sewerage systems and water supply systems discourages development of lifestyle communities due to the high development costs accrued trying to ensure the environment is aesthetically appealing in order to attract clientele hence limiting developers. 

Lifestyle communities are mostly located in prime areas with high land costs. This coupled by the need to deliver high quality designs and finishing leads to high development costs, thus a key hindrance to some developers. 

The lifestyle community concept has continued to gain popularity in Kenya supported by the growing demand for developments offering a comprehensive lifestyle that incorporates live, work and play, in addition to the relatively good returns to investors compared to the overall residential market.  

On the residential part, the best typologies to invest in would be one-bedrooms followed by two-bedrooms owing to their high returns supported by their high rental returns and resilient unit prices amid reduced transaction volumes in the market. 

With benefits outweighing shortcomings, the real estate sector will continue recording increased development of lifestyle communities supported by relaxed zoning regulations that enable development of high density building which allow for the provision of an array of amenities, Kenya’s growing middle class and the resultant demand for convenient, social and modern lifestyles, improvement of infrastructure opening up more areas for development, increased foreign investments supporting development with Kenya’s ranking by the World Bank in the ease of doing business having improved by 5 positions to #56 in 2020, and, iinvestors aiming to cash in on the high returns achievable from the developments. 

However, the tough economic environment, market uncertainty, and the reduced disposable income, Cytonn Investments avers, will affect uptake of units within the lifestyle communities in the short term.  

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