Top Windhoek properties sold out

By By Dorcas Mhungu
August 2011
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MANY people are unaware that residential and business properties in Windhoek are recording full occupancy before the first drill is sunk into the ground and the concrete mixers start oscillating.

The Vice President of the Association of Estate Agents of Namibia (AEAN), Jonathan Basson, and Chief Executive of United Africa Group, Brian Rubinstein, revealed why many home seekers religiously buy newspapers and spend time ogling the properties to let, classifieds sections with no joy.

“The people in Windhoek now seem to be driving and walking around reading the signs on every construction site, getting information of the developer and before the project is complete it is oversubscribed,” Basson said further adding that a project in the industrial site for 20 warehouse units already has 50 names before construction has started.

Rubinstein, whose group has embarked on a multi-billion dollar project ‘The Freedom Plaza’ says towards the end of this year, the first phase of a N$2b project will commence but already 60% of the 84 apartments have already been snapped and sold by word of mouth, before construction work has started.

The cheapest apartment in the 1990 Hotel, a block set in the heart of the Freedom Plaza fetches N$1.4m (one bedroomed) and about N$4m for a three bedroom apartment. According to Rubinstein there is a mixed bag of investors buying the apartments for rental that range from people opting to live in the Central Business District (CBD), farmers and family members preferring to live close to each other.

The 1990 Hotel is the second phase of Freedom Plaza which will see the construction, opposite the Hilton Namudjebo Hotel of a second 3-Star international hotel with about 170 apartments. In addition there will be an office block and one of the leading banks is expected to take up tenancy. Rubinstein said a retail area that will have curios, supermarkets and restaurants will run across the spine of the complex that will have 2000 underground parking bays. These developments are planned around the group’s theme, ‘Live, Work and Play’.

“There is a very strong demand for the retail shops and the high demand indicates Windhoek’s ability to attract investment and the high demand from foreign investors in the mining and other sectors in the country,” said Rubinstein.

According to Basson the shortage of rental residential properties is more acute and the situation has triggered a sudden upsurge in rentals. Demand is exceeding supply says Basson, “And we have buyers who can access bonds from the banks and people who have cash to pay but the properties are not there.”

He says the ripple effect of the shortages is pushing rental fees higher putting accommodation out of the reach of many especially younger people who are still starting out and cannot afford to buy a home of their own.

“There is a huge demand for residential properties. A new development in Rocky Crest already has 80 people registered but construction has not started. There aren’t enough serviced elves for the construction of residential homes in areas that are cheaper to service.”

Responding to recent reports suggesting the City of Windhoek has a shortage of land to build houses, Basson says he personally feels land is still there but in hilly areas that would cost the council more to service and end up more expensive to sell to the intended beneficiaries.

Basson, a qualified auctioneer, adds that the prevailing situation provides a healthy competitive environment for estate agents but warns members of the public against dealing with people masquerading as agents and are not registered as they risk being fleeced of their hard earned money with no platform to recover their money.

The association strives to uplift members by organising training. Membership to the association is voluntary and currently it has 150 members. With the help from financial institutions, Basson says the organisation will go on a membership recruitment drive in the Coast and the North to begin with to bring more agents on board. Namibia has 800 Estate Agents registered with the Board of Estate Agents. While membership to the Association is voluntary, membership to the Board is mandatory and members pay an annual amount towards the Fidelity Fund.

It is from these Trustee coffers that people can claim refunds from the Board in the event of fraudulent dealings by estate agents, says Basson.

The Estate Agents Act 112 1976, will be reviewed and the AEAN has proposed that Government considers introducing a legislation that will make it also mandatory to become a member of the Association before one can start operating as an estate agent in Namibia.

The move is expected to protect from buyers and sellers from bogus estate agents. Summing up, Basson says it is sad that in some cases after an agent has shown a possible buyer a property, the buyer later goes back to the seller behind the agent’s back to conclude the sale depriving the agent income and leaving the agent with expenses would have incurred to advertise the property and other costs but warned that the agent has the right to sue for the loss of revenue. PF