Apps that every homeowner should have

Technology. Where would we be without it? Thanks to technology, there are mobile applications for just about everything, so it only makes sense that there are apps specifically built with homeowners in mind.

We had a chat with Mr Eric Waibochi of Smith Aegis, a digital design and advertising company, who discusses some of the essential apps that a homeowner can benefit from.

Centriq: It saves you time you did not know needed to be saved. It essentially helps homeowners keep track of household items and appliances. Once you download the app, you take photos of your household items and upload them on the app, which automatically generates the user manuals and guides for the appliance in a few hours. It then registers them into its system with a specific code that can be used to track the items. This app is especially important to homeowners that have several properties to let and those that own property that is a distance away.

If you own a home or a furnished rental house, this app could greatly help you because it is easy to keep track of the household items, especially the electronic ones, as well as their receipts and warranties and anything relevant about the gadgets and appliances that you may need quick access to. If any of these appliances is broken, you can easily repair them in a timely manner or make orders for replacement items from global shipping sites such as Amazon, directly from the app. And if you need help to learn how to use your appliances, this app will teach you how. It also comes in handy when buying or selling a home as it is possible to transfer the different appliances and equipment manuals with all the relevant information about the home. The only downside to this app is that it is limited to iOS users.


iScape: This is an important app not only for homeowners, but also architects and interior designers. The app helps in visualising and planning your property. To begin with, it offers you different landscaping ideas. If you have a garden or lawn, you can use it to come up with an output of what you would like your space to look like and share it with your spouse or designer. It gives a real-life impression of the end product of the space as well as an inventory of everything that you would use to accomplish the design.

The provided inventory makes it easy when it comes to purchase because you already have an idea of your budget.

Another bonus that comes with this app is that you can collaborate on projects with a number of people. For example, if you share space with a neighbour, you can link the apps and design the shared space together on an agreed-upon project to your satisfaction. It also gives you an idea of what a project will look like regardless of whether you are going to do the project yourself or hire a professional to do it. Even better, it is available for Android and iOS users.


Houzz: This one has proved useful to people in the real-estate sector, such as developers and private home and office owners. The app offers a platform where numerous professionals in the interior design field, such as designers and architects, are listed. One can easily get a suitable professional in a matter of seconds by viewing their portfolios and looking at their specifications then choosing a few who match what you would like to do.

Besides this, the app offers a variety of project ideas and suggestions that could help someone who has no idea how to, for instance, design and decorate their project. It is, however, important to have an interview with each of the professionals listed in the app for verification purposes before engaging on a project with them.

Ourhome: This comes in handy for anyone in charge of a home or a number of people working on a collaborative project. This app allows whoever is in charge to delegate tasks to different members involved and track the task. Such an app is especially beneficial for those working on construction projects or an interior design project. Managers can also use it to assign daily duties to their teams and manage scheduling at a tap.

Coordinated calendars: The app can update project members on upcoming deadlines as well as other important details. It can also be used by parents to delegate chores to their children and ensure that the home is run efficiently whether they are present or not. In a nutshell, it ensures continuity of activities as well as accountability among people working towards a similar goal.

Tips for choosing quality doors and locks

After investing a tidy sum of money building your property, it is only logical that you pay attention to the kind of doors and locks you use, to give it a desirable finishing. A door says a lot about the homeowner and besides offering protection, it adds to the general beauty and design of a home’s exterior.Added to that, doors serve key functional purposes to a building, thus selecting the right door becomes vital.

Samia Haleem, a sales representative for Timber Corner Limited, was able to give some information about different types of doors, their durability, functionality and prices to act as a guide for those wishing to purchase doors.

HARDWOOD
One of the main functions of any door is to provide security therefore, the type of door one selects depends on where and how the door will be used.
For example, entry doors to homes and other buildings should be able to withstand different weather elements such as heat, rain and winds, while offering maximum security to the building. Such requirements are not necessary for doors that are used in the interior of buildings.

“When it comes to entry doors, wooden, solid hardwoods are the preferred materials as they are heavy and strong. These doors are made from pure wood such as mahogany, teak, mvule and so on, with majority favouring mahogany, as it is the most affordable among the hardwoods and has a unique colouring,” says Haleem.
“Mahogany will serve the security function of keeping the home secure while adding to its general beauty,” she adds.
On the other hand, softwood such as cypress or semi solid wood (wood that is hollow inside and lined with timber) all make appropriate doors for the house interior, as they are not too heavy.

DURABILITY

Another important factor to be considered when choosing a door is its durability. The ideal door should be one that serves with longevity, thus giving you value for money. “For example, Mahogany doors are solid enough to last a lifetime,” notes Haleem. “The door’s aesthetic may wear out over the years, but with a fresh coat of varnish the initial glow gets restored,” she offers, adding that while purchasing such doors might be expensive, they are worth the investment.

PRICE

The prices of different types of doors vary depending on the quality of the door, its style and design as well as the amount of labour put into its preparation.

“The most common way to decorate a door is through the use of panels. Different doors can be designed and decorated with different panels on it. This eventually affects the door prices, because the more panels and designs a door has the more expensive it will be,” advices Haleem.

Common panel designs range from Sh29,000 up to Sh46,000 depending on the client’s budget. Of course, the type of material used for the door will affect the price as well. Doors made from pure solid wood will cost more than doors made from semi-solid wood or softwood, Haleem says.


She adds that while steel and fibreglass doors may offer the most protection to houses, they cannot beat the aesthetic design wooden doors have to offer; thus more people are drawn to the wooden doors for their homes.

HINGES

The type of hinge used on a door also determines durability. “Hinges that are thicker in centimetres are used on heavy doors that are made of solid hardwood. Lighter hinges can be used for semi-solid doors for support,” notes Haleem.

LOCKS

Of course, there is no point in getting a quality door if one does not get a quality lock to match it.

“Again, the lock that one chooses depends on the function they want it to play. While the obvious function of locks is security, different types of locks offer different levels of security,” the sales manager advises.

“The most popular lock in the market at the moment is the mortise cylinder lock. This lock comes in different types and designs dependent on the location of the door as well as customer preference.

“Their estimate prices are [between] Sh8,000 and Sh9,000 for exterior locks and Sh6,000 to Sh7,000 for interior locks,” she notes.

Cylinder locks have different types of keys thus offering more security. Some go as far as having personalised smart cards that one uses to replace lost keys, which enhances safety.

It is advised that one would rather spend more money and buy worthwhile items for their homes rather than trying to spare money and ending up getting substandard products. “Some people choose cheap doors since they do not want to spend much money. However, they have to replace them from time to time which is more expensive in the long run,” says Haleem.

Different glass trends currently being adapted in Kenyan corporate buildings

In the field of interior design for corporate buildings, the use of glass has gained popularity over the years in the Kenyan corporate sector. There are numerous types of glass that can be found in the market which ensure there is versatility and flexibility in its use. Many corporate buildings in Kenya are opting to use the unique glass treatment options available for their interiors in an effort to giving their offices an edge as compared to others. Mr Huzaifa Hameed, Director at Smart Glass Industries Ltd, was able to give some insight on the different types of glass that can be used in the finishing and partitions of a corporate building.

One of the popular types of glass used in corporate buildings is frosted glass. This type of glass has been processed to have the appearance of a milky translucent surface. “Frosted glass comes in handy for clients who want to ensure some form of privacy amongst the members sharing the building,” says Mr Hameed. “Due to its translucent surface, frosted glass provides privacy to its interiors while at the same time allowing light transmission thus providing two services simultaneously.”

(Frosted glass door of an office)

Another type of glass used in corporate building is the smart glass. This type of glass has been designed in such a manner that it can turn from clear and opaque states on demand and provides unprecedented control over the amount of light, privacy and heat that enters a space. “Many buildings are adapting the use of the smart glass because of its efficiency. Additionally, windows that use switchable smart glass do not need blinds, shades or other window treatments, thus providing unobstructed views for the occupants,” notes Mr Hameed. He adds that some companies even offer effects that can transform glass windows, showrooms and other glass surface into dramatic video displays. “Smart glass is ideal for commercial, institutional, and residential spaces as it can be manipulated into providing unlimited color options, color clarity, and it is extremely durable,” opines Mr Hameed.
Another commonly used glass in corporate buildings is the toughened glass. Toughened glass is glass that undergoes intense heating and stress through which the tenacity and strength of the glass is increased. “Toughened glass can be found in most corporate buildings today. While the glass can be used with a variety of frames professionally installed, many people are now opting to installing the glass frameless within their buildings,” informs Mr Hameed. He notes that frameless toughened doors, and mostly the sliding door types, are widely used currently in industrial buildings as well as schools and even homes.

(Toughened glass partition)

Fabrika glass is another type of glass that can be used in commercial buildings. Fabrika glass is a laminated glass product with beautiful fabrics encapsulated inside. It is mostly used in a decorative manner to give the building a spark of life. “Fabrika glass is used to create a dramatic feature in interior applications such as partitions, screens, doors, and furniture. When combined with either a back-painted glass or mirrored glass, the overall effect is stunning and is an inspired solution for wall cladding,” says Mr Hameed. “The fabric that is sandwiched between the laminated glass are of a wide range, dependent on the client’s specifications. This can include the use of traditional fabric (kitenge) among others,” he adds.

There is also the decorative glass which comes in several types and shapes depending on the clients’ preferences. Decorative glass is heated glass that is then shaped into different designs. Some of the decorative glass may be stained and some may be clear. Most of the time, decorative glass is used in the main entrance of buildings but can also be used in other parts of a building such as windows and small partitions. “The use of decorative glass satisfies privacy needs in the building and gives the building a unique feel as decorative glass are often statement pieces,” says Mr Hameed.
Other common glasses in the corporate market are the laminated glass and the reflective glass (otherwise referred to as the tinted mirrors). Many Kenyans are wary about using glass products in their buildings and constructions as they are afraid they may be easily destroyed. However, according to Mr Hameed, it is important that Kenyans realize that there are many technological advancements that have made glass a durable product in the construction industry. “While some Kenyans are hesitant to using glass products, most seem to have embraced the new trends of using glass as partitions and doors in commercial buildings,” says Mr Hameed. He adds that the purchase and installation prices are fair and negotiable depending on the pocket budget of the client.

(All photos courtesy of Smart Glass Industries Ltd)

Cost planning for your building project

In the construction industry, a cost plan is considered one of the most important factors to be taken into consideration before any development is embarked on.

This is because a cost plan helps in the determination of the fiscal feasibility of an initiative, and thus is used as a means of controlling the estimated costs of the project.

Unfortunately, many people do not know how to go about cost planning, and choose to dive into projects blindly.

David Nahinga, CEO of UjenziBora Investments Limited, gave us his professional opinion on some of the factors that must be considered when cost planning for a project.

Have a design in mind

One of the major factors that goes a long way in determining the cost of your project is the design you want it to have.

“Factors such as the shape and the size of the building you want, how complex you want the design to be, as well as the circulation space of the building, including the height and structure of the design, all have an implication on the final cost of the project,” says Nahinga.

He adds that it is important to note that the workmanship and quality of materials to be used as determined by the specifications of the design will have an impact on the cost. Building materials will always come in different qualities, and play the same function, but are priced differently.
They also require different levels of expertise, which has a bearing on the final cost of roofing.

When choosing a design, it is important to focus on one in which high-quality building materials can be acquired at a cost-friendly price and achieve the desired end goal of the project.

“Many people grasp a design without fully understanding how much achieving it will cost,” notes Nahinga.

“Many get surprised at how varying one item, like the type of finishes, can have a high impact on their construction budget. Every building material has a substitute which could be cheaper or more expensive but plays the same function.

The value of the shilling

The country’s economic climate will immediately have an effect on the final cost that will be put into a project.For instance, the interest on borrowed funds and price fluctuations caused by inflation or market forces can affect the initial cost plan of a project. The source of the building materials — that is, whether available locally or imported — will also affect the overall cost plan.

“Oftentimes, when it comes to complex designs, there may arise the necessity to source skilled labourers as well as importing of the construction materials necessary to complete the project,” he says and adds that some designs may necessitate sourcing of skilled labourers, and this would add to the overall cost.

Political factors

Political factors in terms of how stable a neighbourhood is or the safety index of a neighbourhood must be considered when cost planning for your building project.

“Having your construction in a high-end zoned neighbourhood where the development is controlled could be cheaper in terms of security measures to be incorporated in the cost plan, but relatively expensive since one has less free-play in the design variables,” Nahinga advises.

“This is opposed to neighbourhoods where there are high cases of riots and theft, as this will be an added cost when one has to replace damaged or stolen goods.”

Project baseline report

After one has completed their design and has a complete understanding of all factors that affect the cost plan, then the tasks, timings and costs of the project, will eventually be summarised in a “developer’s budget”, also known as a “project baseline plan”, that will enable you to keep track of all the costs and finances that will be involved in the project.

“The developers budget will have a breakdown of costs such as construction, land purchase, professional fees, legal fees, preliminary costs, management costs, marketing costs if the development is for sale and the anticipated return on investment of the project,” Nahinga says.

He adds that such a budget is important as it reflects all the factors that will affect the building or infrastructure project from inception to completion, thus enabling one to decide whether to go ahead or put a pause on the project.Nahinga gives a word of advice to anyone looking to embark on a building project: You must be confident enough to make a comprehensive cost plan and be honest with yourself in order to avoid starting projects that may end up stuck in the middle of construction. It is also important that anyone who is not familiar with construction should seek the help of a professional to help in cost planning.

(All photos are courtesy of UjenziBora <<www.ujenzibora.co.ke>>)

It is possible, even with little income, to start saving early

The saving culture among Kenyan youth seems to be deteriorating at an alarming rate. Most youth admit to not being able to save money, attributing this to the high cost of living in the country.

According to young people that we spoke to, saving to invest in real estate and eventually have a home in future seems to be an impossible phenomenon.

Three out of a group of five youth that we interviewed claimed that Kenya’s economy was too steep to be able to meet their daily needs and save simultaneously. When asked about their future plans, most said that they would cross the bridge when they get there, hinting at the possibility of taking a loan to help them get a home and settle down.

Mr Fred Kadidi, a local shopkeeper in Kasarani area, says that he makes enough money to meet his needs. When questioned about whether or not he puts some aside, this is what he had to say:

“I am a bachelor and because of that, I cannot say that my expenses are very high. Once I pay my rent and do my house shopping, the bulk of my expenses are covered. I am left with enough money to indulge in a few comforts. With the money remaining, I put it aside to buy things that I have my eyes on.”

When it comes to investing in his future home however, Mr Kadidi admits that he has not started saving for that yet.

fred kadidi

The Global Financial Inclusion Database (Findex) released by the World Bank in 2014 shows that the youth are 33 per cent less likely to own a savings account, compared to adults.

This means that the percentage of youth practicing a saving is considerably low. However, Mr Brian Rono, a personal financial adviser at Cytonn Investments, opines that it is possible for young people to save money.

“I do not believe that taking loans is the answer to everything. It is possible to save towards buying a piece of land to construct your home in or even buying a completed home without committing your-self to a steep loan that will take years to offset. The mentality that one cannot achieve this without a loan should be changed.”

Mr Rono emphasises that for someone to save, they need to have a goal of something they want to achieve. This could be the possibility of achieving a certain amount of money in a certain period of time.

“Most young people do not have a clear saving goal. This leads to lack of motivation among them to begin the process of saving. It is impossible to save money for which you have no purpose for. If you are saving towards buying a house for example, you can research on the approximate costs so that you have the amount you want to achieve.”

He adds that the saving goals could be short term or long term. In this case, saving for a home will fall into the long term category. Once a goal has been set, here are some of the tips he offers on how to wisely save money:

Joining a Sacco

Mr Rono suggests that joining a Sacco (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation) works more in one’s favour when saving money.

“When compared to banks, Saccos have better returns on savings. This means that the money deposited in the Sacco will have a higher interest growth rate as compared to money deposited in a bank,” notes the financial adviser.

He adds that chances of a Sacco making a loss are minimal compared to the banks. “We have been witness to banks closing down after being declared insolvent, or cases of grand theft which leave people concerned on the safety of their money. With Saccos, such stories are rare, meaning that the members’ money remains intact,” says Mr Rono.

The good thing with a Sacco, he says, is that in case of an emergency, it can offer you up to three or four times of the deposit you have saved with them as a loan to help you deal with the pressing need.

Joining a savings group (Chama)

“It is possible to get a group of people you trust who will hold you accountable for saving a certain amount of money every month. This is usually the case with Chamas,” advises Mr Rono.

A Chama is a group of people committed to contributing money towards a common goal, like investments. While Mr Rono agrees that joining a Chama can help in saving money, he warns against joining one that seems unstable.

“If you are to join a Chama, ensure you join one that has a reputation of having trustworthy members. Money is sensitive and cannot be entrusted to just anyone,” he advises.

He emphasises that the money collected within the Chama should be directed towards a proper channel of saving such as a Sacco or a bank, rather than being entrusted in one person’s care.

“The Chama you join should have a plan on how the money contributed is managed. If the money is deposited to a channel such as a Sacco, it makes it easier for the group to account for how much has been saved,” says Mr Rono. Added to that, the money will accrue interest instead of remaining dormant.

Making an investment

In the given economy, young people are encouraged to look at investments as a way of saving money rather than simply depositing the money into a bank account and forgetting about it.

“It is easy to deposit money into a savings account and forget about it. However, what people fail to realise is that simply depositing money in the bank will not necessarily take into account the economy’s inflation. This means that sometimes, the inflation rate in the economy could be higher than the interest rate the money is gaining in the account and in a sense, it is not gaining profit at all,” advises Mr Rono.

On the other hand, taking an amount of money and making a wise investment with it may yield better returns in the long run, he observes. While it is not practical to assume that a young person can have millions to invest in real estate, there are ventures they can opt for that will work within their budget.

own a home

“A good example of such an investment would be with the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). This enables people to be able to invest in the real estate market and get a stake for investment amounts as low as Sh6,000, subject to how the REIT is structured. Such trusts come in handy for low income people who are able to invest their money and get returns from it.”

Using the check off system

Discipline is paramount if one wants to succeed in saving their money, notes the financial adviser, adding that the major mistake made by the youth is saving money after exhausting all their financial demands.

“It is important to have a standard percentage of your money that is committed to being put aside as savings per month. It is recommended that one saves between 15-20% of what they earn,” notes the financial adviser.

Those that have a stable income and are not disciplined enough to save can opt for the check off or standoff method, he offers. This is a system whereby a Sacco or bank works with one’s employer to apply deduction of a certain amount of money from a person’s wages and directly into their deposit account.

This means that one can spend the amount they receive later freely since they have already saved a percentage of their money.

SAVING CULTURE

While speaking to a local TV station, however, Programs and Communications Manager at Centonomy, Waithaka Gatumia, dismissed the idea of saving a standard amount of money saying that a flat rate of saving cannot be applied to everyone. “Our lives are different. We each have different family dynamics and needs,” says Mr Waithaka.

He adds that someone living with their parents and have no costs such as rent and food, and provision for a family has no reason not to save up to 100% of what they earn.

However, someone else who earns very little money will not be able to put aside a large percentage of money and commit it to saving as they will then, not be able to meet their basic needs. He recommends that everyone should save as much as they can in alignment with their goals.

Mr Rono concludes by emphasising that it is important that the saving culture be introduced to people at a young age. This will make it a habit that remains even in adulthood, thus creating a generation of more responsible individuals when it comes to money and its use.

“Many young people have the misguided mentality that they will start saving when they are older or when they get a job earning them a ‘stable income’. What they fail to realise is that the earlier one begins to save for things such as their future homes, the better it will be for them. One avoids being tangled in the ropes of mortgages and so on.”

Extra costs associated with the land buying process that you should be aware of

Most people in the land selling and buying business will tell you that there are two categories of land buyers There are those who are very conversant with real estate investments and these people are mostly of the older age group from around 45 years going upwards. They started buying property when they were young and so they’ve had good experience with real estate. On the other hand, there is the younger segment of people who are trying out their first investment and have no idea how to go on about it. They do not know what to expect and often go into the land buying process blindly. Ms Caroline Wangari, CEO and founder of Matla Group Limited, was able to give a breakdown of some of the extra costs associated with land buying that every buyer should be familiar with.

Legal fees

One type of fee that a buyer should be prepared to incur is the legal fee. Land buying is not a process that you can do on your own and so it is advisable to appoint a lawyer who will help in doing some tasks for you. “Some of the tasks that the lawyer undertakes include carrying out background checks and searches which are meant to confirm that the land that you want to buy does exist. This is done by running the documents through the registry,” says Ms Wangari. “They will also help you come up with sale agreements as well as letters of offer.” She adds that the fee the lawyer charges depends on the agreement that was made between you and the lawyer. Some will claim a percentage of the total land value while others will give a fixed amount as the fee.

Registration and transfer fees
When buying land, it is important to confirm with the owner whether the registration and transfer fees are included in the selling price or whether they will come as an additional charge on top of the buying price.
Before buying any land, one has to be cleared by the Land Control Board which will hold forums that make sure that the sale and transfer of the land is approved and that both the buying and selling parties concerning the land in question are willing to do so and none of them is being coerced into buying the land. The board also ensures that the land transfers in the area are transparent. “If the board is convinced that the land transaction is good to go, they will offer a letter of consent. This process can take up to a month,” says Ms Wangari. “The general charge for this is Kshs 1000. However, if you are in a hurry to buy the land you can request for a special board forum where you will pay an extra amount of money.”

Broker fees

Most of the times, when land is being sold or bought, there are brokers involved. The Law Society of Kenya gives some regulation as to how much the broker should be paid. “The charge of the broker can be negotiable between the broker and the buyer and they may opt to have a fixed charge of their own,” notes Ms Wangari. “Sometimes you can negotiate with the broker and ask them to request for the fee from the seller instead of you as the buyer.”

Taxes

There are a few taxes that should be paid in order to avoid getting in trouble with the government. One of these fees is the Stamp Duty which is paid to the Kenya Revenue Authority. “The stamp duty is usually charged as 2% to 4% of the value of the land, dependent on its location,” enlightens Ms Wangari. “For TTC example, if you are buying land worth three million you should expect to pay an extra 60,000 on top of that as the stamp duty charge. It is a one off payment that is done online on the KRA portal and an e-slip is generated for you.” She observes that there are people who try evading this cost by bribing the registrars and paying perhaps half of what they should pay. “The money they pay goes directly into the pockets of those working at the registry. This is risky because should the government decide to do an audit, you will not have an e-slip and this may lead to certain legal problems,” she warns.

Aside from stamp duty there are property and land taxes that are paid annually by the land owner and they are based on the location and value of the property. This however is dependent on whether the property is freehold or leasehold land. “Should the property be freehold land, the owner has complete proprietorship over the land and the only tax paid will be the one off stamp duty. However, if it is leasehold property, it is held on a government lease for 99 years and there will be payment of annual land rates and taxes,” says Ms Wangari.

Bring life back to your furniture by having them reupholstered

Buying new furniture, especially the high end, modern and sophisticated kind, is a costly affair. Many people consider this an investment they hope will serve them for a long period of time. However, over time, pieces in one’s home may get some wear and tears due to continual use and this reduces their aesthetic value. Instead of having to go through the whole process of furniture purchase again, an alternate solution exists in the form of furniture reupholstering. Ms Cindy Wanjiku, CEO of CWanjiku Designs Limited, was able to give more insight as to what reupholstering is, the process involved as well as the advantages associated with it.

“Reupholstering of furniture simply means taking down the layering of the furniture down to its frame and then relayering it with fresh material and fabric,” explains Ms Wanjiku.

The process involved is very specific. “When we receive a piece of furniture to be reupholstered, let’s say a couch, it is completely stripped of its old fabric. After this, frame reinforcement may be done to ensure that the structure remains strong and solid,” says Ms Wanjiku. She adds that when the frame reinforcement is done, the couch may be stuffed and a new fabric is used for the finishing.
“Most of the time the company doing the reupholstering will buy the fabric to be used as per the specifications of the clients which incurs an extra cost on the client’s end. However, some clients opt to come with their own fabric as they are very specific of what they want,” notes Ms Wanjiku. It is easy to get fabric especially in places such as Gikomba and Eastleigh markets as well as Industrial Area in Nairobi. In terms of a bed, the reupholstering is done in terms of the classical types of beds that have high and detailed headboards. The time taken for reupholstering process depends on the size of the pieces being done. “When it comes down to it, after all has been done, you realize that the amount of money spent on reupholstering pieces of furniture is significantly lower than that which would have been spent on buying a new set of furniture,” says Ms Wanjiku.

Some people inherit furniture from their loved ones or friends. At other times, people have cherished memories associated with household items for example a specific lovers couch for a married couple. This gives them a sentimental attachment to their furniture. At times, only one piece of a furniture set may be broken or spoiled and the owner would not be happy with the idea of getting rid of the entire set.

“Reupholstering furniture offers an opportunity for people to maintain family heirlooms which sustain family history and preserve pieces that bring back precious times to mind,” says Ms Wanjiku.
Most furnishers can attest that furniture that were made years ago are of more quality as compared to the common composite board furniture that is made currently. “People who have quality pieces of furniture that they bought a while ago are encouraged to retain such pieces,” notes Ms Wanjiku. She adds that through reupholstering of the pieces, one will be able to update the piece in accordance with today’s trends while still being able to maintain a serviceable product. Such antique furniture is quite pricey in the market nowadays and thus this is a good alternative in ensuring one remains with quality products in their home.

Reupholstering of furniture plays a small role in environmental conservation. “The amount of energy and resources used in making new pieces of furniture is a lot. Through reusing already existing pieces of furniture, the frame and springs are reused thus minimizing the deforestation process used to get more wood for the construction of the furniture frames,” enlightens Ms Wanjiku.

A great deterrent to Kenyans when it comes to reupholstering furniture is the belief that their furniture may end up damaged when taken to the furniture shops for this process. “It is not uncommon to hear Kenyans complain that they took a phone or laptop to an electrician and by the time they were getting it back, the electronic had more issues than before,” says Ms Wanjiku. “This type of distrust has extended to the carpentry area and as such many people believe that their furniture is not safe in the hands of carpenters and would rather just buy new furniture.” She reassures that this is not the case. One must simply do their research and identify a qualified carpenter for the job.

It is vital to note that not all furniture can be reupholstered, enlightens Ms Wanjiku. For furniture to be successfully reupholstered, its original structure has to be solid and strong. It is a procedure best done on hard wood furniture. If these details are not taken into consideration, one will end up with feeble furniture in their homes that cannot offer much service to them.

Because your house is as strong as its foundation, here is how to get it right.

It is widely speculated that a compromised foundation is among the worst structural problems a homeowner may face. This is because the foundation of a house is the base on which the building load will be transmitted safely to the ground and as such it plays a crucial role during construction. The foundation of a house must therefore be formidable. Different buildings may need different foundations depending on varying circumstances. Nevertheless, there are some basic factors that have to be considered to ensure the foundation of your new home is solid enough to serve you for a lifetime. Mr Jacob N’gon’ga, the CEO of Jongonga Constructions was able to share some information on some of these factors.

Before commencement of any construction, it is important to ensure that the building’s floor plan is approved by the necessary authorities. “The three fundamental bodies that should approve of your floor plan are the city council, the National Construction Authority and the National Environment Management Authority,” says Mr N’gon’ga. “This ensures that the building you want to put up is in accordance with the regulations in the construction industry thus avoiding any future issues.” One must also ensure that a qualified land surveyor present before the construction of the foundation begins. “A land surveyor is able to give precise measurements as to the boundaries of the area covered by the foundation. They are also responsible for determining the proper depths required for building different foundations,” informs Mr N’gon’ga.

In an attempt to minimize their workload, some Kenyan builders may opt to begin construction on unprepared land. This is dangerous because if the ground is unprepared then it may not have the capacity to support the structure being raised from it. Before the foundation is laid, an adequate layer of firm topsoil must be put to act as a building pad for the home being constructed. Mr N’gon’ga says that most people choose to assume that this building pad is of little significance and choose to begin construction without it which is not in order.

The type of soil found in an area has a great influence on the type of building that can be put up there. Different soils have different range in strength and as a result some soils can support large buildings while others cannot. “It is important before laying your home’s foundation to ensure that samples of the soil in the area are taken to the laboratory for testing,” notes Mr N’gon’ga. “The results of such tests enlighten on the soil’s physical properties such as its structure. The better the soil structure the more stable it is.” He adds that the stability of the soil during both wet and dry conditions should be observed before one begins. Once all this is considered then the foundation for the building can be laid.

It is important that a structural engineer ensures that the columns laid in the foundation are supported and reinforced using deformed bars as instructed during construction. “Reinforcement of the foundation is important as it ensured continuity of the building to be raised from it,” enlightens Mr N’gon’ga. “This is especially important in areas where the ground is considered to be ‘bad’, meaning that it carries negative bearing characteristics such as unstructured soils.” The more floors a building has the stronger the reinforcement of the foundation columns should be. He adds that it is important to note that the concrete and steel bars used should be of sufficient quality that follow proper building codes to avoid future issues such as weakening of the foundation after a short period of time.
Water is one of the main causes of foundation problems as it often results in dampness which may lead to mold growth which is a health hazard. Wet soil particles, as a result of excessive rain or watering, may also swell thus causing shifting underneath the foundation as a result of excessive pressure from the particles. “During construction, one should add drainage systems such as gutters that will be used to channel excessive water away from the building thus ensuring minimal water damage,” opines Mr N’gon’ga. “The contractor should also ensure that there are no plumbing leaks are the foundation is laid. Such leaks are hard to detect and therefore need attention to detail during construction.”
While people go to different measures to ensure that their homes’ compounds are aesthetically appealing, it is important to ensure that such landscaping does not interfere with the home’s foundation. “It is advised to leave some space, preferably a few feet, between the house and landscape enhancers such as trees, flowers and bushes,” warns Mr N’gon’ga. “This is as such plants grow older, their roots may spread further in search of water. If the plants are near the house, they may cause the soil beneath the home to lose moisture to them thus leading to a change in soil particles and eventual damage to the foundation.” He adds that some roots may spread too wide and damage the foundation as they seek more room to spread.
(photos courtesy of FOTOSEARCH)

Factors that influence the pricing of property

The value of Kenyan property has remained a popular subject of discussion. Over time, buyers have been forced to deal with the ever increasing prices of property in the competitive real estate market and this has led to a popular question: who or what decides how much one’s home is worth? According to Mr Karama Ogova, team leader of residential sales at GNA Real Estate Limited, determining the price of property is not a one off thing. It involves a number of factors and considerations before setting up a price tag on a piece of land or home.

“When it comes to property prices there are elastic and inelastic factors that are taken into consideration. Elastic factors are those that can be manipulated by the investor to fit a specific criterion while inelastic factors are those that investors have no power over,” enlightens Mr Ogova.
One of the dominant factors that investors and buyers alike look at is the location of the property. “The location and the neighborhood in which property is located is a major factor that influences the sale price,” says Mr Ogova. “Location comes with an aspect of convenience in terms of how close or far away is the place to social amenities such as hospitals and schools. Areas that are close to social amenities will generally have a higher selling place as compared to those that are further away.” He adds that neighborhood is important as buyers tend to look at aspects such as the security of an area before deciding to buy. The less crime rate experienced in an area the more expensive it is to acquire property there.

Another common pricing method used in real estate is comparison of recent sale prices in a given area. This helps real estate agents come up with an estimation of how much the property is worth in that area so as not to overprice or underprice it.

“Through neighborhood comparison one gets a reflection of what the market values your property at and the current market trends in regards to the type and quality of the house, notes the residential salesman. He cautions that one must be careful when using this method as it is only an outward comparison and does not put into consideration the fact that the features and finishing (and furnishing) of the houses may be different causing their prices to vary.

Another factor that is taken into consideration while determining property prices is the initial costs incurred by an investor while acquiring the property as well as costs used in its improvement. “Ideally, no one wants to go on a loss while selling property. A summary of costs incurred as well as factored profit must be done before deciding on a sale price,” advises Mr Ogova.

“However, some improvement to the property may be of sentimental or intrinsic value which may work for you as the owner but the rest of the market may not see it as worth as much as you are asking for and it may lead to a loss.” He warns that one should get advice from a real estate expert who will determine how much one can invest so as not to go beyond the point of compensation.

Inspection reports can work to the advantage of a buyer when it comes to property prices. “Home inspections are done by professionals who are able to alert on previously uncovered issues that may need intervention such as infestations,” says Mr Ogova. If a home is found to have issues that demand repair, then the price of the property will go down in favor of the buyer as fixing such problems will be a cost they will have to incur on their part. A home that is found in perfect condition will automatically have a higher sale price.

The economic state of the country plays a major collective role in determining the price of property as it involves aspects such as supply and demand in the market, interest rates and investment appetite and inflation.
“The moment there is a rise in demand of property within the market of a specific area, the selling price will rise as well due to buying pressure and immediately the demand drops then sellers will have no choice but drop their sale price,” notes Mr Ogova. The supply and demand of property is largely dependent on investment appetite of an area.

In the current economy, several people depend on loans from banks and other loaning agencies to invest in property. “If the interest rate caps of these loans are too high then people will shy away from investment as it will not be affordable to them. This will lead to low demand in the market thus the selling price of property may drop. However, if the interest rates are low then investment will be high and in return the price of property will be high,” says Mr Ogova.

Last but not least the zoning restrictions and regulations of where the property is located will affect the type of investment that can be made in a particular area thus affecting the selling price as well. Areas that are restricted to residential use will have a sale price that is in accordance to it and the same applies to the areas restricted to commercial or industrial use.

Avoid these mistakes to make your move stress free…

Just like any changes in human life, moving from one place to another carries a lot of emotions – both positive and negative with it. Among the most dominant emotion associated with moving is stress. Whether you are a first time mover moving from your parents’ home or a seasoned mover who perhaps changes jobs frequently, the stress associated with moving is inevitable. According to Mr Fred Magadi, the Director at Proteam Movers Kenya, a lot of this stress can be minimized if people avoid some of the common mistakes made when moving. Some of these mistakes include:

Poor planning for the move

Whilst planning to move, most people ignore setting a specific move date. They mostly concentrate on getting a new house, paying up deposits and imagine that moving things from one place to another is all about transport. “The moment you get the new house or building you would like to move to, it is important to begin making moving arrangements immediately,” advises Mr Magadi. “If you will be engaging a moving company then it is imperative that you start looking for a mover to give you good time in choosing the right provider and also time for them to prepare.” He adds that poor planning in moving results in unpreparedness for the anticipated challenges that may come with packing and moving. When one has a set date for the move, they are able to plan themselves accordingly and get their house in order in time. Proper planning helps avoid last minute packing which leads to stress.

Not taking inventory of one’s household goods

“Once you get the new house having had a long day moving, you need time to relax. However, this may not be the case if you did not carry out an inventory of your belongings while packing,” notes Mr Magadi. Unpacking is also a daunting task. “Many people pack up items without having a record of where specific items are being packed. This results in difficulties while unpacking and one may end up living out of boxes for quite a while as they adjust to their new home.” It is therefore advisable to clearly label each box and indicate what has been packed in it. Alternatively, one can have a list detailing where specific items are.

Hoarding of items

It is widely speculated that the best time to do away with items that are no longer in use is during a move. However, many people hold on to items that are irrelevant and insist on moving with them to the new place instead of doing proper organization and sorting out their belongings.
“Unpacking into a new home is a daunting task, especially for first time movers,” says Mr Magadi. He adds that disorganization and hoarding of useless items simply adds to the stress of unpacking when trying to arrange your new home. It is advised that before the move one should go through their household goods and donate those which they do not need anymore.

Trying to do everything alone in an attempt to save money

One of the common mistakes made when moving is trying to do everything alone. “Engaging professional movers is not a common notion in Kenya as it is perceived to be very costly. People tend to do the packing by themselves or with friends,” says Mr Magadi. “This makes the moving process tiring and time consuming. Should there be items of significant value, they are put at high risk of damage as they are not properly tended to as would have been by a professional. Most moving companies have invested in packing and moving materials and will be better placed for this job.” Lack of professional help at times can lead to reckless packing as a result of limited packing supplies, misplacement of important items, last minute hassles as well as leaving behind valued items.

Kenyans are slowly embracing professional moving companies, notes Mr Magadi, adding that it was initially a reserve of the upper class. “In the recent past, it has been noted that most households prefer hiring professional movers which explains why we are having so many companies springing up,” says Mr Magadi. “However, some of these companies are masqueraders who want to con people out of their money.” To curb this problem, registered companies have come up with the Association of Professional Movers Kenya – Under Incorporation which enables clients to be protected in their moving and to have a place to put up any grievance they have with our members.