What you need to know:
The Covid-19 lockdown sent people across the world online shopping due to the fact that they were all locked in their homes with no other option. This trend has persisted and continues to grow.
Trends in the real estate sector are not always obvious to most people. Many go largely unnoticed except by people that are actively involved in the industry. Only once in a while does a practice become so trendy that everyone notices it.
A good example of a trend from the recent past that everyone noticed was when steel beams were fast replacing concrete pillars for structural integrity in storied structures. The trend started spreading around four years ago and became noticeable during the lockdown. By the time it was outlawed by government in 2022, it was on the way to becoming the commonest way of building medium sized storied structures.
The reasoning behind the popularity of the said steel beams over concrete columns was very easy to see. It was cheaper, faster and convenient.
Cheaper because it takes multiple materials to build a concrete column, multiple man-hours to complete, several laborers all of which must be paid, and many days of drying time to move to the next stage of construction. The steel pillars system on the other hand was faster because all it took to was a hole in the ground and very uncomplicated welding.
The trends covered below include both those that can only be apparent to industry experts and those that may be apparent to everyone else.
The new efficient mini mall
This is fairly recent. By mini mall we mean the kinds of malls that are to be found in emerging suburbs outside major cities in the country.
They are typically storied commercial structures, usually built on small roadside plots, as small as 50 feet by 100 feet. Instead of designing the structures in the traditional way, where three or four shops face the road, or one large supermarket-sized hall on the ground floor, developers have found a more efficient way to attract more tenants.
The floor plan is usually designed in a C-form, with the open end facing the main road. The design allows the entire inside surface of the ‘C’ to get divided up into several shops, all of which are facing the road.
This design is currently trending because according to industry experts, it increases the surface area for business space, attracts more tenants than the traditional mall and makes window shopping easier.
All business owners feel as if they have not been cheated out of the sweet spot on the building and both the developer and the tenants are equally happy.
Open floor plans
This particular trend has been running for some years now, mostly in the business properties and only started trending in residential properties comparatively recently.
Most modern properties are designed to have a lot of open spaces, whether they are business or residential. Homes that are designed this way have kitchens that blend into the living room and dining room seamlessly. This is not only cheaper to build, it allows for endless possibilities when apportioning the available space for different needs.
“Open floor plans are simple and inexpensive. They have this aura of modernity that makes small spaces look bigger and they are easier to decorate,” says Cissy Namaganda, a business woman into the construction industry.
These designs tend to go well with large windows that start from as close to the floor as possible and run the entire length of the wall. It is a natural marriage of two real estate aspects that achieve the same goal; openness and natural light.
According to Lucy Kaitetsi Wamimbi, head of residential agency at Knight Frank, large windows are a must in both residential and business spaces today because they allow for natural light to beautify people’s lives.
Several industry experts affirm that condominiums are trendy right now. While condos, both business and residential have been gaining popularity over the last decade or so, Wamimbi, says that today more and more developers are opting to build apartments for sale (condos), something that has resulted in more people getting interested in them.
“Today, buyers have more options to choose from when it comes to condos. Some of the characteristics of condominiums that attract buyers are; easy access to public transport and social amenities such as schools, hospitals and shopping centers within the neighborhood, easy commuting distance to the CBD, availability of play areas for children, swimming pools, gyms, balconies with appealing views and quality fittings and finishes,” she says.
She also adds that many buyers love the fact that condos come with staff quarters, allocated resident parking, extra storage facilities allocated to the apartment, and spacious rooms.
House hunting goes online
The Covid-19 lockdown sent people across the world online shopping due to the fact that they were all locked in their homes with no other option. Interestingly, house hunting had already been thriving before the pandemic. The 2020/2021 lockdowns only cemented what was already happening as a norm.
As far back as five years ago, companies in Uganda were already using virtual reality gurgles to show their offerings to clients without having to go to the property itself every time a client rocked up at the reception. You’d be hard pressed to find another industry that was this invested in online business at the time.
“Property tech is an optimised way of searching for property and is quickly becoming a norm. While the commonest online house hunting involves buyers asking agents to be shared via WhatsApp or email, property companies use websites as a primary step in marketing property,” says Kaitetsi.
Some dealers are taking advantage of apps such as Tiktok, Youtube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook to reach their clients instead of building websites. She advises that investing in a presentable aesthetic is important for any residential property dealer. It has to look good visually.
9X9 Concrete blocks
You may have noticed that the use of the large concrete blocks commonly known as nine-nine in construction is currently very high. Developers, masons and business people that deal in building houses for sale have gravitated to these blocks in recent years.
Cissy Namaganda, a property developer who runs the Kabalagala-based Cinam construction company explains that the trend has caught fire because it makes everything so easy.
“Using concrete blocks in construction is a lot cheaper than using bricks because they require much less work during finishing. Not only do they fit together perfectly because of the way they are designed, they have smooth surfaces that barely need correcting during finishing. The fact that they are so huge is also advantageous because the times spent on construction is cut short, helping you save on labor costs. This is why I advise my clients to choose them,” Namaganda says.
High demand for warehouses
A Kampala market performance review produced by Knight Frank recently indicates that demand for industrial space is on the upward trend.
“Industrial space requirements remained relatively stable in H2 2022, despite the high inflation, dry weather conditions, currency depreciation, and rising costs of finance,” the report reads in part.
The report indicates that warehouse leasing dominated the inquiries in 2022, at approximately 70 percent, while sales inquiries accounted for 30 percent. Of the sales inquiries, 97 percent were for land, with size requirements ranging between 5-15 acres, predominantly in the Kampala Industrial Business Park (KIBP), Namanve. The relatively new industrial park offers suitably sized industrial land options so close to Kampala’s central business district.
“This demand, especially in the KIBP- Namanve has been largely attributed to the park’s strategic location and proximity to Uganda’s main business hub (approximately 15Km from Kampala’s City Center), location along the corridor to the Kenya border, government incentives to boost industrialisation as well as the several strategic advantages of lying along the planned Southern bypass, Bukasa Port, and the Standard Gauge Railway,” the report reads.
The seminal real estate player says that the rise in demand for warehouses for rent was observed, with demand from logistics, cold storage, and agricultural processing. Warehouse occupier requirements were mostly for large spaces, between 500-2,000 square meters, dominated by Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) suppliers, cold storage, SME businesses, agribusiness, industrial research and distributors.
As demand for affordable living increases, developers continue to attempt to keep up with supply. As a result, more buildings are restored, new structures are established, and more amenities are added. The popularity of mixed-use type of developments has seen investors move to the outskirts of major cities and towns. Also called compact developments, mixed-use developments are an ecosystem that allows a seamless interaction of retail facilities, residential and commercial offices in a set-up of communal living.
Namaganda says in recent times, she has seen a hike in demand for smaller, beautiful homes that are cost effective.
“They are usually the kind of houses that take a short time and much less resources to construct, and they utilise land effectively. What do I mean? In the past, someone would build a four bedroom bungalow on a 50X100 that they would end up without a parking or a garden. New designs take advantage of vertical plans and other modern ways of keeping simple yet elegant,” she says.
She attributes this new trend to developers consulting experts as opposed to the past when architectural plans were considered secondary.
“Once you talk to experts and you clearly see the finished product before construction starts, chances are you will opt for cheaper, better ways of doing things,” she says.
As industry leaders agree, advancing technology and changing consumer habits have already helped boundaries fall away between traditional sectors.
We have reached a point where where users are not limited by location or type of property.
They can use whatever property for retail, offices or industrial and logistics if they want.