By Ker Mogallo
When Steve Omollo founded Unicorn Properties in the year 2015 in the United States of America where he had lived, studied and worked for over 14 years, it was the beginning of a journey he is very passionate about.
With interest in most of the components of real estate including land buying and selling, property management, development of real estate as well as selling and renting of developed units, Unicorn properties under the stewardship of its Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Steve Omolo, is settling for nothing other than excellence in the field.
After just one year of operation in the US, the founder and CEO opted to move to Kenya in June 2016. It is a move that was prompted by the fact that after gaining the much-needed experience in the real estate industry abroad, it was time to share the experiences, knowledge, and expertise locally and also be part of the Kenyan real estate industry streamlining.
‘I was coming back home after living in the US for over fourteen years and I decided I was going to share my knowledge and expertise locally,’ he said in an interview with the Corporate Watch Magazine.
He added that like any other businesses, real estate has its ups and downs but regrets that the Kenyan industry as compared to the United States space is not properly structured and regulated.
‘Real Estate is not just a business you just get into, most of the agents dealing in real Estate here in Kenya have very little knowledge of the sector. There is no formal education on the real estate sector resulting in an industry that is not properly systematized. The government must thus step in to ensure there is proper regulation,’ said the CEO.
The President and founder of Unicorn Properties & Developers says there are risks and gains in the sector and that one has to have the knowledge and education to know the factors that drive the real estate market.
‘We must encourage real estate dealers to get formal education on how to run things in the industry, most dealers in the country are street smart but with very little knowledge and formal education on real estate. The government must move to regulate the industry to ensure agents do not confuse the market leading to artificial demand and exaggerated property prices,’ he noted.
Transitioning from the real Estate sector in the US and into the Kenyan sector has not been a walk in the park, with Steve Omolo citing honesty as one of the main challenges he has faced.
‘The biggest problem here is honesty, if you are dealing in real estate, developers don’t want to pay commission and agents are dealing with many developers hoping for better deals. So far, out of all the agents in Kenya, probably only ten are registered. This must be corrected through legislation and establishment of colleges to ensure the real estate industry is run by professionals,’ he said.
Under his leadership and guidance, Unicorn properties, with over 32 employees locally and partnering with other agencies regionally and in the US have focused on the sales, leasing, development and management of quality commercial and residential real estate within Nairobi and its environs up to Machakos County.
Specializing in the acquisition and disposal of commercial and residential real estate, working in conjunction with American and domestic investors, as well as acting as the principal to many transactions, Mr. Omolo notes that his company boasts of knowledgeable staff as well as a huge data bank on properties that is not found at rival real estate companies giving him an upper hand.
We are not just real estate agents, we are also consultants who offer advice on property for free, this is to ensure you are investing wisely,’ he said.
He adds that the company offers development deals and finance for multifamily residential projects, including real-estate management and market analysis.
With over15 years of working experience with various real estate companies in the US brought in by the CEO, Unicorn Properties is now arguably one of Kenya’s leading real estate establishments. With a mission and vision to be the most desirable real estate company, priding itself in honesty, the company’s main objective is to make its clients happy.
‘ Property is expensive, if someone saves and wants to invest in property, you don’t joke with that, give them the correct advice after carrying out a proper survey,’ says the realtor.
Mr. Omolo, a renown International Real Estate & Mortgage broker licensed in the USA and a member of the International Body for realtors studied at Cedar Valley College – Associate Degree, B.A Real Estate at Kaplan University says the real estate sector is set for growth but advises that politics needs to be separated from business.
The growth of the real estate sector dwindled in 2017 and slowed down in the first quarter of 2018 mainly due to the prolonged electioneering period.
‘Investors get scared when politics take center stage, if we can mature up and keep politics out of our business then we are on the right track, Kenya is still a regional hub and that position has to be maintained for the growth of the real estate industry and the economy at large,’ noted Mr. Omolo.
On overpriced property within the Nairobi metropolitan, the Unicorn CEO links this problem to the emergence of ‘piracy money’ brought in by the Somali’s who now own most of the properties in the Nairobi CBD and its environs.
‘Let me tell you, people don’t want to talk about it but it is the truth, the Somali’s were trying to offload the piracy money by investing in real estate. They inflated prices for housing and a lot of property in town. Now, after piracy stopped, prices are stabilizing. It will soon reach a point of equilibrium,’ he says.
Even with the government’s ambitious plan to have affordable housing for all, the realtor says the plan is farfetched as most people will not be able to afford the housing because of the high unemployment rate.
‘The plan is perfect, but what is going to happen to the houses if the general public cannot afford the houses? Angola tried it and it failed, we first must ensure Kenyans will be able to afford the houses by opening employment opportunities and training the youth in business to ensure every one of them can earn a living before we churn out the houses,’ he said.
According to Mr. Omolo, housing has been one of Kenya’s fastest growing sectors in the past decade, with returns from real estate outpacing equities and government securities but warns that the transport sector and in particular roads leading in and out of the city should be opened as a priority to ensure affordable housing as envisioned by the government’s big four plan.
His inspiration has always been to help people out, helping the general public solve their real estate problems. ‘Our aim is to help investors, our priority is not in making a profit, that can be made in the repeat business we get from happy and satisfied customers as well as referrals,’ says the CEO.
In the next five to ten years, the CEO hopes to move Unicorn Properties to the Counties through franchising to make the brand bigger. He however says the real estate sector could be better if well streamlined and structured for the general gain of the industry and the Kenyan economy at large.