Four years ago, David Karau retired from the military as a Major so that he could follow his passion— real estate. That is when he met a leading Nairobi property expert, David Ojijo, who helped him to establish himself.
“I always had interest in real estate throughout my 16 years in the Kenya Air Force and practised it in a small way when time allowed,” he says.
Encouraged by a booming property market in the last eight years, Mr Karau is one of the new entrants who switched jobs to plunge into the sector.
For his company, Windsor Homes, the sky-—which he left as an air force Major—is now the limit.
“We have projects worth between Sh5 million to 40 million per unit in high-end locations in the city,” he says. Some of his new developments are Malibu Gardens— which are gated town houses on Mombasa Road, Lenana Gardens on Ngong Road and property in Runda and Kitusuru.
While he has focused his attention on Nairobi, Mr Karau says his company will soon be expanding to the outskirts of the city as prime land gets scarce and costs prohibitive.
Thika is proving to be a popular alternative locations for developers. “We are interested in other regions, but land is scarce in those areas. It is almost impossible to secure building space, but we already have developments in the outskirts of the Nairobi, including Thika where we are putting up an apartment.”
The father of three was educated at Senior Chief Koinange High School in Kiambu before joining Egerton University for a Bachelors degree in Education. But he abandoned the course for a career in the forces.
“But I still left the military when the real estate bug bit deeper.” he says. His goal, like many other developers, was to fill the void in the middle class market.
“We obeyed market demands for there was need for good products at affordable rates,” he said.
Mr Karau bought land in Embakasi in 1999 where he started. He had retired from the air force when he was barely aged 40.
“For lack of a better word, in the forces we refer to someone who has left service as retired.
“You do not have to turn 55 or 60 to be pensioned off. I opted out and my employer obliged.
Now here I am a retired Major,” he said. But his real breakthrough came when he met Mr Ojijo four years ago.
“Mr Ojijo is my mentor. I also respect him as a partner. He is the one who showed me the ropes of this business,” he says.
But the business has not been short of challenges.
Mr Karau says they had to work hard to come up with products that offer high end value.
To ensure quality products, he has established an in- house construction company together with his business partner.
The other challenge, he says, is finance.
“We do not start a project unless we have secured funding from banks.”
But he maintains a good outlook of the market, saying he is not discouraged by the high interest rates that have directly affected the property market, raising the cost of borrowing .
His advice to budding entrepreneurs: “It takes time but the right time and opportunity will come only when you are working on something.”