COVID-19 speeds up interest in home ownership

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Affordable Home
  • Ghanaians in diaspora looking to buy homes
  • Renters fear landlords would spike rents due to pandemic
  • Affordable homes see more demand than luxurious options

The Coronavirus pandemic has spiked the interest of Ghanaians in the diaspora and renters in the country to bring forward the urge to purchase their own homes and lands for building their dream homes as fears of renters grow over homeowners spiking rents when they are due.

An analysis of demands, coupled with interviews with industry players show that home buyers are looking for cheaper homes in peripheral areas in the capital city, Accra, rather than more expensive options in East Legon, Cantonments, Ridge and Airport Residential.

George Sermador Sognon, a financial analyst at Appolonia City, a 2325-acre master-planned urban development with residential, light industrial and commercial centres, noted that over the past three months a lot more people in Ghana and abroad are considering owning their own homes as a result of the impact of the virus.

“For people who are living here and paying rent, they are not assured of what the owner of the houses might come up with next and people want a place for themselves. Landlords and ladies are noted for sometimes increasing rent by as much as 100 percent and so a lot of people are now liquidating some other investments and knocking on our doors to own homes.

Enquiries are increasing for home ownership because people no longer want to continue paying rent and if you do qualify for a staff mortgage, and with some investment lying somewhere, then you are more than primed to own your first home,” he told the B&FT in an interview.

With the virus pushing work from offices to homes, the analysis of the demand point to the fact that most people would prefer to work from their own homes, where they would be able to have the opportunity to create office spaces in their own home to work rather than creating that space in rented accommodation, which could face restrictions from the owners of the properties.

Data from meqasa.com, Ghana’s leading real-estate website with listings of over 45,000 properties, noted that it recorded its highest traffic in the year in June, 2020. Visits to meqasa.com were up by 52 percent, with over 200,000 visits during the month. Leads (direct enquiries) have also jumped by 61 percent as the economy continue to recover from the pandemic.

Kelvin Nyame, CEO of meqasa.com, in an interview with the B&FT, noted that majority of the leads were from people –locals, Ghanaians in the diaspora and other investors– who are interested in purchasing homes rather than people seeking to rent, which previously, was the case.

“More than 70 percent of these requests were on houses, which was strange, because we usually see a lot more requests on apartments, which are basically for renting and the pandemic has slowed the apartment market. So there is growing demand but the majority of demands and enquiries are also not interested in homes in high-end neighbourhoods of Airport Residential, Cantonments, Ridge or East Legon.

They are rather interested in homes and lands in places such as East Legon Hills, Tse Addo, Oyarifa, Prampram and Oyibi. This really is the best time to look at owning a home rather than an apartment to rent since most of the high-end rentals are targeted at expats,” Mr. Nyame added.

He noted that the same trend was noticed during meqasa’s annual housing fair, which moved online this year due to the pandemic. “The online housing fair was the first of its kind in Ghana, and attracted over 350 buyers who showed interest in purchasing houses, to live in, and land in the country, to build, rather than apartments, to subsequently rent out, which used to be the case.”

Bright Owusu-Amofah, CEO of Appolonia City, also told the B&FT that one of the challenges developers have had over the years is engaging and targeting Ghanaians in the diaspora but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought lockdowns across cities around the world and forced people to work from home, people had time to go online and engage with developers including Appolonia.

“We saw traffic to our website increase significantly and we are engaging them very much and offering them options,” he said.

Samuel Amegayibor, Executive Secretary at the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), also told the B&FT that members of the association have seen an increase in interest in homes, especially from the diaspora.

“In the early days of the pandemic, business slowed, just like everywhere else. Whereas, some sectors are still in slow down, real estate is surprisingly picking up and really at pace. Members are reporting that demand is increasing for homes, not apartments to rent. Though the majority of the demand is coming from Ghanaians living in the diaspora, locals are also making enquiries,” he said.

He explained that before COVID-19, between 2018 and 2019, the real estate market was experiencing a slowdown, especially around the middle- and upper-class market. But since May, 2020 there has been a surge in demand across the board –middle income to upper class market and middle income to lower class market.

“This is a surprise because we are in a pandemic and while developers were worried about staying afloat, we are rather experiencing a surge. The developers who have invested in technology to market products and services are the ones benefiting the most.”

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