While many insist that estate agents contribute to excessively high rental prices in Windhoek by increasing the costs as they add their own fees and commission, one estate agent yesterday welcomed the idea of a rental regulatory body, provided that such a regulator represents both tenants and owners.
Many Windhoek residents pay exorbitant rental fees ranging from N$4 000 for an outside room to as much as N$25 000 for a three-bedroom house.
“I would agree to the idea of a regulating body, but only if such a body acts as proper mediator between tenant and owner. They must not only regulate price, they must also regulate reasonable conditions and unruly and problem tenants. It will be a very difficult industry to regulate though, but if the regulation does not cover all aspects of the industry there is no point in it. It cannot be a one-sided mediator,” said Sandra van Rooyen, an estate agent for Remax Windhoek.
The absence of a regulatory body for house prices and rental costs has seen these prices skyrocket, to the extent that Windhoek now has the second fastest housing price growth in the world, after Dubai.
“Our dreams have been shattered by middlemen who push up housing prices. Now we are cramped into backyard flats where we are charged excessively high prices not suitable for the areas where we rent. We are also so confined, because landlords give tenants no say because they are unregulated,” said Wilhelmina Isaacs who pays N$5 000 rent for a one-bedroom backyard flat in Khomasdal.
“Rental prices are so high and sometimes it’s not worth what you are paying for. Also, landlords increase their prices after six or 12 months as they wish, because they are not regulated and they do not improve their property or the service they provide,” said Itate Ndimba, who rents a one-bedroom flat in Goreangab for N$2 500 a month.
“If you want to be independent you will have to fork out about N$8 000 a month, which excludes water and electricity. If these amenities are added you are looking at more than N$9 000 a month for a tiny little place,” lamented Hambelela Pinieas, who despite having secure employment still lives with her mother in Greenwell Matongo.
According to Van Rooyen, the most expensive rental suburbs in Windhoek are Klein Windhoek, Auas Blick, Olympia and Kleine Kuppe, while the most affordable are in areas such as Khomasdal, Katutura and Rocky Crest.
“However, it is very difficult to say since the types of properties that you can rent in the different areas differ vastly, and accordingly their prices. It really is about value for money in addition to location,” Van Rooyen explained. She added that she cannot imagine how a low to middle-income family can afford a home, with reasonable living space to meet family needs, for a reasonable price.
“Because of the large demand in the lower and mid-income levels of society, I cannot foresee that it will become more reasonable in future unless salary increases keep up with the increases in living costs,” Van Rooyen added. She noted that the major factors pushing up house and rental prices is definitely the high demand, coupled with high property prices in general.
“One must always keep in mind that the investor is taking the risk of damage, financing costs, loss of income due to non-payment, amongst others, and must protect himself against that. As it is, investors already subsidise tenants’ real housing cost by taking that risk and by paying shortfalls of between 40 percent and 50 percent of the bond amount. Yes, it is a calculated risk, but it is a risk nonetheless. Thus, the higher the trading price, the higher the rental prices will be,” Van Rooyen concluded.