Ask many a person why a large number of young professionals gravitate towards spending money on expensive vehicles, instead of first buying a house and you are guaranteed to get contrasting answers.
New Era Weekend posed the very same questions to the strategic marketing and communications research manager at FNB Namibia Holdings, Namene Kalili. His answer was that young professionals spend too much money on expensive cars first, meaning they have little or nothing left to buy a house or land with.
It was an answer that had young professionals – whom New Era Weekend approached for comment – throwing their toys out of the cot. As far as many young professionals are concerned the blame lies squarely at the doors of the air-conditioned home loan offices of the banks – not only in the capital, but also at their branches countrywide.
“I don’t get it if I am told that I don’t qualify, but at the same time the rent I pay is sometimes close to the monthly instalment of a property that I want to buy,” said crestfallen Maria Hedimbi, who, armed with a bachelor’s degree in communication, earns relatively decent wages. She now lives in her parents’ home in an attempt to keep her bank balance in the black. Yet, apparently that too has not helped. “We try so hard to keep our bank statements clean for the sake of acquiring our own properties, but every time you’re told you don’t qualify,” she says dejectedly.
Thirty-year-old Aron Tjihumino, a mechanical engineer at the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia, is in the same boat and by his own admission has completely given up any hope of ever owning his own home in Windhoek.
“The cost of renting a flat, compared to buying, is that the costs of buying are high and with financial obstacles of estate agents, banks, lawyers and deeds offices, buying a house becomes a very costly exercise,” said Tjihumino.
Okahandja resident George Kujandeka holds both government and the media responsible for not being able to buy a house. The 29-year-old accountant speaks of his struggles and the heartaches that come with trying to get onto the property ladder, because banks often require collateral, which he simply does not have.
“I feel there has been a failure in both the media and government to properly diagnose the cause of high house prices,” Kujandeka opined.
Many young professionals also point to the amount one is required to earn per month to qualify for a home loan that corresponds to what is available in the market. A scan of this week’s newspaper ads shows that Windhoek house prices range from N$1.5 million in Katutura up to N$7 million per house in the leafy upmarket suburbs.
FNB Housing Index puts the mid-priced house in Windhoek at N$1.3 million in June, which is 10.5 percent higher than average Windhoek house prices in 2015. It also notes that house prices in Windhoek’s lower income areas, such as Okuryangava, Khomasdal, Katutura and Rocky Crest have recorded strong price growth.
The FNB Index also notes that as of June, Swakopmund recorded the highest growth in prices at 28.2 percent year-on-year, setting the median price at N$1.2 million by the end of May.
At Walvis Bay, prices grew by 6.2 percent over the past year, setting the median price of a bonded house in that area at N$800 000. Northern towns continue to grow, with sales having increased by 23 percent by the end of May, while prices rose by 14.1 percent to the new median price of N$605 000.
If not a house – then it is a car
Buying a car, say the young professionals we spoke to, is a last resort. It is not a financially reckless act, they feel. As it turns out, very few young Namibians aspire to own a flat. Many are prepared to pour money into the purchase of a house – whether semi-detached, or townhouse with a yard – but most abhor the notion of owning a flat. They would rather rent a decent housing unit. Tjihumino opted to buy a 2015 Toyota Hilux, 3.0 D4D Legend, for which he pays N$7 600 a month, including insurance. He says he only did this because bank financing was easier to get and the terms of payments are shorter. Meanwhile, he rents a decent bachelor pad and manages to save some money.
He remains adamant though that if the cost of housing could be regulated to bring down house prices he would consider buying a house. “Mind you, a house, not a flat,” he says.
Hedimbi said it is really hard for her to understand why young professionals cannot afford a house in the same price range as a car they qualify for. She also bemoans the requirement of having a house loan repayment period of over 20 years.
“One has to bear the monthly instalments for about fifteen to twenty years before it’s finally paid off and this forces you not to buy anything of value,” she said.
Kujandeka poured his funds into his beloved Opel Safari, for which he pays a modest N$3 000 a month, excluding insurance. He rents a flat in Okahandja, but laments the rise of inequality and says, “There is perhaps no greater manifestation of the wealth gap in this country than that between someone who owns a house and one who does not.”
“Ignoring land prices for the moment, houses do not cost a lot to build, yet how can it be that in this liberal, peaceful, educated society that is the 21st century, our generation is priced out [of home ownership],” he vents. – This article was first published in New Era Weekend edition of 10 September 2016.