- Speaking at his new home in Mikocheni Dar es Salaam, Msimbira says it used to take him almost a week or more to get a good house in the past.
- “But that has now changed. This time around I spent hardly two days, thanks to Instagram where all my needs were met. All you have to do is go to Instagram, type your search and you will get a long list of real estate agents to choose from,” he says
Unlike in the past when he used to experience difficulties when looking for a house to rent, Samuel Msimbira, 23, is grateful that when he was moving to a new house recently, it took him hardly two days to find one.
Speaking at his new home in Mikocheni Dar es Salaam, Msimbira says it used to take him almost a week or more to get a good house in the past.
“But that has now changed. This time around I spent hardly two days, thanks to Instagram where all my needs were met. All you have to do is go to Instagram, type your search and you will get a long list of real estate agents to choose from,” he says.
From the list of agents, one can view different houses online and when you find a house that you like, the agent then takes you to view the house physically. In the past, the exercise used to involve trekking or driving long distances to view different houses at a fee after which in most cases, you would not get a houses to suit your needs.
A third year student at the Institute of Tax Administration, Msimbira, was introduced to the ‘new house searching method’ by a friend.
“When I thought of the inconveniences that come with house searching and the fact that most middlemen are unfaithful, I just got confused when the time to relocate came,” he says.
Fortunately, a friend he had shared his fears with told him not to worry as the solution was just a click away. Housing agents have taken the advantage that almost everyone today owns a smartphone and they are on social media. They advertise their business on social media platforms especially on Instagram, which is the most popular.
Msimbira is among hundreds of Tanzanians today who have embraced social media for services like house searching.Thanks to the online revolution brought about by the development of information and communication technology, people in major towns and cities have all their property needs met through the Internet.
The advantage is that one can do the search from anywhere and at their convenience, view different houses or plots and finally contact the agent for viewing.
Rebecca Michael, 30, a businesswoman in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam acquired a plot of land through Instagram. Rebecca is not an avid Instagram user but was introduced to the online service by her uncle.
“I was able to buy a plot in Kigamboni after communicating with the agent online who sent me photos and video clips of different plots from which I chose one,” explains Rebecca.
The agent also scanned all the necessary documents and sent them to her to assure her the deal was genuine.
An online survey by Sound Living has established that there are more than 100 real estate agents on Instagram. Online agents are mostly found in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Mbeya.
“Instagram is the place where we reach a large group of people within a very short time,” says Adam Mkwatai, CEO of a registered agency, Mkwatai Real Estate Agency.
He says most people today spend a lot of time on social media and so it easier to get clients there.
“Social media has created a new venture for our business and has therefore helped us expand our scope of business in terms of the number of people we are able to reach in a short time almost effortlessly,” says Mkwatai.
Another Instagram agent, Ibrahim Juma who is based in Sinza, Dar es Salaam says since he started using the App, he has never received any complaints from customers.
“People enjoy the online service. Instagram offers them the best solution when it comes to property search,” says Juma adding that the online service is stress-free with less challenges.
“Everything can be viewed online beforehand and a customer only goes to see the property physically with an idea of how whatever it is they are searching looks like,” he says.
Azaidu Daudi has been in the business for almost ten years. He says during that time no one had the slightest idea that there would be anything like Instagram and that their business would be done there.
Daudi says the App has simplified his work and helped change the customers’ negative view on agents. It has also helped them gain customers’ confidence. Agents too have improved their services.
While many are in praise of the App, there are people who claim to have been disappointed by the housing search model.
Rachel Boniface,30, for example regrets ever using the App to search for a house as she ended up wasting her time.
“I searched on Instagram and saw a house which I liked but when I went to see the house physically, I was very disappointed. It was totally different from the house I had seen online,” she recalls.
She no longer wants anything to do with the service and refers to the online housing business as a scam.
“You find people calling themselves real estate agents while they do not have an address. You can not even trace them when need be.”
Benedict Bernard, 29, had a similar experience when he was looking for a plot to buy. He says what you see online is not what you get at the end of the day. He had viewed a video clip on Instagram and saw a very attractive piece of land that he just wanted to buy right away. He too was disappointed when he went to make payment.
“When you go to the place physically you find out that it is totally different from the one you had been shown online,” says Bernard.
Bernard says it’s so frustrating since by the time you go to see the property in question you already have wasted your time a great deal. According to him, chances are that you could also end up losing a genuine deal by wasting time searching online and going to view fake property.
However, most Instagram agents interviewed strongly denied the claim.
“I don’t think that happens unless someone is not satisfied with a property after seeing it physically,” says Shafii Mashelle, another Sinza based agent.
Juma concurs with Mashelle saying that they are not to blame when that happens since they receive these photos from the property owners.
“There is so much editing on Instagram, including filtering. It could be that the person who posted the photo had done a lot of editing hence altering the real state of their property,” Juma says.
As noted by Rachel above, online business could be risky given that most of these agents are not licensed and hence are not recognised by the government. Most of the interviewed agents confessed to this.
“I do not have a licence and so I do not pay tax,” responded one agent quickly adding; “but I am in the process of getting one” says an agent who preferred anonymity.
This view is supported by Mr Sultan Mndeme, the CEO of GIMCO Africa Limited, a real estate company. He refers to a Latin phrase caveat emptor, the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before making a purchase.
“This term means that the buyer assumes the risk that a product may fail to meet expectations or have defects,” says Mr Mndeme, a former senior lecturer in Real Estate at Ardhi University.
He says before a buyer buys a particular property, they are supposed to hire a real estate agent to do the quality and suitability check on their behalf.
“This includes going to the ministry of lands to undertake what is called ‘title search’ which lets you know who owns the property, whether or not the property has been mortgaged or conveyed.”
If you do not undertake due diligence process, Mndeme warns, you cannot take an agent to court if they lie to you.
“Even the Judge will ask you as a customer who brought forward the lawsuit, on the reasonable steps you took in order to satisfy a legal requirement before buying or leasing the property,” added Mr Mndeme.
Mr Jafar Hafidh, an independent real estate consultant based in Zanzibar says that social media, Instagram in particular, has helped in making the real estate market vibrant. However, he too warns of the danger of being conned if one uses an unregistered online agent.
“If the real estate agents who undertake their operations on these social media platforms are not registered, there’s a danger of being swindled.”
Mr Linus Kinyondo, president of Tanzania Institution of Valuers and Real Estate Agents, says the association does not recognise the agents on Instagram.
“We do not recognise them,” said Mr Kinyondo adding; “that’s why we are struggling to have the law guiding the real estate business in the country passed so it can be clearly stated who is a real estate agent and who is not.”
Kinyondo says at the moment they cannot take any legal measures against these agents as there is no such a defining law.
“People are supposed to go for registered real estate agents who are recognised by the government to avoid problems associated with property buying and leasing,” cautions Kinyondo.