The right for a decent shelter is a basic human right. People have the right to own property that they have hard earned as long as such property is lawfully obtained. Owning a house is not easy in Ethiopia. The chance for an average civil servant or a private sector employee to own a home in his or her life time has become nowadays very meagre. Owning a house is becoming the last and biggest dream that one can have. Housing property, including those government condominium houses which were originally intended for the lower to medium class of society, are becoming increasingly unaffordable to the average person. Without the mortgage loans that the commercial banks have now started to give to individuals, most people would have probably left this world without a single property to their names. Even years and years of saving may not be enough without access to loans.
Nowadays, we are hearing more and more advertisements on sales of real estate houses, mostly in the form of apartments. This makes you wonder if people have suddenly become richer to be able to afford the extravagant prices. But buying a real estate apartment is not without risk. In fact, although the idea of buying a real estate house is getting popular, the fear that lies behind such investment remains in the shadow. I am sure that many are familiar with Access Real Estate. The failure of this real estate company to deliver hundreds of houses to its customers has had a major negative impact on the Ethiopian real estate sector. No matter the reasons that may have caused the default, the truth is, it has failed and greatly disappointed eager and hopeful home owners. I am sure that many had invested their life savings to pay for the apartments. I have a friend whose sister had bought one of such apartments, but lost her savings to the company. She simply chose to forget about it (because she is fortunate enough to do so) and made her investments elsewhere, completely giving up on Access real estate. I have heard that many were subject to divorces and even to suicide because of the default of the real estate company.
After the defaults of Access real estate, and I am sure many other real estate companies whose names I do not know by heart, fear has reigned among potential home owners when the names of real estate companies are raised. But still, people still decide to invest their savings on real estate houses with the hope of one day becoming a home owner. Buying land is way expensive, and one needs money to build the house as well. Condominium houses may not be up to standard for those home seekers who have above average income. So, real estate apartments are the ideal option. Real estate companies promise to deliver apartments after a certain fixed period of time. But they never do. Delays are tolerable, because the worst case scenario of default can also happen.
Hopeful apartment buyers panic and fear the worst each time news on real estate companies is out on the media. Recently, we heard about Tsehay real estate company. News was out that the real estate buildings, which were already bought and transferred to home owners, are going to be sold by the bank. How disastrous can that be? I cannot imagine the pain and frustration home owners must have gone through upon hearing the news. When is this all going to stop? When are we finally going to be able to rest assured that the property we have signed for and paid will be ours and not the bank’s or the government’s? When is it finally going to become safe to invest on housing in Ethiopia?