Is Building a Rural Palatial Home a Waste of Money?


I recently went to the village and I was amazed at the sheer size of the modern houses that exist in the countryside.

Young people are transforming their villages – putting up beautiful multi-million maisonettes and bungalows that are fit for kings.

Indeed, owning a humongous house tops a typical Kenyan list of things to do before one goes to be with the Lord.

Others, according to some villagers, just cannot mute the desire to show off.

As the common joke goes, what many do not know is that “the extra rooms are reserved for mosquitoes”.

My father’s built his dream house in 1986

I remember my father laid the foundation stone for a house that what would become the talk of the village in 1986.

The house boasted four huge bedrooms, an expansive modern kitchen, a more than average size sitting room, a dining area, store room, a resting lounge which my villagers called ‘Room Ya Nje”, a bathroom and a toilet – separately.

I remember seeing people travelling to our home from neighboring villages to come and see for themselves this palatial house.

Many of the villagers got lost, and as kids, we would engage in innocent search and rescue missions – to locate and guide old men and women who could not find the exit once they had entered the house.

The house even had a modern ceiling board – which would later be plucked out because the upper roof part had been invaded by millions of bats. Stupid bats.

I took part in the uprooting the ceiling board – of course dad had died by this time. I doubt if he would approve of such a move given he had sourced the timber that was used on the ceiling from Molo. Imagine. Transporting ceiling boards from Rift Valley to somewhere on the shores of lake Victoria.

It must have cost mzee an arm and a leg.

For nearly two decades, ours remained the landmark building in the entire district, and it was not uncommon to hear villagers (mostly fishermen) using it as a compass.

Fishermen who got lost in the lake only needed to look for the expansive red roof that resembled Old Trafford.

Today, over 30 years later, the house is hardly recognizable. It’s actually yet to finish given mzee died just four years after moving in.

Mzee had not done the painting – or even the final touches to the house he loved but never had a chance to live inside, and enjoy his sweat.

Apart from the fact that the cold hands of death took dad quite early (he was 50 years old), he spent most of his hours working in the city, and would only come to the village at the end of every month for a two day visit.

At the time of his death, I could count in one hand alone the number of complete moons he spent in the house.

Today it has become almost like a ghost house – because all the 9 of us children are either married elsewhere – or in the city hustling.

So, mum who is almost 80 years old, is alone in the house most of the time.

The house is too big. She says she can spend a few days without going into certain rooms.

The bathroom, and the toilet are no longer in use.

The sitting room has been reduced into a conference room for village chama meetings – or clan meetings – especially when a senior clans man or woman goes to be with the lord.

Our house, well, my dad’s house, has lost the trophy to other houses in the village.

Young men and women are doing what my father did in 1986 – and are putting up 7-bedroom houses.

Investment advisors  have argued that pumping millions into building those huge houses end up being locked.

Many young people need help to shape their relationship with their houses, build it better, with better financial planning to ensure they can still retire with happy and with something to eat.

Better still, they can still build their modern house in towns where they can bring in money even in old age.

Of course, everyone’s choice must be appreciated, but just think about it.




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