From vacant plot to thriving community at Nhlulo Maison

Mahlatse Kekana, Junior Portfolio Manager at TUHF, stands outside Nhlulo Maison.

Our client, RM, bought a vacant piece of land in Birchleigh on auction in 2016. Now, Nhlulo Maison – meaning The House of Triumph – is home to eight happy families.

“I saw the auction sign on the vacant lot on my way home from church one day. So, I took a chance and went to the auction, buying the land with a bond from one of the four major South African banks,” RM says.

“My wife and I were both employed full time, but we knew we wanted to develop the property to generate income and service the bond,” he says. Unfortunately, the couple weren’t able to secure a building loan, and had to resort to personal loans and credit cards to start building.

“It was a good thing to take a stab – I think the fact that there was development happening on the property showed TUHF that this was a worthwhile project to fund – but that personal debt was very painful to carry.”

While looking for ways to ease their debt burden and finish the development, RM approached TUHF with rough calculations of what it would cost to complete his vision. TUHF did a site visit and a feasibility study, then assisted to complete the documentation needed to apply for loan finance.

“We were about halfway at that stage,” RM says, “but couldn’t finish the project and could only service the existing loans through our personal salaries. TUHF approved our application in 2017.”

Work to finish the build started in 2018, and by November 2020 eight brand new, 2-bedroom units, with carports, were ready for occupation. The ground floor units were put on the market at R 6 000 per month, and top floor units at R 5 800. By January 2021, Nhlulo Maison was fully tenanted.

“Working with Mahlatse was very informative. He helped me every step of the way and taught me a lot I didn’t know, such as the importance of involving a quantity surveyor in developing the project cost estimates,” RM says.

RM also completed the TUHF Programme For Property Entrepreneurship (TPPE) and appreciated having Henry Chitsulo from Bold Moves as his mentor. “We did a practical exercise as part of the course, where we visited a building in downtown Jozi to do the calculations for refurbishing it, and it was a real eye-opening experience, and inspiring,” RM says. “I almost wanted to tackle that building on my own!”

The original loan from TUHF was for R 1.9 million. Though the first tenant had signed up in May 2019 – a promising sign for quick return on the investment – South Africa’s hard lockdown did create some challenges for RM both in terms of signing up tenants and in terms of keeping up to date with payments to the contractor. “I got a lot of support from Mahlatse at TUHF, though. For example, during the lockdown Mahlatse assisted on a call with the contractor to come to agreement on when funds would be available to pay the account, which allowed us to continue and complete the build.”

“It’s so amazing. Every time I visit Nhlulo I love what I see. My wife and I started from scratch and it’s great to see what we’ve managed to achieve on a vacant lot. The tenants have also formed a close community where the kids all know each other.”

Nhlulo Maison is close to Birchleigh Primary and High School, a park with a jungle gym, and a shopping complex which makes it ideal residential space for young families. It’s also near Glen Marias’ developing business hub.

When asked for his advice to aspiring property entrepreneurs, RM says: “Understand the bill quantities! For example, the original costing for this project didn’t include paving for the full area, so we had to approach TUHF to make up the short fall. But working with TUHF means that, as long as you do your homework properly, you don’t need to be fearful of the funding side. TUHF can help you to make it work.”