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Still hurdles for independence

Compared with the western world, the real estate business here in Addis Ababa is largely an informal affair and someone who wants to rent home should travel to the area he would like to live, ask around until he finds places where brokers hangout, approach one and tell him what you are looking for, then start walking. You knock on doors and take a tour, then either begin negotiations or respectfully exit and move on fetching another.

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The government of Ethiopia has been constructing hundreds of thousands condominium houses through various housing development schemes in Addis Ababa and transferred a lot to individuals over the last several years. The incumbent has also been hugely engaged in addressing challenges facing the urban development and housing area as well as poor administration and corruption.

 Despite the tremendous progress the country has witnessed in the urban development, the availability of real estate agents, officers and internet listings remains unsatisfactory and the public’s’ demand for low-cost houses and the government’s capacity is largely unbalanced.

The increasing demography pressure from all corners of the country to the metropolis and real estate’s overhead prices make low- income citizens’ hope of owning houses in Addis Ababa far from a reality. The situation led the urban fixed income earners, as of me, become too much reliant on renting houses from individual landowners where the price and quality of houses are mostly unparalleled.

Considering the average salary of a civil servant in Ethiopia, it is easy to understand that house rent consumes considerably huge Portion of the monthly income especially those with big families. To overcome the situation, many friends and colleagues, especially the bachelorette, tend to live together to share the huge cost they have incurred for house renting. And you know, cohabitation is not as such difficult for Ethiopians unlike in many other cultures. But, this is mainly due to the ever-increasing demand for residences coupled with the brokers’ desire to get better Commission further ballooned the price of houses even the small and shaky ones.

 Independence, once attained, is not easily relinquished especially when you decide to move out of parents’ home for the first time as I am. So after I began looking for a house here in Addis Ababa and realized that it was nearly impossible to live alone affordably, I was understandably concerned.

One of the most promising locations discovered during the search (which was undertaken with a broker) was a small house in neat compound tucked behind the owner’s large home. The older couple looking for tenants was remarkably kind and relaxed the ideal landlords. As we were finalizing the agreement and   handing over the down payment, the woman of the house smiled and cheerily said, “Oh one more thing. We have a big dog, and after nine pm we unleash him from his chain. So, if you come home after then, well. ..” I like dogs, and could have befriended this particular one, but the idea of curfew at my age, and the possibility of rabies, effectively ended that particular negotiation.

During another attempt on a hot Sunday afternoon, the owner was visibly excited throughout the brief tour. But when it became obvious that it was not right for me, she quickly turned serious, then perturbed, and then downright angry. Apparently, she thought the broker and I had secretly passed some kind of signal that meant I was not interested “Why did this man come into my house if he was not going to rent it? Why are they winking at each other? Wasting my time “There had been no winking, but I hurried out without trying to explain.

 Because owners, after seeing that a person is interested in their house will hike up prices and I had hard times that brokers and landowners understanding that I honestly do not have a lot of money. I tell the brokers my price range, and we begin walking. Soon they are showing me lavish, beautiful houses, I again tell them that, although these are nice homes, I simply cannot afford them, we walk some more, and enter compounds of big houses. I leave, exasperated. Perhaps the brokers think this is some half-assed bargaining attempt that the naive civil servant thought would work.

 Fed up with the exorbitant prices, fruitless negotiations, and suspicious or demanding potential landlords, I eventually settled on a small place on the outskirts of the city away from, well, everything, but I had my own compound and relative privacy. Make the best of it, I told myself, 60-minute commute is not a bad thing.

Then, the tap water, permitted by the landowner disappeared for five days in a row. And the electricity also went out. And when it rained the quasi-asphalt streets became shifting puzzles of mud even the nimble had trouble navigating. If a friend happened to call with an invitation to coffee at say, eight pm, I consistently led to decline. After making the effort of responding the time to get home, having again was unthinkable, It became difficult to keep my spirits up. After two months of this, I had had enough. Unfortunately, the search was to begin again.

I think the expansion of cost- effective houses in major towns including the capital Addis Ababa enables the government to provide residents with necessary facilities and infrastructure as well easing challenges the urban low-income group has faced to obtain a place to live. Till then, I keep on looking for a house with just the right mix of privacy, amenities, agreeable landlords, and in a good location while moving back in with parents.

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