Ms. Kareem Shakirat Ayobami, a woman with over 10 years experience in real estate consultancy, brokerage, development and general real estate practices, speaks about how complex transactions can sustain real estate business within and outside Nigeria. Oluchi Chibuzor brings the excerpts:
How did you get into the real estate business, and what has been your motivating factor?
I am the founder and CEO of Whiterose and the company is primarily into real estate practices including property developments, general construction, brokerage, asset management, consultancy etc. I have been consistently involved in real estate practices for over a decade.
How would you describe the state of the real estate sector presently?
As I have always answered this question whenever it is put to me by concerned persons, firms or groups, the real estate sector in Nigeria is blessed with so much investment opportunities but it lacks a well regulated structure or system. For example, any person can just wake up and award himself/herself a ‘seasoned real estate practitioner’ without passing through any training whatsoever. The consequences of this is the emergence of ubiquitous real estate agents all over the country who end up either defrauding unsuspecting investors or cause the investors to fall prey to bad real estate investments due to the inexperience and lack of expertise of the so-called brokers. Notwithstanding, I commend the efforts of most stakeholders in the private sector who are striving each day to maintain the best practices in real estate; on our part, we have currently taken a step forward to not just uphold the standard best practices in all our real estate transactions, but to train and develop as many aspiring real estate practitioners as possible, hence our initiative of Whiterose International Network Platform (WIN). WIN is a platform that trains and empowers prospective real estate entrepreneurs and it is part of the Whiterose initiative towards human capacity development and empowerment.
With Nigeria battling with inflation at the moment, will you say the real estate industry provides an ample window of opportunities to a potential investor right now?
The Inflation ‘cancer’ currently ravaging the country is no doubt negatively affecting all the economic sectors of the country, the real estate sector inclusive. However, there is still no better time to invest in real estate than now. This is because any investment in real estate can only appreciate, as real estate never depreciates. Hence, the inflation can actually be a blessing in disguise for real estate investors due to the speedy rate of appreciation of real estate this period, thereby guaranteeing a bountiful return on investment for investors within the shortest possible time.
Lagos State has experienced incidents of at least four building collapse this year. In what ways can regulatory bodies improve to curb this menace?
The unfortunate incidences of building collapse this year in Lagos State is a very sad one, especially as same are avoidable had the relevant government regulatory agencies been proactive and efficient. To avoid future occurrences of these ugly incidents, I advise the Lagos State Government to adhere to some important regulations such as proper licensing and permits for any building construction whatsoever, using the standard global best practice building standards/regulations. Ensure constant on-site supervision and follow up at every stage of construction to ensure strict compliance to building regulations.
Also, by swiftly and immediately sealing off any development or construction that is found violating the established building regulations and demolish same where the situation demands and ensure a proper supervision of the personnel directly involved in the supervision of any given construction in order to detect any possible compromise due to bribery and corruption.
Finally, by severely punishing any person or corporation that is found circumventing the building regulation irrespective of the violator’s status, to serve as deterrence to others.
There has been criticism that most developmental projects in Lagos State are made for the upper class. Is this true?
This isn’t true. I for example, was once a homeless person on the streets of Lagos and could not even boast of a good two square meal at the material time, but today, I not only own homes, I develop and sell to others. So if I can, then anybody can. The problem is ignorance.
Your slogan says ‘Affordable Homes for All’. How are you able to capture the low-income earners in your projects?
Indeed, our ultimate aim at Whiterose is to make home ownership affordable to anyone irrespective of financial status and class. We have achieved tremendous success in this using various innovative models such as flexible installment payment structures for up to 72 months installment payment plans in some cases, just to make it easy and convenient for any person to pay for his/her dream home without strain. Currently, we have come up with yet another innovation called LOT Subscription and many have regarded our Lot Subscription model as a home ownership revolution. In LOT Subscription, up to 20 persons can own a home and be guaranteed of their respective return on investments, while gradually acquiring more lots to possibly own a 100 per cent of a given home. More information on this innovation are all over our various advertising mediums or our office can be contacted for further enquiries.
Whiterose is also into facility management, what are the opportunities in this sub-sector?
At the core of property investment is maintenance and sustainability, that is where facility management comes in. To guarantee a desired return on investment on real estate investment, the property must be effectively and efficiently managed by experienced professional facility managers, hence the increasing need for same in the real estate sector. It implies therefore that the business opportunity in the facility management sub-sector is enormous, though challenging.
In terms of regulation, will you say your industry is over-regulated or under-regulated?
In my opinion, the problem of regulation in the real estate sector in Nigeria is neither over-regulation nor under-regulation, but the problem is rather effective enforcement of the various regulations. In other words, as the various regulations are not being effectively enforced, it is either the regulations are overwhelming the enforcement apparatus or that the system of enforcement is incompetent as a result of corruption. I will therefore advise the Government to concentrate on developing a corrupt-free and viable enforcement agencies that will implement the current regulations on ground.
Nigeria’s Accountant-General was recently arrested for laundering stolen funds via real estate. What are you doing in your firm to prevent money from being laundered through real estate?
It is true that the real estate sector has always been used as a ready tool for money laundering from time immemorial. On our part however, we have developed formidable structures that have helped in no small measure to ensure that we only deal with genuine real estate investors at all times. For example, part of the prior investment documentations we obtain from our clients includes requirements to indicate the sources of income; we thereafter subject all the information we obtained to thorough investigation (in collaboration with the relevant security agencies if the need be) to ensure that our prospective investor’s source of funds is genuine.
Does Whiterose have any kind of partnership with mortgage banks by way of helping the middle-class get loans for housing projects?
We are currently consulting with some financial institutions with an aim of developing a partnership that would assist any aspiring real estate investor have access to funds, irrespective of social status; it is a work in progress and we will be much delighted to see our efforts in that regard come to fruition.
There have been calls for real estate practitioners to prioritize renewable sources of energy due to the global shift towards the reduction of carbon emissions.
How are you doing this at Whiterose property?
We at Whiterose have always been a crusader of green energy in our real estate practices over the years. In most of our developments, we invest heavily in renewable energy such as solar propelled power supply, and we are consistently supporting research on other sources of renewable energy such as biotechnology, with an aim of completely depending on green energy in a few years from now.