Ms. Kareem Shakirat Ayobami, a woman with over 10 years of experience in real estate advisory, brokerage, development and general real estate practices, speaks about how complex transactions can underpin the real estate business inside and outside Nigeria. Oluchi Chibuzor brings the excerpts:
How did you get into the real estate industry and what motivated you?
I am the founder and CEO of Whiterose and the company is principally engaged in real estate practices including real estate development, general construction, brokerage, asset management, consulting etc. I have been consistently involved in real estate practices for over a decade.
How would you describe the current situation in the real estate industry?
As I have always answered this question whenever posed to me by any concerned person, company or group, the real estate sector in Nigeria is blessed with so many investment opportunities but it lacks a well regulated structure or system. For example, any person can just wake up and call themselves a “seasoned real estate practitioner” without undergoing any training. The consequence of this is the emergence of ubiquitous real estate agents across the country who either scam unsuspecting investors or trick the investors into becoming victims of bad real estate investments due to the inexperience and lack of expertise of the so-called agents. That said, I applaud the efforts of most private sector stakeholders who strive every day to uphold best real estate practices; For our part, we have currently taken a step forward to not only maintain standard best practices in all our real estate transactions, but to educate and develop as many aspiring real estate professionals as possible, hence our Whiterose International Network Platform (WIN) initiative. WIN is a platform that educates and empowers aspiring real estate entrepreneurs and is part of the Whiterose Human Skills Development and Empowerment Initiative.
With Nigeria struggling with inflation at the moment, would you say that the real estate industry is offering a large window of opportunity to a potential investor right now?
The inflation “cancer” currently ravaging the country is undoubtedly having a negative impact on all sectors of the country’s economy, including the real estate sector. However, there is still no better time to invest in real estate than now. This is because any investment in real estate can only go up because real estate never goes down in value. As a result, inflation can actually be a blessing in disguise for real estate investors due to the rapid rise in the value of real estate during this period, guaranteeing investors a lavish return in no time.
Lagos state has seen incidents of at least four building collapses this year. How can regulators contain this threat?
The unfortunate incident of building collapses in Lagos State this year is very sad as they could have been avoided if the relevant government regulators had acted proactively and efficiently. In order to avoid future occurrences of these ugly incidents, I advise the Lagos State Government to abide by some important regulations such as: Ensure constant on-site monitoring and follow every phase of construction to ensure strict compliance with building codes.
Also by quickly and immediately shutting down developments or structures that do not comply with applicable building codes and demolishing them when the situation requires it, and ensuring proper supervision of personnel directly involved in the supervision of a particular structure to uncover any potential Compromise due to bribery and corruption.
Finally, by severely punishing any person or entity found in circumvention of building regulations, regardless of the violator’s status, to deter others.
It has been criticized that most development projects in Lagos state are made for the upper class. Is that true?
That is not true. For example, I was once a homeless person on the streets of Lagos and at the material time could not even boast of a good meal for two, but today I don’t just own houses, I develop and sell them to others. So if I can, anyone can. The problem is ignorance.
Their slogan is “Affordable housing for everyone”. How do you manage to involve low-income earners in your projects?
In fact, at Whiterose, our primary goal is to make home ownership affordable for everyone, regardless of financial status or class. With various innovative models such as B. flexible installment payment structures for up to 72 months, we have achieved great success in making it easy and convenient for everyone to pay for their dream house without stress. Currently we have developed another innovation called LOT Subscription and many have viewed our Lot Subscription model as revolutionizing home ownership. With the LOT subscription, up to 20 people can own a home and be guaranteed their respective return on investment while progressively acquiring more lots to potentially own 100 percent of a given home. For more information on this innovation, see our various promotional materials or contact our office for any further inquiries.
Whiterose is also active in facility management, what opportunities are there in this sub-area?
Maintenance and sustainability are at the heart of real estate investment, and this is where facility management comes into play. In order to ensure the desired return on real estate investment, the real estate must be managed effectively and efficiently by experienced professional facility managers, hence the increasing need for real estate in the real estate industry as well. This therefore implies that the business opportunities in the facility management sub-sector are enormous, albeit challenging.
In terms of regulation, would you say your industry is over-regulated or under-regulated?
In my opinion the regulation problem in the real estate sector in Nigeria is neither over nor under regulation, but rather the problem is the effective enforcement of the various regulations. In other words, because the various regulations are not effectively enforced, the regulations either overwhelm the enforcement machinery or the enforcement system is incompetent due to corruption. I will therefore advise the government to focus on building corruption-free and viable law enforcement agencies that implement the applicable regulations on the ground.
Nigeria’s Accountant-General was recently arrested for laundering stolen funds through real estate. What do you do in your company to prevent money laundering through real estate?
It is true that the real estate industry has always been used as a ready-to-use tool for money laundering. For our part, we have developed remarkable structures, which have not least contributed to the fact that we only ever work with real real estate investors. For example, some of the previous investment documentation we receive from our clients includes requirements to disclose sources of income; We then subject all the information we have received to a thorough investigation (in cooperation with the relevant security authorities, if necessary) to ensure that our potential investor’s source of money is genuine.
Does Whiterose have any sort of partnership with mortgage lenders to help the middle class get loans for housing projects?
We are currently consulting with a number of financial institutions with the aim of establishing a partnership that would make it easier for any aspiring real estate investor to access funds, regardless of their social status; It is a work in progress and we will be very pleased if our efforts in this regard bear fruit.
There have been calls for real estate practitioners to prioritize renewable energy sources due to the global shift towards reducing carbon emissions.
How do you do that at Whiterose?
At Whiterose, we have always been a green energy crusader in our real estate practices over the years. In most of our developments, we invest heavily in renewable energies such as solar-powered electricity and we consistently support research on other renewable energy sources such as biotechnology, with the aim of going completely green in a few years.