The Managing Director, PWAN Plus Business Concerns, a subsidiary of Property World Network Africa (PWAN Group), Julius Oyedemi, takes a look at the real estate sector of the economy in Covid-19 pandemic era. Contrary to lamentations of business owners over the negative effect of the pandemic on businesses generally, Oyedemi, a real estate guru, insists that real estate industry still flourishes, and remains booming under the ravaging Coronavirus. He states this and other sundry issues in this interview with Vanguard Homes & Property’s Kingsley Adegboye. Excerpts:
Considering the current economic challenges facing businesses following the impact of the novel Coronavirus, one will expect that this period is a dull moment for the real estate sector like every other sector of the economy. But instead, you are launching new products here and there. Could you explain the secrete behind this?
As you know, Nigeria is fully dependent on crude oil. But it has become a reality today, that crude cannot sustain the country any more. Many multinational oil companies are relocating out of Nigeria. I want people to know that one sure industry that has contributed significantly to the economies of the world at large is real estate.
In Nigeria today, real estate is contributing immensely to the economy. No matter the economic challenge, real estate remains a booming industry in Nigeria. The reason as I said, is that everybody wants a roof over his head. And everyone wants to be a landlord or landlady. So, the quest for real estate is always high.
The industry is a very busy one, and for us, the players, there is no resting moment because the demand is high. We have to improve on our supply capabilities to deliver to prospective homeowners what they want, that is why the industry remains high flying despite the pandemic.
Prospective customers may want to know your core area as a real estate development company. Do you do site and service or build and sell?
We basically function in the area of site and service though we are delving into build and sell. By site and service, I mean we acquire large expanse of land and develop it by providing basic infrastructures such as road network, drainage channels, street lighting, gatehouse, security and others.
Of course, we don’t stop there. We do the electrification and also create recreational centres such as sporting arenas, estate launch, other basic infrastructure, and then we allow our investors to build to their taste. We allow them to build to their taste. We know that as they say, variety is the spice of life.
So, we allow people to play with their creative abilities, hence, when you acquire a property from us, you submit your building plan which undergoes the approval process and once your plan is approved, you are off to site.
How does PWAN Plus make homeownership easy for people?
We believe that every man dreams of having a home that he can call his own. But how to actualise it becomes a challenge. At PWAN Plus, we go into developing areas, acquire lands, develop them within a time frame and make the property very affordable for everyone. We operate a system that allows even the low-income earners to acquire a property with ease.
Because, if you are trying to make homeownership dream a reality for all, you should also consider peoples’ incomes. You need to check their pockets. At Cedarwood Estates, we are budget-friendly. I can tell you we sold property like Cedarwood Vista at the rate N270,000 here in the city of Lagos in 2019, and it was a boom.
A lot of people thought it was a scam until they were invited for their allocations. We heard testimonials. A lot of people said: ‘I thought it was a scam so I said let me just buy one plot. Now that they have allocations they want to buy more plots. That is part of our own style of fulfilling our vision, by making our property affordable and easy for clients to take possession.
We are also very choosy regarding the locations we invest in. We go for prime locations where either government or private developmental efforts will hit the area. We are careful not to take people to areas where nothing can spark off more development.
Meanwhile, some people believe that living in an estate makes one a perpetual tenant, how do you reconcile that?
I think that is not a true statement. As real estate developers, our focal point is to solve housing problems. We provide basic amenities. Precisely, what we do is to have functional estates, where there will be good ambience, serenity, organisation, accountability and security of lives and property.
One of the challenges of man is security. At PWAN Plus, we are developing estates where these aspects of man’s worries are taken care of. Why should anybody say that he or she is a perpetual tenant because he lives in an organised and secure estate? Let me stress here that the reason some people may think that living in an estate makes one a perpetual tenant, is because there is a control system, there is organisation and there is management.
Yes, no estate functions well without a good management. No organisation functions well without systems and structures. The fact that you have acquired land makes you a landlord or landowner; but management which is also instituted by the landowners and landlords is there to serve occupants of the estate.
I will give a simple illustration. When you live in neighbourhoods devoid of proper estate management, who is accountable to you when there is power failure for one month? When you live in such neighbourhoods and there is no water supply who is accountable to you? When you live neighbourhoods and armed robbers are jumping into and burgling peoples’ homes, who is accountable?
In a functional estate, there is management that takes care of all the aspects such security, water, electricity, cleaning services, general maintenance and the rest of them. So, you find out that people who live in functional estates enjoy a good measure of free life, with just a little sacrifice which is determined by the landlords.
Who wants to live in an un-organised neighbourhood where anybody can just bash into your house and bang on your gate indiscriminately? In organised estates like ours, there is robust security operated by competent private security professionals in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force.
In such environment, residents have peace of mind. They wake up in the morning, and their streets are cleaned; their neighbourhood is not littered with dead leaves, nobody dumps trash on the streets; like we see in neighbourhoods where anybody can just deface the streets.
All of that do not happen in a functional estate. I want to say clearly that, you are indeed not a perpetual tenant. Rather, you are privileged to be among the high class who enjoy good living in serene environment because that is what a functional estate provides.
How can those who earn less N150,000 enjoy this good life considering how much it costs to own a property in your estates?
I tell people that real estate investment is a journey, and every journey starts from a location. Every journey has a starting point and a finishing point, which is called destination. To be a real investor, one needs to have foresight. Foresight makes you see the future right in the present. Foresight brings what is far nearer.
For instance, about five or seven years ago, if you drove through Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, it was known as a deadly zone. If not accident, it was robbery, all because bushes dominated that environment.
There were no physical developments, so, a lot of atrocities were happening until Redeemed Christian church of God through the able leadership of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, acquired several kilometres of land and planted their headquarters there.
If you go to that axis now, the story has changed. You hardly hear of robbery cases around there because many other developments have moved there. The Redeemed Church has attracted a lot of people. You now have many beautiful estates in Mowe, Magodo and all of those axis today.
The truth is, people should start from somewhere. When the likes of Daddy Adeboye moved to that axis, a lot of people misunderstood him. But today, a good number of people now have clearer understanding. The journey of real estate investment starts with a step.
Let’s go back to your question. How can someone who earns below N150,000 live in an organised estate? I want to say that it is very possible. It takes foresight and determination. Today in Cedarwood Estates, we have flexible payment plan.
So, somebody earning N100,000 and below can acquire a property of N600,000 and spread the payment over 12 months. At some point, we even allow 18 months. That is one way that PWAN Plus is assisting Nigerians to live a good life.
Investors have been testifying that real estate products by PWAN Plus and Cedarwood Estates sell out very fast. What is the secret?
Like I said earlier, one of our core values is customer satisfaction. Whatever meaningful thing we can do to make sure that a customer goes home happy, we will do. From myself, the Managing Director to the least staff, we are all out. I drive people to sight inspection at times. I follow up to inspect clients’ allocation regularly.
I make sure that I follow up with contractors on site because if you must deliver effectively to clients and investors you have to place integrity above all things. I believe that with these inputs, God Almighty is not so partial not to reward our efforts. That is the secret. If you check all the visuals on the internet, you see my face on site. All those things are not there for show. It is just to show our customers that from top to bottom, our staff are responsible and accountable for their investments.
I have the understanding that the first thing is quality service. With that, my subordinates and every staff know that we are all out. One cannot do otherwise and expect good result. I believe this is one reason investors will choose to do business with us. Again, as the Managing Director, I am personally and easily available. In real estate business, investors should know and be able to interact with the people at the front line, to know what the plans and projections are like.
The real estate CEO should be accountable to investors, give them feedback on the state of their property, what and how the return on their investments has accrued. All of this is what we practice here at PWAN Plus. We are not there yet, but we are getting there. It has not been an easy one. It is time-consuming, sometimes you don’t even have time to attend to your urgent personal or family needs.
Another secret of our success is that we are very professional in our approach to solving real estate problems. From the day we launch our estates, everyone in the organisation knows exactly what their duties are. We make sure that from the point that a client makes an investment, we make all relevant information available and development must start before we start selling any of our estates.
When one gets to a property site that he or she wants buy and sees people on-site working, he has rest of mind. We also take physical possession to reduce the fear of landowning families in the minds of investors. Our track record in infrastructural development is another mark that endears us to investors.
Each of our 26 estates enjoys good infrastructure. None of Cedarwood estates is just bush. There is presence of gatehouse, perimeter fencing, internal road construction and one form of infrastructure going on at site. That is a key factor to why our estates sell very fast.
Recently, we adopted a method whereby as a client makes payment, he or she chooses his or her plot. Lush City Aba, was introduced barely three weeks ago. In the forth week, we will begin to allocate plots to all subscribers in that estate.
There are cases where some people said they have subscribed for property and after two or three years they have not got their allocations, and as a result, they stopped investing. But here at PWAN Plus, we are changing the rhythm.