By Henry Uche, Lagos

The real estate sector has been bedevilled with gory stories. Experts have adduced that the lack of strong partnership between private and public sectors, weak regulation, quackery, micromanagement and use of outdated technology inputs and resources are some of the reasons the sector has been experiencing ugly incidents which had claimed thousands of lives and lost of fortunes.

In this interview with Ms Ayobami Shakirat Kareem, the MD/CEO of Whiterose International Group, a real estate company, into real estate practices including property developments, general construction, brokerage, asset management, consultancy etc at the 10th edition of “Unite” Conference & Exhibition -A leading ESG Real Estate event in Africa held in Lagos. (A gathering of key players from the real estate, government, finance, business, technology, venture and academia in Africa), Ayobami Shakirat Kareem, explained what could be done to fix these anomalies, and how the sector can evolve.

The theme of the real estate unite summit 2022 event is “Towards Sustainable culture”; which culture are we talking about and what practical steps are WHITEROSE taking to sustain such culture?

The UNITE summit by fellow professionals or stakeholders in the real estate industry is geared towards forming a synergy among the industry players for the betterment of the masses with respect to real estate. The sustainable culture as captioned in the theme of the conference is about the culture of improvising and adopting innovative models and technologies in real estate practices and construction, especially regarding the use of renewable energy and the use of eco-friendly technologies in line with the current global trend and best practices (i.e. the green technology). The culture also encapsulates the creation of easy access to funding for innovative and qualitative real estate developments as well as the culture of proper maintenance of the developments.

So as an industry, we have an opportunity to improve our efficiency and environmental impact through sustainable practices. In addition to the property market, exhibitors’ profiles at Unite Summit include sustainable building technologies, products, tools and equipment required to achieve a sustainable future.

Your take on the Real Estate sector?

Honestly, it’s a blessed sector with lots of opportunities but a dearth of regulated structure and system is bedevilling it. So we need to do something urgently to avert further damage brought about by a Plethora of non-professionals in the value chain. The government and Other key players & operators must work hand in glove to fix the broken system/wall of the real estate sector because injury to one is an injury to all. We can see what has been happening in the recent past.

How can sustainable building technologies, products, tools & equipment required to meet global best practices in the entire value chain of the real estate sector be achieved? Who are who is involved to make it possible/achievable? How can it be enforced?

First of all, meeting the global best practices in respect of the use of building sustainable technologies in the Nigerian real estate sector is very possible. It begins with the collaboration and commitment of industry players (both in the private and public sector) which was the reason for the just concluded Unite Summit amongst others. The support of the government regarding the creation of enabling environment and making of friendly policies cannot be over-emphasised in this regard. Finally, making funds accessible to stakeholders by the various financial institutions to finance the research and use of these green technologies cannot be ignored.

Some communities are highly populated and good potential investment environment for the housing business; how can your company assist in transforming such rural communities into urban places?

As noted above, we are not ignorant of the potential investment opportunities in most of these rural settlements and we are already making concerted plans and developing robust financing structures that will enable us to adequately participate in such developments. In distant time, we shall roll out our developmental programmes in that regard.

Considering the chronic inflation today where people who need houses the most are in the low economic bracket, how would your company be an attraction to these low-income citizens?

Our goal at Whiterose have always been to make homeownership affordable to anyone irrespective of their respective 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 instalment 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 their respective return on investments, while gradually acquiring more Lots to possibly own 100% of a given home! More information on this innovation is all over our various advertising mediums or our office can be contacted for further enquiries.

Aside from housing, how do you plan to cooperate with state governments in Rural-to-Urban renewal programmes?

We are currently in negotiations with the Lagos State and Ogun State Government for a possible private sector partnership in rural-urban renewal programmes and we are making considerable progress (especially with respect to Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu etc axis of Lagos State and Isheri North axis of Ogun State). We will be delighted to announce the robust programme we have in this regard once the negotiations are successfully concluded.

What plans does your company have for training real estate professionals, students, and other members of the real estate as well as building and construction? Training is the only way to guarantee sustainability?

We have already commenced a programme under the umbrella of Whiterose Investment Network (WIN) which is geared towards training and empowering as many aspiring real estate entrepreneurs as possible. At WIN, prospective real estate players are not just trained, we also equip them with all basic necessities that are required to guarantee their success in the real estate industry. The WIN vision is borne out of my personal passion to ensure that any prospective real estate entrepreneur that crossed my path doesn’t have to pass through the herculean challenges I faced while trying to find my footing in the real estate industry. Our office can be contacted for further details on how to become a WIN member.

Mortgage arrangement?

At the moment, we are still in the process of developing the structure for a conventional mortgage arrangement for our clients. However, we have other models that are even more convenient, such as the LOT subscription model and long off-plan payment structures. We invite all prospective investors to consider enquiring more about our current models and see the height of our innovations in making home ownership easy for everyone.

The Industry wants to sustain itself to remain relevant and Indispensable in the society, YOU as a company want to maintain your brand/name, reputation, and by extension your market share/ profitability, what can the Industry do and what would you (WHITEROSE) do to achieve these sustainability plans respectively.

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Obviously, the real estate industry in Nigeria is porous, proliferated and lacks adequate regulatory structure; any person can wake up and declare himself/herself ‘a seasoned realtor’ without passing through adequate training, the result of this is the avalanche of ubiquitous real estate agents that bedeviled the real estate business and who are consistently raking untold havoc on innocent real estate investors, thereby tarnishing the image of real estate practices in the industry. The solution to this is human capacity development through creating accessible training platforms for intending Realtors, hence the creation of the WIN programme on our part. We ensure that our products are marketed by our trained Realtors thereby ensuring that the best practices are at all times adopted in all our property transactions. Over the years, our efforts have yielded positive results as we have managed to maintain a clean slate, sustained a good reputation and secured the trust of our numerous clients in their dealings with us.

Relationship with insurance companies?

Yes, as a policy for our off-plan and LOT subscribed products, we have a comprehensive insurance policy in favour of our clients, so as to protect their investments under our custody and to guarantee the projected return on their respective investments at any given time.

Your slogan says, “Affordable Homes for All” what are those unique Products and Services you offer that make you outstanding among operators/ players in the industry?

Our commitment to making home ownership affordable to many persons in the society irrespective of social status or financial capacity has over the years, made us outstanding among other players in the real estate industry. We have consistently developed innovative models such as long instalment payment plans to make it easy for our clients to pay for our products at their convenience and at their pace. Recently, we just launched the LOT SUBSCRIPTION MODEL whereby up to 100 persons can own a home and be guaranteed their respective return on investments, while gradually acquiring more Lots to possibly own 100% of a given home! Details of our LOT Subscription innovation are available in our various advertising mediums (including the social media), we can also be contacted for further enquiries on same.

How did you get into the real estate industry?

I have been consistently involved in real estate practices for over a decade. Currently, Whiterose as a brand has grown into a conglomerate under the umbrella of Whiterose International Group with many other business/investment subsidiaries. I would say I became a Realtor by accident, I.e. I assisted an agent to let out my former apartment and I was paid a handsome commission for that ‘minor’ act, I was fascinated and decided to explore the opportunities in the real estate business. I practically started real estate with zero capital, but I have remained consistent and resilient against all odds ever since to date. Today, with zero capital, Whiterose can now boast of multibillion Naira worth of assets in its name, which is a testament of the hard work that has gone in so far.

Aim for participating in this big conference and exhibition?

As noted earlier, the conference is about the coming together of industry key players to brainstorm on the way forward in real estate practices, hence, Whiterose, being a major player in the Nigerian real estate industry for over a decade, cannot be found missing in such an event. More so, no man should be an island as far as real estate practices is concerned, hence the need for our participation in the conference for the purposes of sharing knowledge, learning new things, advertise/market our products and build more viable business networks for future business endeavours. I am delighted to affirm that I was not disappointed in my expectations for participating in the conference.

Lagos State has experienced incessant building collapses, in what ways can regulatory bodies improve to curb this menace?

The ugly incidences of building collapse in Lagos State would have been avoidable had the relevant government regulatory agencies been proactive and efficient. To avoid future occurrences, I advise the Lagos States government thus:

Ensure 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.

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 with building regulations.

Severely punish any person or corporates that are found circumventing the building regulation irrespective of the violator’s status, to serve as deterrence to others.

Swiftly and immediately seal off any development or construction that is found violating the established building regulations and demolish the same where the situation demands.

Ensure 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.