Nigeria’s real estate industry has always been bedeviled with gory stories, which some experts blame on lack of strong partnership between private and public sector, weak regulation, quackery, micromanagement and use of outdated technology inputs and resources. They argued that these were some of the reasons the sector has been experiencing ugly incidents of building collapse that had claimed scores of lives while some huge fortunes in assets are lost.

In this interview with Ms. Ayobami Shakirat Kareem, the MD/CEO of Whiterose International Group, a real estate company, specialising in property development, general construction, brokerage, asset management and consultancy at the 10th edition of “Unite” Conference & Exhibition -a leading ESG Real Estate event in Africa held in Lagos.

The UNITE Summit by fellow professionals in the real estate industry is geared towards forming a synergy among the industry players for the good of Nigerian in the area of real estate. The sustainable culture as captured in the theme of the conference is about 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 ( the green technology). This also encapsulates the creation of easy access to funds for financing 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 onn Nigeria’s real estate sector

Honestly it’s a blessed sector with lots of opportunities but the dearth of regulated structure and system is bedeviling 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 and operators must work hand in glove to fix the broken system/wall of the real estate sector, because injury to one is injury to all. We can see what has been happening in the recent past.

How Nigeria can attain global best practices in real estate value chain

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 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 emphasized 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.

How your company is assisting to transform 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 programs in that regard.

How are you mitigating inflation to deliver housing to low incoem earners

Our goal at Whiterose have always been to make home ownership 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 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% 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.

Aside from housing, in what other areas are you partnering 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 programs 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 program we have in this regard once the negotiations are successfully concluded.

How do you support in the training of real estate professionals and students 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 to enquire more about our current models and see the height of our innovations in making home ownership easy for everyone.

How are pursing your sustenability mandate

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 program on our part. We ensure that our products are marketed by our trained Realtors thereby ensuring that the best practices is 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 good reputation and secured the trusts 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 police 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 products and services differentiates you from other operators 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 installment 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 a 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 we came 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 till 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 have gone in so far.

What would be your take home from this conference & 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 endeavors. I am delighted to affirm that I was not disappointed in my expectations for participating in the conference.

How regulatory bodies can help avert incessant building collapse

The ugly incidences of building collapse in Lagos State and other cities in Nigeria would have been avoidable had the relevant government regulatory agencies been proactive and efficient. To avoid future occurrences, I advice the Lagos States government to ensure a proper supervision of the personnel directly involved in the supervision of any given construction in order to detect possible compromise due to bribery and corruption.

There should also be proper licensing and permits for any building construction whatsoever, using the standard global best practice building standards/regulations.