Imelda Usoro-Olaoye is the Managing Partner, Thinkmint Nigeria and Thinkmint Europe. She spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the fourth edition of the real estate conference and awards starting today, as well as how the authorities could use real estate to boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This is the fourth edition of the real estate conference and awards organised by Thinkmint Nigeria in partnership with Thinkmint Europe, in collaboration with sponsors and industry stakeholders. What do you set out to achieve through the forum?

The Real Estate Discussions and Awards (REDA) is centred on discussions, bespoke networking opportunities and learnings to further improve real estate trends and transactions in the continent in relation to the global real estate market, showcase the best of real estate projects and investment opportunities from best brands in the sector. It will also celebrate excellence among real estate practitioners.

The real estate industry is on the path of recovery after initial shocks from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. How can the authorities aid the sector to boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?
Everything boils down to finance. After the COVID-19 pandemic had fractured the economy, which in turn birthed remote jobs, the real estate sector took rigorous steps backward. Yes, it has prompted the once stable investment into a deteriorating state.

With the high cost of construction narrowing down to little or no access to housing finance/mortgage loans at an affordable rate, every investor will need to be tactical before making any decision. But if you decide to go on with the construction, then, you would be walking on thin ice because the high cost of materials will eat through property pricing.

Now, we are in the era of low demands for housing and companies prefer smaller workspaces due to the cost of acquiring a property.

Despite all these, the real estate sector remains the bright spot for any country’s advancement and eradication of dilapidated buildings from communities. I believe crisis in the sector can be averted if the government or institution could come up with more schemes to help boost real estate sustainability, as well as ensure that existing schemes are more accessible.

The housing sector has recently recorded an upsurge in structural collapse resulting in loss of life and property. What recommendations would you offer authorities to forestall a recurrence of this experience?
It doesn’t speak well of us if we are experiencing challenges that countries with little resources can never experience. Then, what is the essence of the skill set our building professionals have acquired for this great course, if they would prefer to cut corners, build sub-standard properties and in the long run jeopardise lives of people.

The only way to ensure such eyesore never takes place on Nigerian soil, is that the organisations that are responsible for ensuring that developers and construction experts follow rules and guidelines in general should be firmer in enforcing these laws. For the offenders, the penalty for anyone caught in such a despicable act must be enforced with no prejudice. How can we stay as the giant of Africa, if we are missing virtues that move a country forward? No, it’s not acceptable!

Rising cost of building materials continues to have a negative influence on the real estate market. Still developers are making timely adjustments to deliver projects. How do you see this issue impacting price of housing and construction cost?
For developers, the cost of building materials is overwhelming. And when the cost of production is higher, the price of housing and properties are bound to escalate.

Real estate remains the safest and most guaranteed way to recover from the downsides of the economy.

Despite the reality that property rights remain central to the expansion of real estate market, most Nigerians don’t have access to timely property documentation. How can government liberalise the process?
It’s the right of Nigerians to have access to their property rights. The government is anxiously searching for a safer medium to make people get access to their documents without hurdles. But as you know, change is not an accident. It takes time and we have to trust the process.

What are your expectations at the end of the conference?
Of course the conference will discuss and properly analyse all the issues mentioned here, as well as proffer solutions to them. Each year at REDA, the reports from these discussions are circulated and used to influence investors’ decisions in the industry via our platform.

This year, we expect that more insights will be given in terms of recovery for the sector, and ways to make the most of the current times in the economy to grow one’s investment and portfolios.