What is your assessment of the housing sector?
We have a robust real estate economy and it is grossly untapped. Most experts both nationally and internationally have put the housing deficit in Nigeria at between 17million to 18million so you can imagine the huge market we have here. This figure is not fixed because there must be population growth which means we are probably looking at more than this number of people. There is a whole lot to be done in this sector, it is like a big pile and the pleasant news is that there is so much room for anyone who wants to venture into Real Estate business.
Do you think the government is doing enough to reduce housing deficit in the country?
My answer unfortunately will be a resounding NO. Although some state governments are trying and the Federal Government did make an attempt to have the Federal Housing Estate building but all these activities have to be synergized. The government has being scratching the surface for long time now, more needs to be done.
Experts in the real estate industry have identified tax as the major cause of high cost of houses in Lagos state beside the cost of construction and land itself. Are you on the same page with them?
Talking from the point of a solicitor in Lagos state, first and foremost, the cost of the land is expensive and to have peace of mind, the title has to be perfected to make sure you not only have what you call the equitable title which is the payment to ‘Omonile’ and buying the property, you also have a legal title which is like either the C of O or the governor’s consent and to process this, does not come cheap.
The overall processing at times can be likened to re-buying the property all over again. When all these are added, the cost of houses is bound to be high. Though in fairness to the Lagos state government, just this year, land with consent was slashed from 30% to 15%, before it was even more than 30% and this move shows that the government is listening to the people.
How best can the problem of perfecting titles be dealt with once and for all?
Both the amount spent on titles and the time for processing can be improved on. There was a time the processing fee was written at N500.00 per sqm but at the ministry N1, 000 was used as the benchmark. Let there be a marriage or matching together of what is actually documented and what is been effected. I don’t think its corruption because payment is done in the bank and receipt issued.
What will you say are the major challenges in the housing sector?
Funds are a challenge both to the end users and even to would-be investors. A lot of people would have been first home buyers if they have access to mortgage and then we wouldn’t have people packed like sardines inside one room.
The Real Estate Industry is the highest employer of labour. Take the construction of a house for instance, the services of an architect, civil engineer, lawyer, surveyor, carpenter, plumber, painter, food seller and so much more. If government is really sincere and ready to curb unemployment in the country, then the Real Estate Industry should be given the required boost.
What are your thoughts about Lagos HOMS?
It is good when someone makes a promise and keeps to such promise. I find it hard to believe the HOMS is for low income earners but then construction is not cheap. 10 years is a short period of repayment if the target audience is really low income earners, 30- 40 years is advised so people can pay with ease. Nevertheless, it’s an attempt and a very good start. There is always room for continuous improvement.
Can Lagos HOMS be a model for housing sector intervention for the Federal Government and Nigeria’s other 35 States?
That someone has taken the initiative is commendable. In Rivers State, there’s the Rainbow Estate which is still under construction. During Jakande’s administration, a colleague of mine who is Igbo won a unit in Lagos. What Lagos HOMS is doing is fair enough and worthy of emulation.
What improvements would you like to see in the housing sector?
A lot of people are interested in property investment and property development but one of the major hindrances is access to funds. We need a robust and effective mortgage system and with a favourable interest rate. A situation in an economy where the interest rate is as high as 23-25% definitely, the end product of houses produced will be on the expensive side. What about the cost of construction and land itself? So, we have to get right these things right if we are to at least meet up with the housing deficit in Nigeria.
If somebody owns a property worth N40million, then it should not take one year to get a loan of N30million after all the property is more than the loan applied for. If this is done, people can live and have breathing spaces instead of congesting in one place.
Government should make access to funds available and also provide infrastructure. The real estate industry is the highest employer of labour. So, if government wants to improve Nigerian economy, they should make access to funds available and the process better.
How best can the industry be cleansed of the activities of fraudulent Estate Agents?
The process should be more transparent and everyone should be made to register with one association within the industry. Sometimes people don’t respect specialization and since there is no job, the next thing on their mind is to go into estate agency. Also, people should patronize professionals like lawyers and surveyors so if issues arises such defaulters can be easily traced and dealt with appropriately.
Most estate surveyors classify lawyers and estate agents as quacks because they lack the requisite training. What’s your response to this?
I’m aware of such comments but then I beg to disagree. As a lawyer that is well vast in land Law, I take myself as a professional in land matters. It’s true that majority of the activities of a surveyor has to do with land but those that read Estate Management should be in better position to call everyone in the industry quacks.
The so-called Agents that some groups mention disdainfully play a key role in the industry because they are the foot soldiers. They are the ones that have residual knowledge of the histories of the lands in their locations, whether documented or not. Even some people that try to claim monopoly just did little course in Agency. Which body of study is Agency? Agency is under law.
You are a lawyer; do you still go to court?
I hardly go to court and being a solicitor, I do perform like a company secretarial function for some companies. I help some companies to file their annual reports and corporate affairs commission.
But you studied lawyer, why the total deviation?
I have passion for the industry and like lovely homes. When I started in 2005, it was mostly the normal legal company then I decided to specialize in real property law. I did property related short courses within and outside the country. Law is a very vast course and I did land law in school.