What was the main driver behind the establishment of the company?
The company was established in 2012, and we were driven to make housing affordable for all with the aim to reach as many Nigerians as possible. We know there is no shortage in the high-end market; the housing deficit is within the low and middle classes. The entire affordability concept is not about housing being cheap; housing is not cheap anywhere in the world. It is expensive. But it is not about the houses itself, rather the totality of the environment, such as schools, roads, bridges, hospitals and so on, as well as a flexible payment method. Therefore, the affordability concept is that, if a house goes for NGN10 million (USD27,740), one is able to pay for that over a period of 20 years. When a client approaches a mortgage institution in Nigeria, they will request collateral, which many cannot provide. We came in with the strategy of not going through the bank but providing a flexible payment plan between five to 10 years which is payable on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The daily basis is affordable for most Nigerians, especially those who work in the informal sector. The majority of them earn wages on a daily basis and it is easier for them.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our vision sets us apart. We are not afraid of competition as we have a clear vision and are a focus-driven company with a target. On a daily basis, we increase our land bank and our clientele. We were not impacted by the recession; in fact, in 2016 we experienced tremendous sales. We were not hit because our products are tailored for the local market. Foreign transactions incur huge costs; we did not make any foreign transactions, or rely on foreign products during the recession. Nigeria has a population of over 170 million, and over 18 million of them are homeless; that is a huge potential. We sell every day, and we have demands for our housing products. The lower and middle classes are in dire need of this product. Our vision was to reduce the housing deficit in Nigeria by 10% within the first 10 years, translating to 1.8 million new homes. In the first five years, we have achieved over 100,000 subscribers, which means we still have a long way to go. However, that is a landmark achievement and very historical for a company that is just five years old.
What are the current challenges in Nigeria's real estate sector?
The challenges are enormous, starting from land acquisition to product conceptualization and delivery. The land law or land use decree of 1978 is not favorable. Land titles are also a major problem; getting the certificate of occupancy can take months and creates bottlenecks in land ministries. What should cost a few million ends up costing several millions, which adds to the cost of the land or property you build on it. Also, we have to rely on laborers from the Republic of Benin and other African countries who are often more expensive than our local artisans, increasing the cost of production. However, with the government's current economic plans , we are beginning to see an influx of foreign companies setting up production factories in Nigeria. Right now we have companies from China producing tiles in Nigeria. This is great for the sector.
What is your outlook and expectations for 2018?
Every year we have great expectations. As a company, before we start a year, we look at our what we have achieved as well as our shortcomings. We will approach the new year with new goals and expectations. In 2018, we will expand more into other West African countries, build more houses, and acquire more land to satisfy and delight our clients even more.