• Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Certify real estate agents to check amateurs – Diya


Maurice Kolawole Diya, a real estate professional with almost five decades of professional experience in the Nigerian real estate industry, spanning from construction and consulting to real estate marketing and valuation. Along with a bosom friend, he founded Diya, Fatimilehin & Co. in May 1983 and grew the firm to more than 25 offices in 15 cities across multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, becoming the first indigenous firm to establish its presence in London.

In addition to investments across the construction and real estate value chains, he currently serves as the Chairman of RE/MAX Nigeria – an affiliate of the world’s largest seller of real estate, headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Ahead of his 70th birthday celebration on June 6, Diya sat down with BusinessDay’s Chioma Onuh to discuss some of his pertinent experiences and views on the future of housing and real estate in Nigeria, especially given the new administration. Excerpts:

Congratulations on reaching this significant milestone of your 70th birthday and on the backdrop of the 40th anniversary of one of Nigeria’s foremost real estate brands – Diya, Fatimilehin & Co. Looking back at your 45-year career in the real estate industry, what are some of the most memorable moments or achievements that you are particularly proud of?

Thank you for the warm wishes. It has been a remarkable journey. Looking back at my 45-year career in the real estate industry. My most memorable moment is probably giving recognition to my profession, building Diya, Fatimilehin & Co. with my partner Gboyega Fatimilehin to the largest real estate firm in Africa. When we joined this profession in 1978, we were jested by colleagues in the university, we were called rent and debt collectors.

However, we ignored the taunts of our classmates and colleagues and decided to glamourize the profession. We worked hard to put a suit on every staff and put them in cars so that they never had to go around in public transport.

Real estate management is perhaps one of the most interesting and difficult professions to practice because it’s diverse, from letting to property sales to management to valuation to feasibility studies, facility management, etc.

Today, Estate Management is perhaps one of the most difficult courses to get a university admission for, because, suddenly, everybody wants to be it. Today, everybody knows we are necessary, thanks to Diya, Fatimilehin, and Company, and perhaps Jide Taiwo, to mention but a few, we took the profession, went all the way back to the UK and we began to open offices and dominated internationally.

That is a particularly proud moment that I have.

What initially drew you to the real estate industry, and how did your career evolve over the years?

Truth be told, I was not initially drawn to real estate. I studied building and civil engineering, however, I didn’t want an ‘eight-to-five’ behind-the-desk; career. And I couldn’t be in the field permanently on a building site or on a road construction site due to health challenges.

Thus, I had to look for a profession that could give me an easy way out of my quagmire, and that was where real estate came in. It fit my preferences; it offered the flexibility of working in the office during a feasibility report period or an appraisal period and also on the field during the construction and project management periods. That’s how my career has evolved over the years.

The Nigerian property industry is known for its unstructured nature. How do you envision the transformation of this industry, and what steps are necessary to bring about positive change?

Unfortunately, it would remain unstructured for a longer period if there is no sanitisation by the government. Let’s take a cue from the US. I cannot wake up one day and just practice real estate in the US.

Indeed, not only must you be certified to practice real estate, but you cannot even practice the profession across states unless you have a license from the state.

I have made this presentation and submitted proposals to the Lagos State government, all to no avail. Unless we certify every agent and rationalize the real estate industry, we are going to keep having problems. Today, every Tom, Dick, and Harry, starting from the security guard to the landlord, can call themselves estate agents. Any jobless person can try to be an estate agent.

What does that mean? It means you get the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now, the only way to transform this is to set up training programs for practitioners in the profession, which RE/MAX Nigeria is highly invested in training and certifying people interested in the profession. That’s the way to bring about positive change. We have to certify people. We have to bring everybody under one umbrella and regulate the profession. Unfortunately, right now, nothing has been done so far about it.

With your extensive experience in both local and international real estate markets, how have you navigated the unique challenges and opportunities presented by these diverse regions?

Thank you for the question. I have had the privilege of working in various real estate markets, both locally and internationally, including Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each region presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. In the US, the market is primarily focused on property sales rather than rentals. On the other hand, the UK market is predominantly a rental market. Nigeria, however, has a mixture of both.

Read also: What incoming government should do in real estate sector for growth

One of the key challenges I have encountered is adapting to the different dynamics and requirements of each region.

For instance, in Nigeria, there is little correlation between property values and return on investment due to factors such as income sources and unrealistic interest rates.

In contrast, in the UK, prospective buyers consider the rental income potential to ensure it can cover mortgage repayments.

Similarly, in the US, individuals’ income levels play a significant role in determining their purchasing power, although interest rates are generally low.

Successfully navigating these diverse environments requires a flexible and adaptable approach.

Understanding the unique aspects of each region allows me to tailor my strategies accordingly and make informed decisions. By leveraging my international experience, combined with local market insights, I can effectively address the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that arise in different real estate markets.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of the Nigerian property industry, and how do you envision your role in its continued transformation?

My hopes and aspirations for the future of the Nigerian property industry are centered around bringing about positive change and transformation. Currently, the industry faces significant challenges, including a lack of regulation and widespread fraudulent practices.

My vision is to contribute to the development of a more professional and reputable industry in Nigeria.

One of my key aspirations is to see the government take a proactive role in addressing these issues.

I believe that by seeking advice and guidance from experienced professionals within the industry, such as myself, they can effectively transform the landscape.

For instance, implementing a system to register and certify all property agents would go a long way in bringing discipline and accountability to the industry.

I have personally engaged with government officials at the highest level to emphasize the importance of certification and regulation, but unfortunately, progress has been slow.

In terms of my role, I aspire to play an advisory role in guiding the government toward the necessary steps for sanitising the industry. Drawing upon my extensive experience and insights, I can provide valuable recommendations on how to address the current challenges and combat fraudulent practices. By leveraging my expertise, I hope to contribute to the establishment of a more trustworthy and transparent property industry in Nigeria.

Ultimately, I aim to change the negative perception of property agents and restore trust among the general public. Through collaborative efforts with the government and other stakeholders, I believe we can bring an end to the prevailing chaos and create an environment that encourages professionalism and ethical practices within the Nigerian property industry.

What piece of advice would you offer to the new administration specifically with respect to the real estate industry as a whole as they try to rescue Nigeria from its economic doldrums?

My advice to the new administration regarding the real estate industry is to focus on three key areas: infrastructure, security, and transportation. Rather than directly involving itself in building houses, the government should prioritise creating an enabling environment that supports the growth and development of the industry.

Firstly, investing in infrastructure is crucial. Clearing and preparing the land, providing necessary utilities, and establishing basic infrastructure such as roads, water, and electricity will attract private developers and encourage the expansion of housing projects. By creating well-planned and well-connected communities, the government can stimulate economic activity and address the housing shortage.

Secondly, ensuring security is essential for the real estate industry to thrive. Potential investors and homeowners need to feel safe and protected. The government should prioritize improving security measures, particularly in areas with high real estate potential. This will instill confidence in investors, encourage property development, and attract both local and foreign investment.

Lastly, focusing on transportation infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential of the real estate industry. Developing efficient transportation systems, such as high-speed trains or improved road networks, will allow people to live in areas outside of city centers while easily commuting to work. This will alleviate the strain on housing in congested urban areas and encourage the development of new residential communities.

It is important for the government to shift its role from being a direct provider of housing to being an enabler of growth and development in the real estate sector. By focusing on these three areas, the new administration can create an environment that fosters economic recovery, attracts investment, and addresses the housing needs of the Nigerian population.