Hassan Ismail, CEO and co-founder of Eystone Development and Investment Limited, a fast-rising real estate development company. In this interview, he spoke on the operations of the company, saying that the firm’s commitment towards ensuring due diligence in project management within the Nigerian-built industry distinguishes it from competitors. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:
As a lifestyle company committed to improving the real estate experience of your clients and partners; how is the journey so far?
I recall when we were to launch our first project in Ibeju-Lekki Lagos. We combined 33 different properties before we finally settled on one. This is because when we go to chart the land, we get a status that’s not free from encumbrances. In fact, we got to a point where we started doubting the competency of our surveyor until we got confirmation from two others. It’s been an interesting journey as we have come to understand our customers are the backbone of our business and we don’t take them for granted. We are continually improving our processes to serve them better. At Eystone Development, we place our clients in high esteem. We make sure we meet their various needs at every time as requested with constant follow up. Some of the key unique selling points which set us apart from the industry includes building trust with clients, communicating proactively, empathetic with their concerns, transparency, client’s feedback, practice active listening and a 24 hours customer service line. And many more customer service techniques so that our clients can have a wonderful experience with us. We appreciate them trusting the brand.
What is the economic prospect of the real estate industry in an emerging market?
Population migration and government presence are some of the key factors that determine the rate of development of emerging locations. We look out for locations with heavy future government presence and strategically position our properties there so investors can enjoy massive returns on their investments. Our team of experts carry out comprehensive due diligence on any properties we are offering to ensure it’s free from any form of encumbrances. Upon securing these assets, we make them accessible to medium income earners by providing flexible payment plans.
Leveraging on the most emergent technologies and social media strategies; how is Eystone Development coping with inflation and rise in cost of living?
Rising inflation affects not only real estate, but every other aspect of the economy as it increases the cost of borrowing. This slows construction and hence, a decline in supply of housing units. This makes property prices increase and so also rentals. To cushion this effect as developers, we encourage our subscribers to take shorter payment plans as it becomes more affordable. For instance, in our new launch project, the Bulverton, a lifestyle development in Epe, we encourage a flexible payment plan of up to six months.
How can Nigeria sustain the gains of the real estate sector to ensure affordable projects and reduce housing deficit?
Social housing, not just by the government but private individuals is the way to go. It’s no longer news that Nigeria has an acute housing deficit estimated to be in the region of 22 million, which would require N6 trillion to fix. Besides, to properly tackle the deficit, the nation will need to build one million housing units per year in the next 20 years to bridge the deficit, if population remain constant. This means we need to shift from building to manufacturing houses. Any technology that encourages this such as 3D printers should be encouraged either by way of tax havens, subsidies or removal of import duties for importation of such machinery/printers.
Moreso, materials which can be produced or manufactured locally are imported at a higher price, either because of high taste or because there’s no confidence in some of the locally produced materials. These materials include marble, granite, stainless steel, exotic ceiling and roofing materials, massive columns with ornaments and cornices, bulletproof windows, doors, and any other building materials you can think of. Also, the incoming Federal Government together with State Governments should begin social housing programmes and encourage the use of tested local materials, with provision of tax relief to the real estate industry and single digit loan.
Attracting funds to operate and meet business objectives for your industry is critical; how has your experience been like?
Companies that are properly structured in terms of corporate governance, solid structures are investors haven and naturally attract funding. With proper structuring, a real estate company can attract finance from commercial banks and the capital market. Partnerships and collaborations help us mitigate the challenges of having to fund projects 100 percent.
Across the country we have empty houses that are not occupied due to high rates and other issues. How can we overcome this glut?
Some developers are building for people who already have 10-20 houses in their names, the one percent of the one percent having houses scattered all around the world. These houses are put into the rental market and due to the high rental values, the occupancy rate is always low. To curb this, developers need to start building for people who need them. Create houses in emerging locations that are affordable and useful.
What can be done from both regulatory agencies and developers like yourself to eradicate building collapses across the country?
Building collapses are becoming a growing concern in the country, and we all need to work together to eradicate this problem. As a real estate expert and developer, I believe there are several things that can be done by both regulatory agencies and developers to prevent building collapses.
Firstly, regulatory agencies like the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) need to ensure that building codes and regulations are strictly adhered to by conducting regular inspections of construction sites to ensure that building materials and construction methods meet the required standards.
Secondly, developers should also take responsibility for ensuring that their buildings are constructed to the highest standards. This involves using quality materials, hiring skilled workers, and working with experienced architects and engineers. Developers should also ensure that their buildings are properly maintained and inspected regularly.
Thirdly, there should be serious sanctions and punishments for anyone found culpable in any collapse starting from the civil engineers, the approving officers, developer, and vendors on the project. This will serve as a deterrent to greedy developers looking to cut corners.
Finally, we need to raise awareness among the general public about the dangers of building collapses. This can be done through public campaigns, media awareness, and educational programs. The public needs to understand the importance of using quality building materials, following building codes and regulations, and ensuring that buildings are properly maintained. However, building collapses are a preventable problem, and we all need to work together to eradicate them. Regulatory agencies, developers, and the general public all have a role to play in ensuring that our buildings are safe and secure. By working together, we can make sure that building collapses become a thing of the past not just in Lagos state but in Nigeria at large.
What would you want the incoming administration to focus on in regard to the real estate industry?
Government has a significant role in creating an enabling environment in Nigeria’s real estate industry. Government should start by demystifying the bureaucracies in the land acquisition process, titling and approvals. This will create transparency in the system and hence encourage more private participation in the industry. It will also create a more vibrant and attractive industry for practitioners to work in, which will in turn spur young minds to join and build the sector. The government can encourage collaboration among industry players, including developers, contractors, architects, and artisans through public-private partnerships, to share best practices and promote innovation. This can help to create a more dynamic and competitive industry that can attract investment and talent both domestically and internationally.
Finally, what would you say set your firm apart in the industry?
As a company that focuses on creating impact and making the life of our clients better, we have continually improved our processes to suit our clients’ needs to give them comfort, peace, security and highest return on investment. This has continually made our clients recommend us for various awards and in our two years, we have been recognised as; Africa’s most outstanding real estate brand of the year 2022 – The African Brand, Fastest Growing Real Estate Development Company 2022 – Cosmopolitan the daily business award, Most Innovative Real Estate Investment Company 2022 – Cosmopolitan the daily business award, AFRICA’S Fastest Growing Real Estate Investment Brand Of The Year 2022 – The African Leadership Merit Award – The African Congress, Most Innovative Property Development Company Of The Year – Real Estate Excellence Awards, Excellence in Real Estate Development – Real Estate Excellence Awards and Most Trusted Real Estate Investment & Development Company Of The Year – International Standard Excellence Award.