Why real estate industry is still flying high despite the pandemic, by Oyedemi
Julius Oyedemi, a real estate guru and director PWAN Plus Business Concerns, an affiliate of Property World Network Africa (PWAN Group), in this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, says that despite Covid-19 pandemic, the real estate industry has continued to flourish. He tells a success story of his group, urging inventors to take advantage in the industry now. Excerpts:
Could you introduce yourself and organisation to our readers?
My name is Julius Oyedemi. I am the managing director and chief executive officer, PWAN Plus Business Concern Limited, owners of Cedarwood Estate with headquarters in the city of Lagos. Basically, we are a real estate network marketing firm with stations in Aba, Owerri and other major cities in Nigeria. We are one of the fastest real estate marketing companies in Africa. Our vision is to make home ownership dream a reality for all. At PWAN Plus, we are very civil and highly professional in our dealings. One of our core values is customer satisfaction. No matter how good one’s integrity is, if customers are not satisfied, one’s character becomes questionable. Hence, our focal point is customer satisfaction. Cedarwood Estates by PWAN Plus is just a little above three years. From 2017 till date we have several estates in Lagos, Imo, Abia states and we are currently moving to Akwa-Ibom State. We have also recorded significant achievements in the area of infrastructural development in all our estates. I can tell our customers that we are concerned about you buying a property from us and you have easy access to your property or your allocation.
Prospective customers may want to know your core area. Do you specialise in site and service or build and sale?
We basically function in the area of site and service though we are delving into build and sale. By site and service, I mean we acquire large expanse of land and develop it. We clear it, fence it, erect gatehouse, put security facilities and develop road networks. Of course, we don’t stop there. We do the electrification and lighting and also create recreational centres, sporting arenas, estate launch, other basic infrastructure; and then we allow our investors to build to their taste. We allow them to build to their taste. We know that like they say; variety is the spice of life. So, we allow people to play with their creative ability. Hence, when you acquire a property from us, you submit your building plan; it undergoes approval process and you are off to site.
How does PWAN Plus make home ownership easy for everyone?
We believe that every man dreams of having a home that he calls his own, but how to actualise it becomes the challenge. At PWAN Plus, we go into developing area, acquire properties, develop them within a time frame and make the properties very affordable for everyone. We operate a system that allows even the low income earners to acquire properties with ease. This is because, if you are trying to make home ownership dream a reality for all you should also consider people’s incomes. You need to check their pockets. At Cedarwood’s Estates, we are budget friendly. I can tell you, we sold properties like Cedarwood Vista at the rate N270,000 here in the city of Lagos in 2019; and it was a boom. A lot of people thought it was a scam until they were invited to get their allocations. We heard testimonials. A lot of people said: ‘I thought it was a scam so I said let me just buy one plot.’ Now that they have allocations they want buy more. That is part of our own style of fulfilling our vision, by making our properties affordable and easy for clients to take possession. We are also very choosy regarding the location we invest in. We go for prime locations where either government or private developmental efforts will hit the area. We are careful not to take people to areas where nothing can spark off more development.
Considering the current economic challenges posed by Civid-19 pandemic, one would expect that these are dull moments for the real estate sector but instead you are launching new products here and there. Could you explain the secret?
Nigeria is fully dependent on crude oil, but it has become a reality today that crude cannot sustain the country. Many multinational oil companies are relocating out of Nigeria. I want people to know that one sure industry that has contributed significantly to the economies of the world at large is real estate. In Nigeria today, real estate is contributing immensely to the country. No matter the economic challenge, real estate remains a booming industry in Nigeria. The reason as I said earlier is, everybody wants a roof over his/her head. And everyone wants to be a landlord or landlady; so, the quest for real estate is always high. The industry is a very busy one, and for us, the players, there is no resting moment because the demand is high. We have to improve our supply capabilities; that’s why the industry is still flying high despite the pandemic.
On the other hand some people believe that living in an estate makes one a perpetual tenant, how do you reconcile that?
I think that’s not a true statement. As real estate developers, our focal point is to solve housing problems. We provide basic amenities. Precisely, what we do is to have a functional estate, where there will be good ambience, serenity, organisation, accountability and security of lives and property. One of the challenges of man is security. At PWAN Plus, we are developing properties where these aspects of man’s worries are taken care of. Why should anybody say that he or she is a perpetual tenant because he lives in an organised and secure estate? Let me stress here that the reason some people may think that living in an estate makes one a perpetual tenant, is because there is a control system, there is organisation and there is management. Yes; no estate functions well without a management. No organisation functions well without systems and structures. The fact that you have acquired land makes you a landlord or land owner; but a management which is also instituted by the landowners and landlords is there to serve occupants of the estate. I will give a simple illustration. When you live in neighbourhoods devoid of proper estate management, who is accountable to you when there is power failure for one month? When you live in such neighbourhood and there is no water supply, who is accountable to you? When you live in neighbourhoods and armed robbers are jumping into and bugling people’s homes, who is accountable? In a functional estate, there is a management which takes care of all the aspects such as security, water, electricity, cleaning services, general maintenance and the rest of them. So, you find out that people who live in functional estates enjoy a good measure of free life, with just a little sacrifice which is determined by the landlords. Who want to live in unorganised neighbourhood where anybody can just bash into your house and bang on your gate indiscriminately? In an organised estate like ours, there is robust security operated by competent private security professionals in conjunction with the Nigerian Police Force. In such environment, residents have peace of mind. They wake up in the morning, and their streets are cleaned; their neighbourhood is not littered with dead leaves, nobody dumps trash on the streets; like we see in neighbourhoods where anybody can just deface the streets. All of that does not happen in a functional estate. I want to say clearly that you are indeed not a perpetual tenant. Rather you are privileged to be among the high class who enjoy good living environment because that’s what a functional estate provides.
How can those who earn less than N150,000 a month enjoy this good life, considering how much it costs to own a property in your estates?
I tell people that real estate investment is a journey; and every journey starts from a location. Every journey has a starting point and a finishing point, which is called destination. To be a real investor or one who acquires property, one needs to have foresight. Foresight makes you see the future right in the present. Foresight brings what is far nearer. For instance, about five or seven years ago, if you drove through Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, it was known as a deadly zone. If not accident, it was robbery, all because bushes dominated that environment. There were no physical developments; so, a lot of atrocities were happening until Redeemed Christian Church of God through the able leadership of Pastor Enoch Adeboye acquired several kilometres of land and planted their headquarters there. If you go to that axis now, the story has changed. You hardly hear of robbery cases around there because many other developments have moved there. The Redeemed Church has attracted a lot of people. You now have many beautiful estates in Mowe, Magodo in that axis today. The truth is; people should start from somewhere. When the likes of Daddy Adeboye moved to that axis, a lot of people misunderstood him. But today, a good number now have clearer understanding. The journey of real estate investment starts with a step. Let’s go back to your question. How can someone who earns below N150,000 live in an organised estate? I want to say that it’s very possible. It takes foresight and determination. Today in Cedarwood Estates, we have flexible payment plan. So, somebody earning N100,000 and below can acquire a property of N600,000 and spread the payment over 12 months. At some point, we even allow 18 months. That’s one way that PWAN Plus is assisting Nigerians to live a good life.
In what ways does your firm help to reduce the number of our youths in the unemployment market?
We have a platform called PWAN Group Property Access Club. It is group of persons who are doing something legitimate to achieve a goal. I want to stress that in 2019, we got reports from Lagos Business School saying that PWAN Group is the third largest employer of labour in West Africa. There are over 79,000 independent partners and consultants working for PWAN. We have a training programme that we call ‘Walk With Us Nigeria’. We understand the position of our nation and we are saying that instead of just buying land from us, they can also own properties at zero cost and that is where the initiative, property access club, came into existence. It is a platform whereby individuals from different walks of life are trained to become real estate professionals. PWAN Group has been training people since 2012. I can boldly tell you that there is no real estate firm in Nigeria that runs trainings the way the PWAN Group does it. Our trainings are done in all of our centres nationwide. The PWAN brand is spread over 13 states in Nigeria. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, quality trainings simultaneously go on in the 13 states. The essence is; after the training, a beneficiary becomes a Consultant and Partner with the brand. He or she is thought on how to sell properties and how to network people into real estate. When a Consultant or Partner makes sales, he or she gets a generous commission to keep body and soul together. A lot of people, both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, are working with PWAN Group to make home ownership dream a reality. That platform is actually PWAN’s arm devoted to empowering Nigerians, taking the jobless off the streets and helping them to earn a descent living.
Investors have been testifying that real estate products by PWAN Plus and Cedarwood Estates sale out very quickly. What’s the secret?
Like I said earlier, one of our core values is customer satisfaction. Whatever meaningful thing we can do to make sure that a customer goes home happily, we will do. From me, the managing director, to the least staff, we are all out. I drive people to site inspection at times. I follow up to inspect clients’ allocation regularly. I make sure that I follow up with contractors on site because if you must deliver effectively to clients and investors you have to place integrity above all things. I believe that with these inputs, God Almighty is not so partial not to reward our efforts. That is the secret. If you check all the visuals on the internet, you see my face on site. All those things are not there for show. It’s just to show our customers that from top to bottom, our staff are responsible and accountable for their investments. I have the understanding that first is quality service; I can narrow it to service. With that my subordinates and all staff know that we are all out. One cannot do otherwise and expects good result. I believe this is one reason investor will choose to do business with us. Again, as the Managing Director, I am personally and easily available. In real estate business, investors should know and be able to interact with the people at the front line, to know what the plans and projections are like. The real estate CEO should be accountable to investors, give them feedback on the state of their properties, what and how the return on their investments has accrued. All of this is what we practise here in PWAN Plus. We are not there yet, but we are getting there. It has not been an easy one. It is time-consuming; sometimes you don’t even have time to attend to your urgent personal or family needs. Another secret of our success is that we are very professional in our approach to solving real estate problems. From the day we launched our estates, everyone in the organisation knows exactly what their duties are. We make sure that from the point that a client makes an investment, we make all relevant information available and development must start before we start selling any of our estates. When one gets to a property site that one wants to buy and sees people on site working, one has a rest of mind. We also take physical possession to reduce fear of land owning families in the minds of investors. Our track record in infrastructural development is another mark that endears us to investors. Each of our 26 estates enjoys good infrastructural facilities. None of Cedarwood estates is just bush. There is presence of gate house, perimeter fencing, internal road construction and one form of infrastructure going on at site. That is a key factor to why our estates sell very fast. Recently, we adopted a method whereby as a client makes payment he or she chooses his or her plot. Lush City Aba was introduced barely three weeks ago. In the fourth week we will begin to allocate plots to all subscribers in that estate. There are cases where some people said they have subscribed for a property and after two or three years they have not got their allocations. As a result they stopped investing. But here we are changing the rhythm.
Would it be correct to say that Lagos is getting saturated with your estates? Could that be the reason for shift down to East or do you have any unique reason for the attention to the East?
Lagos is not saturated because demand for properties here is still high. However, the dial is changing. There is a shift in property business in Lagos from site and service to functional estates; and we are already moving into that market. People want to avoid the stress of building before moving in. They are now more interested in readymade, nicely built and furnished apartments that they pay for and pack in. We already have Cedarwood residence (4bedroom duplexes), specially designed to meet the need of this category of people around Lakowe area of Lagos. But our vision is to make home ownership easy, not only for Nigeria but also for all Africans. So, expanding our operation to other states of Nigeria is just fulfilling our vision; not because Lagos market is saturated.
PWAN Plush has just lunched Lush City in Aba, Abia State; how is that going to impact the locals considering that attention of some Easterners is fast shifting back home?
Lush City by Cedarwood is going to attract many developments. One thing I know is that people are attracted to and want to associate with success. Lush City is going to improve the economy of Abia State because we are going to be paying tax to the state government. Youths who are technically inclined are already working on site and making a living; the food vendor who is looking for people to buy her food now has a spot or outlet and several other opportunities. In terms of infrastructural development, not solely dependent on government, we will provide all of that and there is a time bar as to when we have to deliver in all of these. That alone will develop the environment. For instance, I instructed our contractors to grade the access roads and the community people were excited. It’s a sign that sooner or later, the roads might be tarred or paved. The presence of Lush City will also improve the security and life style of the people within the estate first and then the surrounding community because if the community is not safe, it’s going to affect the estate. So, the presence of Lush City is going to impact on the security architecture of community. Commerce and liquidity will improve in the community. I know that our Igbo brothers always like good things around them, and I can tell you that since siting Lush City in Aba, the reception we have enjoyed is quite commendable.