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Yemi Afariogun, a valuable player in the architectural space

Yemi Afariogun is an Architect and project management expert whose creativity, exceptional work ethics, and unique insight into the dynamics of the building design and real estate development niche, defines her as a valuable industry player. Her many years of experience across project management, team leadership and architectural design has honed her versatility and helped her master operational realities of that industry.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, a Master of Environmental Design in Architecture, both from the University of Lagos and an M.Sc. in Projects and Enterprise Management from the Bartlett School, University College, London. She is equally a PMI certified Project Management Professional and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Architects.

Her training coupled with over 15 years of career exposure has strengthened her competence, affording her a well-developed skill-set across architectural design projects, real estate development, and construction project management.

Currently, Yemi is Director and Lead Project Manager at RY Projects, a design and real estate development company which she founded in 2014. Focused on exceptionality and extensive client satisfaction, RY Projects pursues innovation, excellence and leadership within the building consultancy and property development space.

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Prior to her current position, she was Project Manager at FBN Mortgages Ltd, where she successfully managed several design and construction projects across projects’ entire life-cycle from ideation and design through to full implementation. She has also held project management cum estate development and design positions at other leading building design firms.

Yemi is intentional about excellence and innovation. She is committed to contributing to revolutionary innovation within the African building construction and design space. Her extensive travels and interaction with built environment innovations across the world has deepened her passion. She leverages this exposure to bring creativity to RY Projects wide-ranging portfolio in Architectural consultancy and Real Estate Development.

In addition to a full work schedule, she is intentional about women empowerment and social responsibility. She consistently volunteers on social development projects and events, particularly those geared towards gender equity and the development of the girl child.

Yemi’s family is one of the greatest blessings of her life and she loves to spend time with her husband and four children. When she is not working, she can be found indulging her love for reading and the arts.

Formative years

I grew up in a large family, with many sisters, brothers and cousins. There was abundant love, value for self and the belief that great heights are attainable. Education, and by that, I mean attending school and getting good grades was a big part of our lives and thankfully, we had good government schools in Nigeria at that time that ensured middle class families like mine had access to quality education for their children. I attended Queen’s College Yaba and University of Lagos between 1991 and 2002. Although I wasn’t exactly social or one of the popular students, I formed very valuable lifelong friendships, a network I consider one of my greatest assets.

Passion for architecture

As a young girl, I was fascinated by the aura and prestige (at least that’s how I remembered it) that came with being identified as an Architect. You know that Aristocratic vibe. This sparked my interest and made me seek to know more and through my research, I found my love and appreciation for good form and spaces in buildings. There my path to Architecture and Real Estate started and I must say, I’m glad with the choices I made.

At what point did project management also come up and how has the experience been?

During my study of Architecture in University of Lagos, my friends and I spent a lot of our vacation attending student workshops and interning at various Architectural practices, I got some experience, first as a student and then, as a young graduate.

My first shock was realizing how little young Architects earned. In hindsight, I think every young adult experiences this. I also realised that delivering successful projects required much more than brilliant Architects. A more holistic approach is needed. In spite of these, my love for the profession grew rather than wean. My desire to deliver successful projects I believe, led me to an M.Sc. in Project and Enterprise Management at The Bartlett School, University College London. My experience with Construction Project Management in Nigeria has been colourful and not without its challenges. I’ll say, like with everything else, the experience is better with clients who understand and appreciate the value of the service and are willing to pay for it.

How important is the role of an architect in building construction?

The role of an Architect in building construction is important because he/she gives form to the client/project objectives. The Architect comes up with the footprint or concept for all other consultants to build upon and more often than not, the Architect also manages and coordinates the activities of these other service providers. So you can imagine a situation where the initial concept is not properly formed and everyone else is building on a false start.

Though we see some people get away with not engaging Architects on their building projects, believing they have saved cost, in reality, they spend more than they should eventually before the project is concluded. Worst scenario is ending up with a building that doesn’t serve the purpose for which it is built. All these can be avoided simply by engaging an Architect. The value of a good Architect on a project cannot be over emphasised.

When and why did you go into real estate?

In 2008, I joined the Project Management team in a Property Development Company. That was the beginning. I have been operating in the industry ever since. I worked with Developers till 2014 when I took the bold step to set up my own company.

Mistakes to avoid when investing in real estate

There are several possible mistakes, but in my opinion, the gravest is buying a property with a defective title. It often leads to complete loss of investment. Other common mistakes may be buying solely based on cheapest price as against the greatest value, or paying too much, well over the property’s market value.

How important is it for everyone involved in a project to be in sync

Delivering a project is not by individual effort. You must learn to work as a team. This industry is not for lone rangers that thrive on working alone or “playing their part”. Everyone’s role is important and the team is only as strong as its weakest link. Coordination and monitoring of all processes and production, right from inception through to completion, is essential in ensuring the team stays aligned to the project objectives.

Challenges with omo oniles (illegal fund collectors who harass authorised land owners for financial settlement)

I have only had this experience on one project, in an estate on New Road, Igbo-Efon, along Lekki Epe Expressway. I find that in Lagos State, you are less likely to have these issues on properties within government schemes, with titles such as Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) or Land Certificates. You tend to have these interferences more on properties where the root title is excised land to certain indigenous families. These family properties come cheaper but not without their attendant headaches. In spite of these, many investors have made fantastic returns from such properties. So, I’m saying they can be really good investment options but seek expert advice before purchase to avoid stories.

Back to dealing with Omo onile, I can only speak from my experience with the one time I encountered them. We got the local Baale involved, identified the head of the omo onile team and established a relationship with them all. Whether you like it or not, they are stakeholders and can affect the delivery of your project either way. Take possession of your property as soon as you pay for it, register the title with the State’s Land Registry immediately and then, do your best to execute your project as quickly as possible. They can only disturb you as long as the project is on-going, once it is concluded, the interference will stop. So speed is important.

Setting up RY Projects

When I left paid employment in 2014, I knew I wanted to start my own Real Estate Development Company, having learnt a lot of the rudiments in my career up until then. We registered the business that year and started actively seeking opportunities. We worked on design and refurbishment jobs till our first real break with a Joint Venture development of four terrace houses in Lekki Phase 1 in 2016 and the rest, as they say, is history. We started really small and have been very fortunate. God has sent wonderful opportunities our way and also enablers without whom we most definitely won’t have gone this far so fast.

Journey of your company till date

I would say a lot has changed while remaining the same. We have grown in every regard. We exit every project with a wealth of experience, including lessons we take with us onto the next, in the bid to do better and be better.

I am so grateful to God for good health, my husband, my family and my team, they are the best. All I am able to do is because of them. I am grateful for the people who believe in us enough to invest in us. I am grateful for all our clients and subscribers. I’m looking forward to continued growth and world peace.

On Lagos state land use charge law

The last amendment in 2020 is friendlier and easier on the pocket than the one before it. The charge is a levy on taxable property in the state, that combines all property and land based charges. These charges are necessary for the maintenance and improvement of infrastructure in the neighbourhood.

As a nation, what are the implications of the land use act?

The land use act of 1978, vested all land within a particular state to the Governor of that state, to hold in trust for the people, and the Governor is responsible for allocation of the land. This act promulgated at that time, by the Head of State may have been necessary to streamline the laws of land ownership across the country, reduce boundary disputes and controlled land speculators to a large extent, but it assumed that the Governor will always act in the best interest of the people. Its application has thrown up a few flaws and the act of over 40 years may need some amendments.

Is real estate the best form of investment?

Real estate is about the surest and safest path to creating wealth; but by no means the only way. It’s best to have a balanced approach to investing, with a portfolio to also include other forms of investment.

Explain what the seller, buyer and stratified market is about

In simple terms, when the demand is greater than supply, it’s the seller’s market (The seller is at an advantage and may increase his/her price) and when you have more supply, it’s the buyer’s market. A stratified market is an attempt to group property in a certain area according to the various types and value because, there may be instances where the property groups in the same location are experiencing different trends at a particular point in time, For example, the luxury homes in Town A may be a buyer’s market, while affordable homes in the same location is a seller’s market. It’s the simple principles of economics. Trust me, it is not as complicated as it sounds, However, I have found that the Lagos real estate market has defied a lot of the principles that may apply in other climes, investing here takes some localised knowledge and experience.

How can one determine the value of an investment property?

The easiest answer to this is to consult with a Real Estate Valuer. The most common error real estate investors make is taking decisions based solely on price comparison. We often hear things like “Why is this 3 bed apartment more expensive, when someone else is selling for less?”. Such investors may end up buying the less expensive apartment and earn less than half the rental income he would have earned on the ‘expensive’ one. This however, doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive property is always a better choice.

While pricing is important, and you should always aim to pay below the market value, other factors to consider will be the location, reason for the investment, quality of the design and construction amongst others. The reality is, one gets better with experience and knowledge of the local market. Until you learn the ropes, please seek the help of trusted realtors and valuers.

Never to be forgotten

I will always remember the day I signed our first Joint Venture Agreement as it was a big deal for me. A landowner was entrusting me with his property in Lekki Scheme 1. It was everything I had wanted and worked for and everything was coming together nicely. The experience was surreal. The project was aptly named Faith Homes. Our entire existence, as in the whole company, is built on faith.

Final words

Integrity in business (in life actually) is key and remains one of our greatest corporate values. We do our best to make sure every member of our team understands and upholds this value.

Lastly, I would like to encourage everyone, especially the young ones setting out in life that you are enough regardless of your background, you are enough to pursue and achieve your goals. Do away with all limiting beliefs you may have and stay focused on attaining your goals. Work smart, let opportunities meet you prepared. In the meantime, enjoy the journey while waiting to get to the destination, live each day to the fullest and put your trust in the Almighty God.

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