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CEO in focus Tayo Odunsi: Championing growth in real estate data, research

After a good career spanning experience in a real estate services company, property development company, a mortgage bank and an investment bank, Tayo Odunsi, the CEO of Northcourt Real Estate established the data and research company with the aim to provide insightful statistics that can help industry players in making informed real estate decision.

Being a chartered surveyor with almost two decades of professional real estate experience, Odunsi understands that data and research drive investment and financing decisions, hence Northcourt Real Estate.

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While there is rich and readily available data on equities, money market and fixed- income there is little or no data for real estate. He realised that the lack of sufficient data and good research documents for the Nigeria real estate market holds a niche that was untapped.

After much thought and planning, in 2013, he left the well-paying investment bank job and founded Northcourt Real Estate with the aim of “reducing the opacity of the West African real estate market”.

Nigeria’s real estate challenges border on slow economic growth, lack of liquidity, dampened purchasing power, and dearth of industry data.

The property sector is one of the industries that are yet to fully recover from Nigeria’s 2016/2017 economic recession. The 2019 third-quarter report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), placed the real estate growth at -2.31 percent for the period.

Individual efforts at increasing the stock by way of developing more houses, coupled with talk shows offering insights into possible solutions have not helped to reduce the demandsupply gap or increase the ownership level.

Despite its large-size population and the self-acclaimed biggest economy in Africa, Nigeria is crawling behind its peers in terms of homeownership level.

Read also: How to increase real estate value in Nigeria

Whereas homeownership level is 84 percent in Indonesia, 75 percent in Kenya and 56 percent in South Africa, it is only 25 percent in Nigeria with the largest population in Africa estimated at 200 million. Going by United Nations projection, the country’s population will be as high as 400 million in 2050.

One of the constrains of Nigeria’s property industry is the little or no data about the activities in the industry, no wonder it is referred to as an opaque sector, a good example is the data by NBS which only covers real estate services with the exception of other transactions of the industry.

According to industry players the lack of sufficient data for the property sector makes it difficult for foreign investors to easily access the market despite its viability. The sector also records a lot of informal transactions making it difficult for the government to keep track of the sector’s performance.

For example, the often-quoted housing deficit of 17 million units has remained unchanged for over a decade despite the fact that the average population growth rate of the country stands at about 3 percent per annum.

With an undergraduate degree in estate management from the University of Lagos, MSC. real estate finance and investment degree from the Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK as well as an MBA from the Imperial College London, Odunsi plans to use the Northcourt Real Estate to bridge the data gap in Nigeria’s property industry.

Currently a doctoral degree candidate at the Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK, Odunsi is also a frequent conference speaker, property strategist and mentor to younger entrepreneurs and property professionals.

His real estate Company, Northcourt offers property brokerage, facility management, property management, valuation and research and advisory services.

Though offering a wide bouquet of services, the research component underpins everything the company does, and it is this component that has made the company one of the market leaders.

The company’s’ profile began to emerge when Northcourt decided to offer a free report titled ‘The Nigeria Real Estate Market Outlook’, first published in 2014.

The report received a lot of good reviews, Odunsi was interviewed on TV and featured in most major newspapers and the report was relied upon by investors and developers.

Read also: What Forbes wants real estate investors to do to succeed in 2020

Six months later, Northcourt published the Nigeria Real Estate Market Half-year Report and has kept publishing improved versions of each report every year. Over the past six years, Northcourt has built a real estate databank and research capacity that it claims is unmatched in West Africa.

Northcourt started with just two staff in October 2013 operating only in Lagos. Today, the company has grown to over 40 team members in its’ Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt offices.

Odunsi is supported by Ayo Ibaru, Coo/director, Real Estate Advisory; Osagie Alfred, director, Real Estate Management; and Oyindamola Bamisile, head, Finance & Operations in leading the day-to-day operations of the company.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018 Northcourt won the Euromoney award for best real estate advisors in Nigeria. In 2017 and 2018, the company won the same award for all of Africa. The company has also won several other awards including the AFRECA award, and Odunsi being named one of Nigeria’s 30 most influential people in the Nigeria real estate market.

Today, Northcourt advises and provides real estate research for pension funds, banks, fund managers, developers, investors and High Net worth Individuals on their real estate assets or projects in Nigeria and Ghana.

In 2018, after identifying yet another problem in the property space, Tayo Odunsi undertook significant research and wrote a book on affordable housing, titled “Affordable: Thinking critically and differently about affordable housing”.

The book received a lot of accolades as providing rare and workable insights for addressing the affordable housing problems in developing countries like Nigeria.

Northcourt can be best described as a hybrid-type company, which has both for-profit and not- for-profit products. The company expends a lot of resources in mentoring the next generation of real estate professionals either directly or through events it hosts.

Two of such events are the Estate Management Students Association ( EMSA) Annual Debate and the “Why I love Real Estate” summit, which are both held in the University of Lagos.

These events are aimed at exposing students to contemporary aspects and issues in real estate and especially giving them a taste and love for real estate research, which is the segment Northcourt focuses more.

During the company’s 5th year Anniversary celebration on 4th October 2018, Odunsi said “We consider ourselves yet to have scratched the surface of our vision – increasing the transparency of Nigeria’s real estate market, and are in no doubts as to the enormity of the journey ahead of us. There are standards to raise, products to deliver and fresh perspectives to introduce.”

When asked recently if this has changed just a year later, he said “Absolutely not, ask me in another 10 years”.

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