When it comes to real estate, three words reign supreme; “location” “location” “location”. It’s even more glaring and important when dealing in the Nigerian real estate market. For MD/CEO of Capital and County Realty, Mrs Estella Suleiman, this real estate trifecta is simply a reality. According to Mrs Estella, new developments such as the Lekki-Ikoyi toll bridge, rise in earning power of young families and the influx of young Nigerians in the diaspora looking to invest and move back to Nigeria, have lead to the increased demand for affordable property in the Lekki-Ajah axis. Jumia House Nigeria sat down with the vibrant CEO to discuss the growing opportunities for real estate investors and her vision for the future of the Nigerian real estate industry.
Jumia House Nigeria (JHN): Can you give us a brief intro about yourself and your real-estate firm?
Estella Suleiman (ES): My name is Estella Suleiman, I am a former investment banker. I developed an active interest in real estate about eight years ago. I always got great advise from my dad, who would constantly tell me to invest any little money I had in a piece of land, or distressed property. I realized he was always right. Although I was in the money market as an investment banker, my real estate investments always appreciated overtime.
Capital and County as a real estate firm started out a couple of years ago. However, we took our time to study the market. We were particular about the kind of products we wanted to come out with. Our in depth research of the Nigerian market allowed us to come out with our flagship products; studio apartments and one bedroom apartments. A studio apartment in Nigeria is virtually unheard of. They are not typically spacious, and usually referred to colloquially as “face me I face you’. We wanted to be different. We wanted our studios to be in the right locations, with the best prices and also within estates.
JHN: The Nigerian real estate business is rather saturated. What sets your company apart from other real estate companies.
ES: We approached the market from a unique angle. We don’t necessary see ourselves as a real estate firm. We see ourselves as realty advisors. This simply means, at the core of our business we want to offer value for money. Our goal is to offer products that have intrinsic values. So it’s not just about buying or selling a property, it’s about all the other related services we have to offer.
JHN: That sounds interesting. What are some of these added services?
ES: There’s a lot of attention to detail with our properties. Our products are very affordable, and to ensure everyone has the opportunity to invest in our properties, we’ve come up with a payment plan service. This simply means, if you have a twenty or thirty percent deposit, you can put it down and pay in line with your cashflow So this could be spread over a period of twelve months, quarterly payments or even bi annual payments. We are flexible and able to structure your payments around your needs and in line with your cashflow.
In addition, we have the guaranteed rent assurance products, which means if you buy property from us for investment purposes, we take it into our pool of properties. We then offer it to our corporate clients who in turn use it for long , middle or short lets. We see a lot of these clients from the oil and gas sector, and the telecoms industries. They want an alternative to expensive hotel stays for their staff, in a secure environment. For investors, your rent in essence is guaranteed year in year out because of our steady stream of contacts abroad and in Nigeria who are constantly seeking short let housing for their expatriates.
Another advantage we bring to our customers is helping them navigate the title transfer process and securing electricity meters from PHCN etc. We think of doing business with us as a hassle free house purchase process.
We’ve also negotiated terms with two major insurance companies in Nigeria, where under our agreement, if we are able to get up to 500 people to buy our properties, they will pay us rent assurance. This means that whenever your house is empty, you will get paid for that using our model. We believe this is an innovative model.
JHN: You’ve surely made great strides in the Nigerian real estate market. Based on your experience and professional opinion what is your outlook on the housing market for 2016 and beyond in Nigeria?
ES: We’re currently in a recession. This means we’ve had two consecutive quarters of a reduction in the economy. Also, disposable income is shrinking due to the value and volume of our exports reducing. We are largely an oil dependent nation and in terms of volume, it has reduced partly because of the Niger Delta crisis the average oil price from this year to last year has been under $40. So our revenues have dropped by over sixty percent. It’s obvious that disposable income has reduced and it has affected the real estate industry.
But with that being said there is still potential. People are looking for alternative sources of revenue generation and when they look at the equities market, the fixed income securities market and the foreign exchange market are all currently unfavourable for investors. On the other hand, investors are still able to make returns on the little money they are able to invest with in the real estate market. Despite the economic conditions in the country, I believe real estate investment is still one of the best forms of investments.
JHN: What kind of policies do you think the Nigerian housing market is lacking and how would these policies help your business?
ES: One of the first policies I feel should be addressed in the Nigerian housing market is the issue of liquidity. A lot of people don’t have readily available cash to buy property. A lot of people have money locked up in their pension funds. A while ago, a policy was drafted to allow individuals get twenty five percent of their RSA which could be used to access a mortgage or to buy a property. I feel that this regulation should be approved. It’s been circulating since last year and is now at the presidency level. If that is approved and people are able to access twenty five percent of their pension contribution, they will be able to buy themselves a decent home or a decent investment property. Considering the fact that we do not have a proper mortgage system, this will go a long way to ensuring affordable housing for the masses.
About Capital and County Realty
A wholly exclusive real estate firm. Offering Guaranteed Rental Assurance on all Studio and One-Bedroom Apartments, Mortgage Advisory, Portfolio Advisory, Home Swap, Home Upgrade and Asset Maximization Service. To view more properties from Capital and County Realty, click here.