‘Property investors must focus on research rather than trends’

Ruth Obih

Ruth Obih

RUTH OBIH, the On Air Personality has continued in her stride of setting agenda and moulding opinion in Nigeria’s real estate industry. Through an annual Real Estate Unite Summit, her initiative, has also opened up immeasurable potential in sub-Saharan Africa’s real estate sector. In this interview with CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM, Housing and Environment Editor, she points the way forward for the sector and explains that this year’s summit will enhance government performance through effective leadership, education, and technology.

Nigeria has been ranked 83rd in real estate transparency index, which means there is a growing recognition that transparent real estate practices play a significant role in capital formation and as a foundation to improve the quality of life. Why are we down in the ranking and what sound practices should we adopt to be relevant in the global real estate market? 

There is a growing global demand for real estate transparency not only for data gathering, but also for the fight against corruption. We must also acknowledge the link between transparency and the attractiveness of a country’s property market for foreign investment.

Global real estate index reveals, which countries provide the most favourable operating environments for investors. Higher real estate transparency is associated with stronger investor and corporate real estate activity.

The issue with the low ranking of Nigeria’s real estate according to the GRETI mentioned above is the lack of use of technology. We need to digitise our systems for us to be indexed accurately. The government has a great role to play here in terms of policies and regulations; proper data gathering and access to available data also play significant role to the growth of our market.

As you know, the economy is in shambles, what economic incentives and regulatory framework should the federal government be considering this period to rejuvenate the housing industry?
We must refrain from negative media utterance because of these in it self-are contributory factors that cause investor apathy. I see a totally revamp of the sector. I believe there is a lot of work been done in the housing sector. These things take time and the private sector has a great role to play here in terms of support and compliance.

Do you think local strategies are necessary to approach real estate in this recessive economy? If yes, What are these strategies?
It is a local capacity driven market and must be approached with local strategies. One of these strategies is collaboration and this makes a huge discussion at our upcoming real estate unite conference.

Globally, technology is becoming both a driver of the digitization of all kinds of real estate data and also an enabler in disseminating information. Why is Nigeria lagging behind in utilizing such techniques in the improvements of the real estate markets?
Technology is a growth driver and the private sector is embracing the use. We believe one great issue that we plan to use “Real Estate Unite” summit to address this year is the education of the public sector. The public sector must have the competence to deal with the private sector and there must be integration. When you say Nigeria is lagging behind I believe you are referring to the government. Selection of government personnel and capacity development will change the approach of people occupying the government positions. Lagos is a good example of an improved public sector and since real estate decision mostly lies in the hands of the state government and quick call for the upgrade is needed.

In this time of recession, property owners are bearing the brunt as vacancy rates remain elevated. What should commercial real estate investors be doing at this period to woo property buyers?
Developers must source and make use of data. What do people want? What can their finances allow them to buy?  A lot of these issues did not seem out of the recession; rather it was out of negligence and lack of proper information. A lot of people have been misled to develop property in areas of low demand by following trends rather than research.

Every year you assemble brilliant minds and top government officials to a real estate summit, what impact have your recommendations made in the real estate sector?
The impact of Real Estate Unite is immeasurable. Aside from changing perceptions and attracting global attention,”Real Estate Unite” has helped globalize local brands.

The objective of the event is to provide access and platform where the entire real estate industry unites to discuss pertinent issues yearly. The conversations are driven by REU yearly has changed a lot of policy decisions in the country. The success story of REU has inspired many other real estate events championing the great cause of driving the growth of the Real Estate Industry in Nigeria. We acknowledge the efforts of other stakeholders and their desire for a stronger industry. These efforts motivate us to position ourselves for sustainable growth in the years ahead.

Finally, if you take a trip down memory lane, you are sure to note that REU has influenced a lot of investment decisions since inception especially in the commercial real estate space.

This year’s Real Estate Unite Summit is crucial and timely too, what are the gaps impeding progress in the real estate sector of the economy?
It’s definitely a crucial time to host this event. Of course, there are obvious gaps in the sector but we are addressing GAPS that are pertinent to our present conditions. G.A.P.S is an acronym for Government-Access-Private Sector-Strategy. I must state that we are not just highlighting them but we are discussing strategies that will help to fill these gaps and prevent future re-occurrence.

At REU 2016 we will explore how to enhance government performance through effective leadership, education, and technology, how to enable access through regulatory reforms; and how to approach real estate market in a recessive economy.

We believe it’s time to blow the whistle and begin to look inwards as a great nation with huge potential. We must act fast and begin to exploit the potential these critical areas bring, especially the housing sector. Not only will it help to significantly increase employment and impact multiple sectors of the economy.

Real Estate Unite is a three-fold event, comprising a conference, exhibition and awards as well as exclusive meeting sessions such as the African Women in Real Estate Meeting and Real Estate Leader Meeting. Real Estate Unite 2016, being the 5th edition, will feature new programmes more than the previous years. This year’s edition comes with the new 3INVEST biennial recognition lists, which is very different from the awards we have given in the past. Real Estate Unite Awards will now hold every two years.

Having invested resources in promoting the real estate industry in Nigeria to the global market over the years, we can appreciate the strides of various players in the industry and this award presentation will be to acknowledge them and encourage others.
3invest biennial list will feature individuals and companies inspiring change in the real estate industry. These will be people who by their actions have brought in FDI to the sector influence decisions and provide innovative solutions driving growth in the real estate industry.

We are proud on how Real Estate Unite has developed in just five years since inception and the (global) influence it has had on the sector. You will agree with me that it’s quite a daunting task to put an event like this together, especially at this time in our nation’s economy when we have limited resources at our disposal. We are grateful for how far we have come, having hosted four previous editions and the support we got in the industry.
We appreciate all our colleagues who have tirelessly committed resources to promote the real estate industry. We acknowledge the efforts of other stakeholders and their desire for a stronger industry. These efforts motivate us to position ourselves for sustainable growth in the years ahead.



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