The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realest Mart, Gbenga Omotayo, tells KEHINDE AJOSE about his journey as an entrepreneur and the challenges in the real estate sector
What are your responsibilities as the CEO of Realest Mart?
I have been a director for at least a decade, by virtue of other businesses I run besides real estate. I am also into shipping. I have practised real estate as well in the United Kingdom.
As the CEO of the company, I am the cheerleader of the brand, making sure I am able to steer it to achieve its aims and objectives, bringing the vision to life and making sure we are able to live up to our commitments vision to our clients.
What made you establish the company?
It was created out of the passion to deal with the problems buyers face in wanting to buy properties in Nigeria and invest in real estate. It was also as a result of my personal experiences. I lived in the UK for at least 14 years. I was once a victim (of fraud in the real estate sector). I wanted to purchase a land in Nigeria, and I had been working and saving for it. I sent money back home to a trusted friend to get me a land. But, I never got the land; neither was my money refunded. A lot of people are still going through such issues. They have the money, and they want to invest back home, but they have no one to trust. If no one is doing anything about it, we will be discouraging investors from investing in the country.
Buying a property in Nigeria should not be a tug of war. If one wants to invest one’s hard earned money, one should not be defrauded. We are here to simplify the process and encourage investors to invest in the country. That would contribute to the growth of the nation’s economy.
What are the problems the Nigerian real estate industry is facing?
There are a lot of challenges besetting real estate practice in Nigeria, for both buyers and sellers.
One of the challenges is the unstable state of the economy. The devaluation of the naira is also not helping matters. These have adverse effects on real estate. It makes (some) developers cut corners and compromise on the quality of materials they use in building, in a bid to maximise profit. Before starting a building project, they (developers) would already have an estimate of the cost of materials they want to use. It then affects their budgets when they find out that the prices of those materials have increased. It also affects the prices of properties. That is one of the reasons the prices of properties are constantly increasing.
Second, a lot of developers do nothing about the documents of their properties; perhaps, they are trying to avoid the cost of perfecting a land title in Nigeria. When one buys a land without the title, one would have issues down the line. One could discover that the same land had already been sold to another person. One could lose a property if one does not carry out due diligence (on it). The buyers end up facing the consequences. However, for every property my company sells, we make sure they are genuine and clean.
Building collapses is another issue. It is not good that people are losing their lives in such incidents.
In what ways is technology changing the operations of the real estate sector?
Today, technology is what we eat, drink and sleep. There is practically no sector that has not integrated technology into its operations. Technology has come to stay and it is the future.
These days, everyone wants to be able to buy and sell, and do a lot of other things (online). Without the aid of technology, things like working from home would not be possible.
One of the positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have been able to embrace more and we have seen how technology has been able to help us do things faster within our convenient space. This is what we are doing with Realest Mart by bringing technology into real estate. Without technology, you won’t be able to purchase property from wherever you are remotely. You would have to come to the site and sign the documents. Technology has made these changes possible.
The time someone outside Nigeria would spend in travelling to the country can now be converted into other productive ventures. That is what we are doing— to ensure that people can shop for real estate without leaving the comfort of their homes.
What were the challenges you encountered when you started the business?
Challenges are unending, and we try as much as possible to solve them. One major challenge is that a lot of real estate sellers don’t have proper documents. A lot of lands are just being built on without them having the right titles. For us, due diligence is key. If a property’s titles are not clean, we cannot get involved with it.
What impact do you see your company making in the real estate sector?
Aside from the state of the economy, some developers are actually greedy. Unfortunately, there is poor regulation in the sector. It is pretty much a market where many people just wake up, build whatever they like and give it a price tag.
However, before we take on any project, we negotiate on behalf of our clients. We have our own valuers.
There are indicators that should ascertain what the real market value of a property is. But, the disparity in what the seller wants and the real market value is just too much. We are trying to see how we can close that gap by negotiating on behalf of our buyers to make sure they get the best deals in the market.
Also, we want to reduce the cases of buyers losing their hard earned money due to buying properties that don’t have clean titles. We make sure every property we sell has gone through a verification and due diligence process.
We are very particular about quality.
In addition, we want to encourage investors as much as possible, especially those in the Diaspora. There are millions of Nigerians outside the country who want to invest in Nigeria but these problems discourage and chase them away.
How do you make sure you render excellent customer service?
We are very particular about customer service delivery. We will give 100 per cent when it comes to rendering first class customer service. Without customers, there is no company. We would embrace every avenue in terms of response to queries and how we address those concerns. We have a 24-hours rule which means from when anybody makes an inquiry about any of our services, they would get a response within 24 hours. Every customer that comes on board will have a dedicated account manager that will oversee their transaction..
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