Real estate growth will strengthen the economy — Gbenga Omotayo

Realest Mart Founder and CEO Gbenga Omotayo says KEHINDE AJOSE on his journey as an entrepreneur and the challenges of the real estate sector

What are your responsibilities as CEO of Realest Mart?

I’ve been a director for at least a decade, thanks to other businesses I run besides real estate. I’m also into shipping. I also practiced real estate in the UK.

As CEO of the company, I am the cheerleader for the brand, ensuring that I am able to lead it to achieve its goals and objectives, bringing the vision to life and ensuring that we are able to deliver on our vision commitments to our customers.

What prompted you to create the company?

It was created out of passion to address the issues that buyers face when they want to buy properties in Nigeria and invest in real estate. It was also as a result of my personal experiences. I have lived in the UK for at least 14 years. I was once a victim (of a scam in the real estate sector). I wanted to buy land in Nigeria, and I had worked and saved for it. I sent money home to a trusted friend to buy me some land. But, I never had the land; my money was also not refunded. Many people still experience such problems. They have the money and they want to invest in them, but they don’t have anyone to trust. If nobody does anything about it, we will discourage investors from investing in the country.

Buying property in Nigeria shouldn’t be a struggle. If you want to invest your hard-earned money, don’t get scammed. We are here to simplify the process and encourage investors to invest in the country. This would contribute to the growth of the national economy.

What are the problems facing the Nigerian real estate sector?

The practice of real estate in Nigeria faces many challenges for both buyers and sellers.

One of the challenges is the unstable state of the economy. The devaluation of the naira is not helping matters either. These have adverse effects on real estate. This forces (some) developers to cut corners and compromise on the quality of materials they use in construction, in an effort to maximize profits. Before starting a building project, they (developers) would already have an estimate of the cost of the materials they want to use. This then affects their budgets when they find that the prices of these materials have gone up. This also affects property prices. This is one of the reasons why property prices are constantly rising.

Second, many developers don’t do anything about their property documents; perhaps they are trying to avoid the cost of developing a land title in Nigeria. When we buy land without the title, we would have problems all along the line. It could be discovered that the same land had already been sold to another person. One could lose a property if one does not do due diligence (on it). Buyers end up suffering the consequences. However, for every property my company sells, we make sure they are authentic and clean.

Building collapses are another problem. It is not good that people lose their lives in such incidents.

How is technology changing operations in the real estate industry?

Today, technology is what we eat, drink and sleep. There is hardly any industry that has not integrated technology into its operations. Technology has come to stay and this is the future.

Nowadays, everyone wants to be able to buy and sell, and do a lot of other things (online). Without the help of technology, things like working from home wouldn’t be possible.

One of the positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we’ve been able to adopt more of it and we’ve seen how technology has been able to help us get things done faster in our practical space. That’s what we’re doing with Realest Mart by bringing technology to real estate. Without technology, you won’t be able to buy property anywhere remotely. You will need to come to the site and sign the documents. Technology has made these changes possible.

The time someone outside of Nigeria would spend traveling in the country can now be converted into other productive endeavours. That’s what we do: make sure people can buy real estate without leaving the comfort of their own homes.

What were the difficulties encountered when starting the business?

The challenges are endless, and we try to solve them as much as possible. A major challenge is that many real estate sellers do not have the proper documents. A lot of land is being built without having the right titles. For us, due diligence is essential. If the titles to a property aren’t clean, we can’t get involved.

What impact do you see your business having 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’s pretty much a market where a lot of people wake up, build whatever they want, and price it.

However, before undertaking a project, we negotiate on behalf of our clients. We have our own assessors.

There are indicators that should determine what the real market value of a property is. But the disparity between what the seller wants and the actual market value is just too great. We try to see how we can bridge this gap by negotiating on behalf of our buyers to ensure they get the best deals in the market.

Additionally, we want to reduce instances of buyers losing their hard-earned money due to the purchase of properties that do not have proper title. We ensure that every property we sell has gone through a verification and due diligence process.

We are very demanding on quality.

In addition, we want to encourage investors as much as possible, especially those from the diaspora. There are millions of Nigerians outside the country who want to invest in Nigeria but these problems discourage and drive them away.

How do you ensure you provide excellent customer service?

We are very attentive to the provision of customer service. We will give 100% when it comes to providing first class customer service. Without customers, there is no business. We would embrace all avenues in terms of responding to queries and how we address those concerns. We have a 24 hour rule, which means that from the moment someone asks a question about one of our services, they get a response within 24 hours. Each onboarding customer will have a dedicated account manager who will oversee their transaction.

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