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Property Business In Nigeria: An Interview with Oluwafemi Taiwo, CEO of PrivateProperty

By on November 10, 2012

Private Property is Nigeria’s number one property website. Within a short period, the company has risen to become the place for Nigeria home movers to find details of properties available to buy or rent.

In this interview with BusinessNews, Chief Executive Officer of the firm, Oluwafemi Taiwo, speaks on the achievements of the company and other issues.

Can we meet you please?

I am Oluwafemi Taiwo, CEO, and Co-Founder of PrivateProperty.com.ng. Private Property is an online platform that generates leads for properties listed by real estate agents. Over 300 Real Estate companies are currently listed on the website.

Did you set out to do property business? I mean there are scores of other profession, so why did you choose this line of work.

Actually, I’m into technology business with a focus on Property. I never really set out to do what I’m doing, but I became very passionate about technology and I saw the opportunity in using technology to solve the problems of property search, i.e. creating a platform where buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants can meet online and transact offline, hence the reason I am in the property field.

In view of the state of Nigerian economy, how has the company fared in the past year?

As an entrepreneur, I am passionate about the business idea, and I believe the current state of the economy shouldn’t change our vision. We have benefited from this economic climate mainly because of our online business contribution. Real estate agents cannot continue to pay huge sums of money for newspaper and outdoor advertising or TV campaigns; therefore, they have taken a look at other alternatives. We are offering them a perfect alternative, a cost effective marketing solution by allowing them to list their properties on our website. The benchmark for successful marketing was print advertising, now it’s slowly shifting to online advertising. We have minimized our costs and focused on our core competence of delivering value to our clients.

What makes your firm stand out from numerous competitors?

We are in a technology business where real estate agents can easily monitor the return they get once they take a subscription on PrivateProperty.com.ng. Our selling point is our focus, since we believe in  adding value to our clients businesses by enabling them close more deals through the people they meet on our website. We guarantee a response to any agent who lists properties on our website. We give access on our website to only certified agents to drive leads/enquiries to the properties they advertise.

Private Property has become a household name in the country, what is the magic behind this?

Since we launched, we have seen a shift in the way consumers search for properties. They love the convenience of being able to search for properties anytime and anywhere. As a company that places a strong emphasis on innovation, we are extremely delighted to have pioneered and changed the way our consumers search for property. We are making it easier and faster.

Many Nigerians believe owning a house is totally impossible in this clime, do you agree with this assessment?

It’s not totally impossible. Rather, it is difficult. There are different ways to owning a home. Some acquire lands to enact structures. Difficulty in building a house can be due to the rising costs of building materials. Others buy houses outrightly, and the difficulty in buying a house can be as a result of high prices of completed structures.

There are some segments of the society that still do not understand the benefit(s) of real estate, how would you explain the commerce of property to a layman?

There are different reasons for owning a property. Many buy real estate with the purpose of creating a roof over one’s head, while others see real estate as an investment to generate income from the rental yields or from a sale as a result of the increase in the value of the property.

The Land Use Act of 1978 has remained controversial since its enactment. It vests all lands in the territory of each State to the incumbent Governor; meaning rather than own the land in perpetuity, the citizen is only granted a Right of Use. Do you support calls that this Act be repealed?

I support the call for the act to be repealed; as the Act states that any land owner is actually leasing the property from the government for a period of 99 years, I believe a property should be passed down to generations to come. I would also add that the government should take title deeds seriously, as there are many people with properties without good title documents.

 Is the government doing enough in tackling the perennial housing problem?

I believe there is more the government can do with regards to tackling the housing problem. Nigeria currently has a deficit of about 17 million housing units and taking a look at the proposed 2013 budget, the allocation to the housing sector is about 24bn Naira compared to other sectors like Aviation who have been allocated 53bn Naira. Certainly, most of the growth in the housing sector would come through private-public partnership.

 If Mr. President called you and asked: “What must my administration do to alleviate the pains of common the people in the area of housing?” What would be your response?

If I am asked by Mr President on ways for his administration to alleviate the pains, I would say he should review the Land Use Act of 1978, create more home ownership schemes and also an enabling environment for local and foreign investors to invest in the housing sector.

In the past decades, more investors have come into the industry, yet majority of the people cannot boast of property ownership, is there something missing?

The gap in home ownership in Nigeria is due to the lack of access to credit for prospective home owners. The Primary Mortgage Institution is still in its infancy in Nigeria. Less than 40% of Nigerians own their homes, compared to over 60% of South Africans who own theirs.

Private-Public Partnership has been successful in other sectors, however, such cannot be entirely said about the multi-billion Naira realty business, why is this so?

PPP has actually been one of the main driving forces in the development of the Nigerian real estate sector. We need more investors both locally and internationally, government intervention in building more low cost housing units and the granting of credit to employees in the public and private sectors of the economy.

Going by its achievements thus far, where do you see Private Property some two years from now?

We certainly have a vision. We definitely want to grow into the major cities in Nigeria; as we currently have offices in Lagos & Abuja and then expand into other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and build a sustainable business  held to global standards.

 

  • Dare

    Real Estate in the high end market is not booming anymore in Nigeria. The vacancy rate in the high end markets of Lagos and Abuja is alarming. Low cost housing is the way forward. Great interview

  • AmeefoTim Ekundayo

    Great interview. Have more insight now and i definitely know the site to visit.