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Real Estate

How technology is connecting people and property, disrupting market

Nigerians are getting smarter; thanks to technology, which is shaping the way people live, communicate, work, play, interact and transact business in Nigeria.
Although there are still some sectors that are yet to catch up with technological advancements, many have however evolved with technology resulting in ease of operations and better customer service.

The real estate industry is one of such sectors that have grown at an exceptional rate. The birth of online property platforms in Africa’s most populous nation is making transactions among developers, property owners, prospective buyers, and potential tenants easier, compared to the cumbersome processes witnessed a few years ago.

At one of the West Africa Property Investment Summits (WAPI), industry players were of the opinion that the deployment of technology would make Nigeria’s real estate sector more investable, increase liquidity and drive greater home ownership.

“Think back to the 80s and 90s, if you were going to purchase a property, you would spend many days trying to find a decent agent who will charge you high fees to take you from property to property in only a few locations -meaning he was limited,” Yemi Johnson, the Chief Operating Office of Hotels.ng, said.

Statistics have shown that 7 out of 10 Nigerians feel that house hunting is painful, as it usually starts with calling friends or walking long distances with a road side agent who, more often than not, does have direct access to landlord, thereby making one pay multiple ‘agent’ fees.

“With my mobile phone, I was able to connect with a landlord online and in few days I got an apartment without having to meet up with any agent and paying for any extra charges,” Arua Nnamdi told BusinessDay.

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According to Nnamdi Chineme, CEO of Nigeria Property Centre, an online platform that advertises real estate properties, his experience in renting a flat in Nigeria in 2008 and the UK in 2009 was the reason he decided to set up his company. He said it took about six months to find a flat in Lagos while in the UK he found one in just a week. The difference, he added, was down to the use of technology.

“Historically, in Nigeria, the speed of finding a property to rent or buy was mostly dependent on the estate agents the person knew and the network of those estate agents. Today, with the use of technology in the form of Property Portals, people can find a property as much as ten times faster,” Chineme explained.

Technology based (online) property platforms like Propertypro.ng (formerly ToLet.ng), Hotels.ng, myPadi.ng, Nigeria Property Centre, Lamudi which has now rebranded to Jumia Houses, Real Estate Market, estate intel, etc have brought technology to bear on real estate transactions, making listing, leases and sales a lot easier

“The adoption of Proptech is increasingly becoming a boon for the real estate sector in Nigeria,” Abdulhakeem Sadiq, chief executive officer of ZAMA, said in a statement.

“Now, a student could seamlessly find and rent an accommodation in no time whenever and wherever he/she may be as we provide critical information such as photographs, reviews & ratings, pricing, etc about available spaces for rent,” Joel Amawhe ,CEO of myPadi.ng said.

As it happens in other sectors of the economy, technology has penetrated the real estate sector and has disrupted the status quo, contracting jobs and creating new opportunities, especially for the millennial.

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Checks by BusinessDay revealed that even though technology has positively impacted the property industry in Nigeria, it has also caused disruption for traditional players in the industry. Going forward, real estate agents, developers, landlords and investors who are not open to embrace technology or become innovative over time will lag in the growth of the sector, industry experts have said.

“I have registered with three different online platforms, two of which I paid money for subscription, and since the time I uploaded my vacant properties on the sites, I get more than 10 calls a day from people who want to rent apartments. My fellow agents have been begging me to link them to the online platforms so they can be getting clients like myself , but I am still thinking about it whether or not I will link them,” jerry Adenekan, a real estate agent in Unilag axis told BusinessDay by phone.

BusinessDay findings revealed that the online market place in Nigeria is growing at a pace higher than even the country’s economy, and the real estate sector is among other industries who are directly impacted by the revolution.

The recent development has given room for the existence of new tech start-ups in a country where housing deficit is above 17 million units fuelled by the ever growing population.

A recent report by Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) revealed that Nigeria was second African country with highest technology hub after South Africa with Lagos taking the first position among the cities with highest tech hub in the continent.

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The Protech industry in Nigeria is however constrained by the not too favourable network service (in terms of connectivity), power failure (energy to power the system) and cost (of obtaining data). These challenges influence and determine the effective use of the internet for real estate transactions in Nigeria, as compiled from BusinessDay survey.

Analysts familiar with the sector said the government does not in any way regulate the Protech industry- different medium and the online platforms where Nigerians search for properties, as such poses may be used by some fraudulent individuals.

“The internet and technology generally no doubt remains a major tool to change narratives of real estate players but there exist challenges hindering a wider use mostly due to scepticism of using online platforms, low internet penetration in remote areas and more,” Amawhe said.

Going forward, analysts expect to see more use of technology in the real estate space especially with virtual reality and drones for property viewings.

By Endurance Okafor

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