502 stranded TCN containers so far recovered ―Fashola

ABOUT 502 stranded containers belonging to the Transmission Commission of Nigeria (TCN) have been claimed, the Minister, Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on Tuesday said.

He said the containers, which had been left stranded at different ports across the country, are on transit to their various destinations.

Fashola spoke, at the presentation of the final report of the 20-year Transmission Master Plan at the TCN headquarters, Abuja.

According to him, this was made possible with the various efforts made by the current administration to increase the capacity of the company.

These, he said, include; budgetary committee on the part of the President, policy approvals, tax approval programmes, the N701 billion payment assurance guarantee, grid expansion programme.


“When this current administration was inaugurated in 2015, the story of the TCN is lack of capacity to transport energy. The story was that it has only the capacity to do 5,000MWs.

Things have changed, the President has given a mandate to the Ministry and by extension to TCN to improve its capacity to deliver service between the GenCos and DisCos and this is backed by policy approvals, tax approval programmes, N701 billion payment assurance guarantee, grid expansion programme and supported by budgetary committee which has been helpful.
“As at yesterday, we have been able to recover 500 containers belonging to TCN containing pieces of equipment that were meant for transmission expansion projects that were left at our ports before President Buhari became president. The containers have travelled to the intended destinations, TCN sites where works have resumed.”

He reaffirmed that as at December 2017, the TCN simulated capacity was 7125MWs adding that more projects will be completed this year.

While receiving the final report of the 20 years transmission expansion plan, the Minister said this will help ensure that issues of stranded power do not resurface in the future.

To this end, he urged all players in the power sector not to only familiarise themselves with the plan, but to also take ownership.

“there is a session of this plan that belongs to all of you,” he added.

He further urged the consultant, Fitchner, to ensure that the report is simplified into a booklet to be given to key players.

Earlier, the interim Managing Director (MD), Engineer Gur Mohammed explained that the 29 years Transmission Master Plan was conceived since the delivery of the National Load Demand Study in 2009.

According to him: “After the conclusion of National Load Demand, it became necessary for the nation to have the Least Cost Transmission and Generation Master Plan in order to meet the demand as explained in the load demand report.

“TCN engaged Fitchner of Germany under the NEGIP, which is a project financed by the World Bank in November 2015.

“The study started with data collection aimed at establishing the basis for the assignment. The data collection was followed by clarification by TCN System Planning Team in 2016.”

While presenting the final report to the Minister, he assured that the TCN took time to review the report by Fitchner.

By Adetola Bademosi

Lagos Launches Electronic Platform To Provide Information On Properties With Pending Court Cases

The Lagos State Government on Tuesday launched the Lagos State Electronic Real Estate Litigation System, an online platform designed to provide easy access information to anyone who intends to deal in real estate with information primarily on whether the property is subject of litigation.

State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem , who launched the online platform in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria said with the vision of becoming the largest economy in Africa, it was expected that the level of economic and commercial activities in Lagos State would experience an unprecedented level, height and pace, saying that the real estate sector was expected to further attract a significant amount of attention.

“The world we know today is at the click of a button technology driven and the Lagos State government is certainly in trend with the time. We have been working endlessly to ensure that Lagos is not left in the dark ages. This is why several initiatives and steps are being taken to make Lagos State as technologically driven as possible,” he said.

Kazeem further said the Lagos State Electronic Real Estate Litigation System would provide members of the public with information on pending court cases, notify members of the public of real estate/property which were the subject of pending litigation and ensure that members of the public/professional bodies were able to conduct an efficient search of real estate/property that is faster, reliable and convenient.

The commissioner, who was represented by the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Funlola Odunlami added that the platform would curtail risk associated with property transactions and reduce litigation on real estate as the public could now easily confirm if a property was subject of a pending litigation.


Kazeem stated that the platform would enhance due diligence in property transactions, provide a comprehensive database of real estate/property in Lagos which is subject of litigation and allow the members of the public to file for LisPendens, that is, by submitting their case(s) which is subject of a pending Court case and that same would be regarded as sufficient notice.

“This project was conceived to ensure that citizens of Lagos State are better served. It is now being delivered as another promise kept for a better Lagos for all. This innovative project has been designed in line with this administration’s drive to promote information technology in the State.

“I therefore call on you all to buy into this new initiative, embrace it, and share in our vision of a new, enhanced System of real estate due diligence in Lagos State. This new initiative known as the Lagos State Electronic Real Estate Litigation Electronic System (Lis Pendens Electronic System) makes this readily available for properties in Lagos State,” he said.

Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, who was represented Justice Laide Olayinka described the new platform as a worthy initiative, lamenting that there were many property cases subject to litigation in court which people did not know, adding that the platform would surely complement the justice system in the state.

Surveyor General of the State, Sango Wawa said the launch of the online platform was away of moving the real estate industry forward, stressing that the project would enhance the smart city status Lagos is craving, as everything would not be done online.

By Kazeem Ugbodaga

NSE Wants Indigenous Engineers To Drive Infrastructural Development

Mr Emeka Ugoanyawu, the Chairman of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) Imo branch, says indigenous engineers should be given the opportunity to drive the infrastructural development in the country.

Ugoanyawu made the call while addressing engineers in Imo during the society’s New Year forum with the theme: Engineering Intervention for Sustainable Development”.

He called on both federal and state governments to use indigenous engineers’ professional to not only develop infrastructures but to ensure sustainability in the execution of projects.
He said infrastructural engineering projects in most states were being carried out by mediocre and non-professionals who did not possess engineering principles, supervision and monitoring skills.

Ugoanyawu urged government at all levels to see NSE as partners and major stakeholders in the development of the nation.
“The first second and third industrial revolution have come and gone and now the fourth revolution is on course and we have been left behind.

“The fourth industrial revolution is bringing together physical, biological and digital system to completely change mankind, while driver-less vehicles and artificial intelligence are already with us, yet we are still talking about things that will not move us forward,” he said.

He therefore urged engineers in the country to rise up to the occasion to save the nation from backwardness as a result of lack of development.


Ugoanyawu said engineers must ensure leaders were responsibility of their actions and inaction by doing the right thing themselves to show good leadership.

Mr Ossai Obiako, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers blamed some of the failed projects in Imo on non-involvement of professionals in such projects.

He insisted that an integrity test be conducted on the two flyovers in Imo, adding that a preliminary investigation had faulted the flyovers.
“We have numerous failed projects in Imo and we as professional body is calling on the state government to work with us to find lasting solution to these problems,” he said.

He said the two flyovers had failed because they could no longer serve their purpose and the only solution was to take remedial action by subjecting them to integrity test for the safety of the masses.

Obiako however cautioned pedestrians against using the flyovers until they were certified fit by professionals.

A team of Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) led by its National President, Mr Kashim Ali had earlier faulted the integrity of the two bridges during their visit to Imo.

Infrastructure finance: Expert advocates Infrastructure Fund, non-traditional funding

Following the huge financing gaps that exist in the area of infrastructure finance and traditional funding that cannot cover the long-term needs of most countries, the need for Nigeria to explore non-traditional ways of funding infrastructure has been advocated. This is coming against the fact that government revenue is limited, obligatory spending is higher than the revenues and leverage is too high.

Speaking as a guest speaker on the theme: Infrastructure Financing Options in a Challenging Economy, at the International Real Estate Federation, FIABCI-Nigeria, in Lagos at the weekend, Mr. Bode Agusto, a finance expert and an independent researcher and consultant, the new approach to infrastructure financing in the country has become imperative because the traditional way which makes the government to be the sole provider of funds for infrastructure investment and projects will be executed through Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, pointing out that “Under this model, in Nigeria, infrastructure projects become politicised as budgets are approved late. There is a proliferation of projects, scarce funds are spread thinly among the numerous projects and we rarely complete any major project, for instance, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project.” Agusto who said the Federal Government could create an Infrastructure Fund that it will employ to partner with the private sector for the development of projects with strong economics and huge social impact, added that it can then pay N0.5 trillion annually (about half of what it currently spends) into this fund, set up a strong governance process for managing this fund. He said the fund will make, on average, an equity investment of 25 per cent on each project, set up a company incorporated under the Companies Act to own the project such as the National Grid Plc, while others (local businesses, foreign businesses and IDAs) will own the remaining 75 per cent equity and manage the company. This means that potentially, the Federal Government can invest N2 trillion annually from the infrastructure fund. “Each company will pursue its own project, complete it and bill the public for the use of its services. They will prepare annual report and accounts, subject these to external audits, make these accounts public, hold annual meeting of shareholders, pay tax on their profit and pay dividends out of their profit after tax. The companies can also be listed on the NSE to improve their access to capital. “A principal concern of the government is how the poor and weak in society access these services. In agreeing fares with providers of rolling stock for railway services, government will negotiate subsidies for children, senior citizens and the physically challenged. In setting electricity tariffs, government will estimate the monthly consumption of a poor household and, in agreeing tariffs, ensure that consumption up to that threshold is heavily subsidised. “Subsidies fashioned in this way will not blow a big hole in the budget like PMS subsidy currently does. There will be no need for the government to set the domestic price of gas and they will also be able to agree on electricity tariffs that will allow an efficient player cover its cost of capital. “Can this work? The NLNG is perhaps the best example of an infrastructure project that has employed this model. Nigeria sold 5 per cent of its equity stake in the Shell JV to fund its 49 per cent equity contribution to Nigeria LNG. Three international oil companies own the remaining 51 per cent. The business has thrived, building six trains of LNG largely from internally- generated profits and commercial loans. “A non-traditional way is for the government to partner for infrastructure investment. Partners are typically International Development Agencies, IDAs, local businesses and foreign businesses. All these people want their money back plus some returns.

Therefore, infrastructure projects that lend themselves towards public/private partnerships are those with strong economics, for instance, the national grid and rail transportation. “How can the Government partner with the private sector to fund infrastructure projects? Let us use the Federal Government as an example. The Federal Government makes a list of the key projects that she would like to undertake and divide them into two categories. Category1 will be those with strong economics and social impact e.g. the National Grid, Railway Infrastructure, Railway Rolling Stock, 2nd Niger Bridge; Category 2 will be those with weak economics but strong social impact e.g. water for rural communities, rural electrification,” the guest speaker averred.

Canadian real estate prices see biggest drop worldwide

Canadian real estate prices were the fastest rising in the world, just a few months ago. Now we’re claiming the opposite title, as the market explores where prices should be. Newly released Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (the Dallas Fed) numbers, show a decline in home prices for the third quarter of 2017. This is the first time in over five years that Canadian real estate prices have declined for a quarter. Despite the quarterly drop, prices still remain significantly higher than the year before.

U.S. Federal Reserve home prices index
The Dallas Fed publishes home price indexes for academics and researchers. Today we’ll be looking at their Real House Price Index (RHPI). It’s the same concept as the HPI that Teranet and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) produce. In fact, they actually use CREA data to create it. They also combine it with data from Royal LePage, Statistics Canada, and UBC. This helps them get a cleaner, and more comprehensive look at the general market.


The inflation adjusted score tracks the aggregate of urban markets across the country, and is updated quarterly. You won’t be able to use these numbers to determine how much you have to pay for your neighbour’s house. Instead, you should use these to get a better read on national home buying trends, and the economy in general. Housing is a very large industry in Canada, and a slowdown would ripple throughout the economy.

Canadian real estate prices dropped 3.8 per cent in Q3
Canadian real estate prices dropped the most since the early 1990s, according to the the Dallas Fed. Real home prices, a.k.a. home prices adjusted for inflation, fell 3.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017. The single quarter decline is the first drop since 2012, and the largest since the first quarter of 1991. This is the largest single quarter decline in the world according to the Dallas Fed’s global index. The second largest decline they observed was in Italy, where prices fell 0.38 per cent in the quarter.
Canadian real estate prices are still up more than seven per cent annually
Despite the large quarterly decline, Canadian real estate prices are still much higher than they were a year ago. The index is up 7.4 per cent from the same quarter last year, almost twice as much as the aggregate index for other countries. The increase is quickly tapering from peak growth observed in the first quarter of 2017. The quarterly decline is significant, but even so, the market is outperforming many other markets.
Remember that a single data point isn’t indicative of a trend, but the size of the decline is worth taking note of. This marks a break in the five year upward trend the country has seen, and might just be a breather, like in 2012. It could also be the beginning of a broad market correction, like that seen in 1990. The most interesting takeaway is this break occurred starting six months before OSFI mortgage rules were rolled out to cool conventional mortgage borrowing. The rule changes add significant uncertainty to the market, especially after prices are starting to look a little softer.

Former Industry Minister tasks surveyors on Climate Change

Against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of climate change and global warming sweeping across the world, and the need for their adaptation and mitigation,former Minister of Industry, and past Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Onikepo Akande, has charged land surveyors to take advantage of their profession as land cartographers to advocate policies that will make the environment sustainable devoid of environmental degradation.

The NEPAD Nigeria Business Group Chairman who spoke on Climate Change and the Role of Surveyors at the 13th edition of the Annual Adekunle Kukoyi Memorial Lecture organised by the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors in Lagos last week, noted that surveyors have the knowledge and expertise necessary for adaptation to climate change in order to protect the present and future generations on possible disasters that might result from the current global warming.

“You work with the land, people, political and social institutions in developing, building and maintaining towns and cities. This puts you at a very important position to advocate and lead the agenda to protect the present and future victims of climate-related disasters,” Akande said.

The former Minister of Industry while advising policymakers on tackling the challenges of climate change, reiterated that surveyors are the custodian of accurate land information and administration and it is important for decision-makers to take consultation for accurate and relevant information on land usage and its impact on the environment.

She enjoined the surveyors through their various associations to ensure developmental projects that will comply with best practices and environmental standards, adding that the safety of beneficiaries of these projects following completion should be of interest to the surveyors from the planning stage.

“Surveyors play an important part in the development process. You are well placed with a unique set of tools and knowledge that gives you the professional responsibility to not only focus on your clients but also the environment. To achieve ecological sustainable environment, you need an in-depth understanding of environmental, social and economic impacts of a proposed development project,” Akande stated.

Read More: 13 Reasons Why you Should Exhibit at the 12th Abuja International Housing & Construction Show 2018

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors, NIS, Adeshina Adeleke said the institution decided to discuss the issue of climate change at the summit because it is aware of the effects on livelihood and the lecture affords an opportunity to brainstorm on the way to curb this natural phenomenon.

The chairman noted that as the issue of climate change is global, and is being discussed world over, the NIS is also taking a lead as stakeholders in the environment and land matters to add its voice on ways to combat climate change.

The annual lecture, the 13th in the series, is organised in honour of the pioneer president of the NIS, the late Surveyor Adekunle Kukoyi who was the president of the Institution from 1973 to 1978.

By Kingsley Adegboye

CPPIB to invest $800M in Chinese real estate developments

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) will invest $800 million in two new property developments in China by developer Longfor Properties, it announced on Monday.

The projects include a 740,000 square metre residential and commercial development in Western Chinese city Chengdu. The city has a population of 16 million.

The other is a 340,000 square metre development in South Minhang, which is a suburb of financial capital Shanghai.

The developments will both include a shopping mall.

“Both cities are well positioned to capitalize on the future economic growth and harness the returns of growing consumption in China,” said Jimmy Phua, head of real estate investments Asia, CPPIB.

He added the move was part of the pension board’s strategy to grow real estate investments in China, particularly in the fast-growing retail sector.

“The investments will help CPPIB diversify its real estate interests in China, providing attractive risk-adjusted returns over the long term,” he said.


Market regulation
The announcement comes as policymakers in the world’s second largest economy embark on curtailing real estate speculation as home prices continue to surge.

More than 100 cities have imposed measures to crack down on speculative buying with Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasizing that “houses are built to be lived in, not for speculation.”

Housing data released last week showed that the measures were starting to take affect with new home prices rising just 5.3 per cent in December from year ago, compared to 12.4 per cent in 2016.

On Monday, the Shanghai government also announced that it would continue to strengthen regulation of the city’s property market.

Investments in China
Meanwhile, the deal between CPPIB and Longfor is the third of its kind after a 2014 $234 million deal for a similar project in eastern city Suzhou, followed by a $193 million investment in 2016 for a mall in southwestern city Chongqing.

Zhao Yi, chief financial officer, Longfor Properties said the new projects are ideally located high-quality assets that are expected to offer strong returns.

“Our expertise in real estate development as well as in mall operations and management will help us deliver value to our shareholders and partners,” he said.

The services sector in China was one of the big drivers of better-than-expected economic growth last year, according to gross domestic product (GDP) data released last week.

The services industry grew 8.3 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year ago and accounted for almost half of the GDP by value.

Real estate, meanwhile, contributed 6.3 per cent to the economy in the same time frame.

Enugu Gov. Commends Ugochukwu Chime at the Commissioning of ECCIMA House

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has reassured the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) of the continued support, assistance and collaboration of his administration for sustenance of the existing business- friendly environment towards the enhancement of economic and commercial potentials of the state.

Gov. Ugwuanyi who gave the reassurance during the commissioning of the new ECCIMA’s multi-dimensional secretariat complex in Enugu, stated that his administration was also committed to “the provision of necessary infrastructure and facilities that would help boost economic activities in the state.
The governor expressed delight that the construction of the complex was part of the efforts being made by the Chamber to build institutional capacity for the development of the organized Private Sector in Nigeria, particularly in the South East Region.

Congratulating the Chamber for the “spectacular” achievement, which he said, would enhance administrative convenience, promote productivity and also cement the rising profile of the Chamber and Enugu State as the hub of business activities in the South East.

Gov. Ugwuanyi equally commended the outgoing President of the Chamber, Rev. Surv. Ugochukwu Chime, “for the vibrancy, innovation, dynamism and creativity that his leadership has brought to the Chamber”.

According to him “the Chamber has, without a doubt, undergone such transformation since he assumed office, as to be ranked as one of the best in the country and even beyond”.
“We assure the Chamber of the continued support and assistance of the state government especially in the sustenance of the business- friendly environment that currently exists in the state and the provision of necessary infrastructure and facilities that would help further to enhance the economic and commercial potentials of the State”, the governor said.


In his welcome address, Rev. Surv. Chime appreciated Gov. Ugwuanyi for “the phenomenal support” towards the spirit of Public Private Partnership, stressing that it is most exemplary and promotes growth in the state.

He acknowledged the invaluable contributions of the founding fathers and past leaders of the Chamber, especially the solid foundation they laid, which he said has crystallized in the progress recorded by the body.

Rev. Surv. Chime said that the Chamber’s relocation to a befitting edifice was “a historic landmark” in the affairs of the organized Private Sector in the country, adding that “this building is a great signpost for the Institutional Capacity Enhancement of the organized Private Sector, particularly in this part of the world”.
“ECCIMA House is a message of hope. It is an affirmation that our God can do all things… The next frontier of battle is human capital development across all levels of our society. We need to pray for, identify, mentor and fund young leaders with vision and passion”, the ECCIMA president said.

He stated that the Chamber was eager to interact with the state government “to define a comprehensive development agenda for inclusive socio-economic wellbeing of our people”, applauding the Ugwuanyi’s administration for “their huge financial and non-financial contributions”.

Source: Daily Post

Bitcoin is booming in Miami. But can you buy a house with it?

They gathered in downtown Miami — an estimated 4,350 Bitcoin believers — to trade pitches for apps and start-ups. They discussed and debated trends in cryptocurrency. They speculated about the volatility of Bitcoin, which shot up in value from $900 to $19,000 over the course of 2017 and is currently hovering around the $10,000 mark.

But despite the national stir created last fall when a $544,500 Edgewater condo was listed for sale in “Bitcoin only,” none of the panels or presentations at Miami’s sixth annual North American Bitcoin Conference focused on real estate. Although Bitcoin is the oldest and best-known of the nearly 1,500 kinds of cryptocurrencies currently available, real estate developers, brokers and analysts are cool on its use in an industry that is literally defined by physical assets.

In other words, if you’re hunting for a home, don’t worry that you’ll get outbid by a buyer offering cryptocurrency. At least not yet.

“I think it’s fine to buy Bitcoin, because high risks lead to high returns, and I believe in capitalism,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin, a national real estate brokerage. “But when you come to buy my house, I’m going to need a currency that I can use to buy milk at the grocery store. I wouldn’t accept junk bonds or a lottery ticket as a payment. Any currency that drops 45 percent in value within three months, like Bitcoin has done, is not a currency that is stable enough for large transactions.”
According to Redfin, only 134 out of the site’s total 568,000 listings in December 2017 — a minuscule .03 percent — included a Bitcoin mention.

Created in 2009, Bitcoin is digital currency tracked on decentralized ledgers — called blockchains — that keep a real-time, immutable record of every transaction made around the world. Buyer and seller interact directly. Bitcoins can be purchased through a digital currency exchange or broker and are kept in a “wallet” that protects the user’s anonymity. And because the blockchain system is not centralized, security is considered to be significantly safer than current e-transaction software.

For now, at least, Bitcoin is not regulated by any bank, state or nation.
NYT: Bitcoin Believers
While regulators debate the pros and cons of bitcoins, the rising real-world value of this digital currency inspires the question: What makes money, money?
General awareness of Bitcoin and blockchains exploded in 2017 as the cryptocurrency’s value skyrocketed. Earlier this month, the stock price of Eastman-Kodak shot up 89 percent, to $10.70 a share, just a day after the company announced an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to develop a blockchain system for photographers to secure the digital rights of their work.

Miami is one of the nation’s staunchest and most enthusiastic cryptocurrency hubs, and proponents of Bitcoin argue that cryptocurrency is a perfect fit for real estate. On Dec. 22, the first-ever Bitcoin-only real estate deal in Miami closed, with a buyer paying 17.741 bitcoin — the market equivalent of $275,000 — for a two-bedroom condo at 777 NE 62nd St. in the Upper East Side.



But some experts believe a lot of the hype around Bitcoin is just that — hype. The currency’s value fluctuates so much that the value of a Bitcoin transaction could either gain or lose thousands of dollars in value within a week’s time. In an interview with CNBC on Jan. 10, billionaire investor Warren Buffett warned that the cryptocurrency craze is destined to end badly, costing a lot of people a lot of money.

“We’re in an area of hysteria right now involving Bitcoin,” said Andrew Ittleman, a partner at the Miami law firm of Fuerst, Ittleman, David & Joseph. “There are a lot of people making claims about Bitcoin that they can’t substantiate and for the most part are not meant to be substantiated. I do see a lot of uses for cryptocurrency in real estate, but I don’t see the disruptive effect some people are promising.”

Waning favor?
Andrew Hinkes, a partner at the law firm of Berger Singerman who specializes in technology-related issues, said cryptocurrency is nearing the end of its initial wave of interest from Wall Street and investment by new ventures. Bitcoin still has a long way to go before it is widely embraced by the real estate industry.

“Nothing has really changed insofar as how virtual currencies are impacting real estate,” he said. “A lot of people saw tremendous gains in the values of their holdings in 2017. But now that the IRS has made clear how they want to treat the gains on crypto like Bitcoin, there’s uncertainty in the market as to how you sell them and find value. In South Florida, that’s traditionally in the ground. But if you want title insurance, or if there are any liens or taxes that are owed, those will have to be payed with fiat currency.”
Although the Internal Revenue Service taxes Bitcoin capital gains — if you cash out for a profit, the IRS gets a cut — there’s no procedure in place that forces people to report those transactions. (In November, the IRS ordered Coinbase, a platform for buying and selling Bitcoin, to turn over information on accounts from 2013-2015 that were worth at least $20,000.)

The current lack of regulations is one of Bitcoin’s biggest draws for its users. And despite suspicion that Miami’s real estate market is prey to money launderers, it can be a deal-breaker for real estate. For example, South Korea, the third biggest cryptocurrency market in the world (after Japan and the U.S.), has banned anonymous cryptocurrency transactions, fearful of the potential for shady business.

That uncertainty and lack of transparency, combined with cryptocurrency’s volatility, is making real estate developers and investors wary.

“Bitcoin is too new of a form of currency,” said Daniel de la Vega, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty. “Anything that operates in a gray area is not something I would want to associate with. I do believe in the future of cryptocurrency. I’m just not bullish on it short term.”

The Miami Association of Realtors reports that sales of luxury ($1 million and above) condos and single-family homes in Miami-Dade County surged 47 percent and 16 percent respectively year-over-year in December. But the market is still glutted by too much supply, which caused the average luxury sales price to fall 6.3 percent in 2017, according to Mansion Global.

Still, the need to sell expensive properties is not enough to make developers rally behind Bitcoin — at least for now. Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development, said if a buyer made a Bitcoin offer right now on one of the multimillion dollar condos at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, he would turn them down.
“If Bitcoin is so easily transferable to cash, why do they need to pay with that?” Dezer said. “Why can’t they transfer it into cash first and pay with that? The transverse effect of that is the seller receiving the money. If he wants Bitcoin, he can take the cash and buy Bitcoin. Why would you use Bitcoin in the actual transaction?”

Peggy Fucci, CEO of One World Properties, said she has yet to come across a buyer or seller interested in using Bitcoin as a form of payment, but she understands Bitcoin’s buzzy appeal.

“I think the general consensus from the developers I work with and represent is that the whole deal with Bitcoin and real estate is a marketing thing — a way to get exposure for your property,” she said. “I don’t see it as a real thing yet. Most people don’t even know about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. Eventually, it is something that will be inevitable. But right now, it’s too early. We don’t use it. Instead, people are riding the wave of a phenomenal stock market.”

Realtors wary
Some Realtors who have had first-hand experience with Bitcoin agree that cryptocurrency isn’t yet ready for prime time in the real estate field.

Edgardo Defortuna, president and CEO of the real estate firm Fortune International Group, said his company has been involved in two listings where Bitcoin was in play: A $4.6 million home on Sunset Island where the seller accepted Bitcoin (the house eventually sold for $3.8 million via conventional loan) and a Key Biscayne condo currently on the market for $1.5 million (the seller received and turned down an offer for $1 million in Bitcoin).

“Bitcoin was talked about a lot last year because of the appreciation, but it has scared a lot of people away in the last month or two,” Defortuna said. “Cryptocurrency could be a player [in real estate transactions] in the future, but I’m not sure this Bitcoin craziness is the way to go yet.”

But Charles Penan, executive vice president of the real estate investment and merchant banking firm Aztec Group Inc., takes a more flexible approach. He currently has a property for sale at 4141 N. Miami Ave. in Miami’s Design District — a three-story, nearly 16,000 square-foot building — for $14.5 million. The seller, Remy Jacobson of J Cube Development, is accepting cryptocurrency as payment.
“Crypto is a very viable alternative to traditional financing — for the right buyer and right seller,” said Penan. “They have to be more entrepreneurial. Bitcoin does not work for institutions, because they are more transactional and want instant gratification. They don’t want to assume any risk of fluctuation.”

Others are already doing due diligence, preparing themselves for what they believe to be an inevitable and radical change in traditional real estate transactions. Beth Butler, general manager of Compass Florida, a technology-focused real estate firm, said her company isn’t accepting Bitcoin yet. But she’s currently researching the field, tapping experts to figure out the problems that need to be solved before cryptocurrency can be readily used.

“So far, people are very open to it,” Butler said. “The appeal is that blockchain could make real estate transactions more secure. You wouldn’t have the wire fraud or hacking fraud that has been plaguing our industry in the last few years. But there’s a lot more that needs to be defined on a large scale first. The concept of blockchain suggests to me that state law and regulators will have to adopt some kind of policy to accept it.”

An optimistic gathering
Bitcoin believers, however, remain undaunted. German Montoya, chief strategy officer for the Miami-based venture-building company Rokk3r Labs, said the volume and enthusiasm of attendants at the North American Bitcoin Conference — far bigger than the roughly 100 people who turned out for the inaugural edition in 2012 — is evidence that cryptocurrency is destined to take hold.

“For a long time, the only thing you could do with Bitcoin was buy and sell it,” Montoya said. “There are only a few coffee shops in the world that take Bitcoin, for example. The more Bitcoin is used for real things, the more this coin will become a real alternative to others.”

At the conference, the main exhibition hall was crammed with start-ups hoping to use blockchain technology for everything from Bitcoin ATMs to virtual reality. Dr. Gor Van Ek, a respected figure in the blockchain field, flew in from Australia to promote his latest endeavor, Bitcar, a platform that will allow users to purchase an interest in exotic, rare and classic cars — a way of investment that has been traditionally exclusive to the wealthy.

“This is the third or fourth year that I’ve gone to that conference, and I had never seen this sheer scale and number of people who attended,” said Hinkes, the attorney. “That signals a certain threshold of consumers have been reached. Bitcoin is starting to make an impact and insinuate itself into the mainstream.”

Many of the panels at the conference delved into upcoming regulation that would stabilize Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for both consumers and government entities. That kind of regulation, if successful, could presumably offset Bitcoin’s volatility and make it a more viable and dependable medium for large-value transactions.

“Once there are enough things to spend Bitcoin on directly, the real estate market could never be a reason to go back to the dollar,” Montoya said. “You could have a whole economy where you use Bitcoin to buy and sell and spend.”

The questions, for now, are how long that wait will be and whether Bitcoin’s seesawing value can stabilize. Six weeks after all the hubbub, that Bitcoin-only condo in Edgewater still hasn’t sold. On Jan. 24, the price on the listing was quietly raised to 37 Bitcoin.

Despite the apparent increase, though, the adjustment actually brought the value of the condo down in dollars — from $525,000 to $410,000.

Informal sector as critical growth factor

Like the Biblical rejected stone, the informal sector of the Nigerian economy has become the head of the corner for economic growth. This is a sector that, before now, was not reckoned with as a growth index.

But all in a jiffy, both the housing sector and the mortgage system have woken from sleep discovered that this sector could be leveraged for growth. The pension fund is also in this league, though in relation to both mortgage and housing.

There is an on-going debate on the possibility of including the informal sector with its estimated N81.048 trillion annual income in a new housing fund that could be created and added to the existing Pension Commission’s (PenCom) multi-fund structure with the aim of narrowing down housing affordability gap.

This however has to happen alongside lowering of mortgage interest rate to single digit of 8- 9 percent, down from the current 22 – 25 percent commercial rate which operators charge on mortgage loans. The argument flows on the assumption that the inclusion of the informal sector operators who constitute 67.54 million of Nigeria’s 81.15 million workforce in the contributory pension scheme will lead to increased housing affordability.

In the same vein, as economic activities continue to shrink leading to loss of jobs, salary cuts and significant drop in personal income, most of the primary mortgage banks (PMBs), which are struggling with hash operating environment and rising non-performing loans (NPL), are looking to the informal sector to sustain their operations and also stimulate growth in that sector.

Low capital base coupled with the prevailing economic conditions have so impacted the operations of these banks that a good number of them are unable to meet their contractual and statutory obligations to their clients and regulators respectively.

The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Commission (NDIC), one of the regulators of the sector, was quoted as saying that the inability of as many as 15 PMBs to pay their insurance premium as at December 2016 was an unfortunate situation that put the customers at risk. “The loans and advances extended by these PMBs declined significantly by 31.87 percent to N168.96 billion in 2015”, the commission added, pointing out that 14 out of 42 PMBs failed to render returns to it while unpaid premium from nine PMBs amounted to N238.30 million the same year.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says that notwithstanding PMBs’ improved performance in the past couple of years, their loans and advances, deposit liabilities and other liabilities decreased by 6.85 percent, 5.25 per cent and 5.89 per cent to N154.46 billion, N115.77 billion and N68.06 billion, respectively, at end-December 2016 from N165.83 billion, N122.18 billion and N72.32 billion at end-June 2016.

But the operators are not resting on their oars. They are building blocks and putting measures in place to engender growth of this fledgling sector in order to increase access and affordability, and by extension, enlarge the clan of homeowners in the country.

Unbundling of mortgage origination process, further reduction in loan origination period, introduction of computerised land titling registration, land title insurance, introduction of uniform underwriting standards (UUS) for informal sector, enactment of foreclosure law, and wider public awareness for the sector are part of the push by the operators for the growth of the sector.

Mortgage is a sub-sector of the economy and the operators are saying that since the larger economy is not doing well and the mortgage sector is not insulated from what is happening in the larger economy, what is happening to them is not unexpected.

“We know what happened to oil price and the foreign exchange market. These have affected everything in the economy. In the case of oil, both the volume and the price went down. All these affected consumer purchasing power. Don’t forget that the balance sheet of the mortgage banks were not strong ab initio”, said, Ayodele Olowookere, CEO, Omoluabi Mortgage Bank Plc.

He stressed that the problems of the mortgage banks revolve around their small capital base and so there isn’t much they can do. “For all the money that I have, unless I raise additional capital, I don’t think I can do 1,000 mortgages. To do mortgages, you need long term funds and that is the only way you can do long term mortgages”, he said.

Udo Okonjo, vice chair/CEO, Fine and Country West Africa, agrees, emphasizing that the real core factor responsible for the slow growth in this sector is that the banks and the mortgage institutions don’t have long term funds; all they have are short term deposits. “The underlying fundamental for mortgage growth is that we have to have saving culture and large financial base because mortgages are long term funds. In an ideal world, you will be talking about 20-25 years mortgages at very low interest rate”, Okonjo added.

Technically speaking, Nigeria has no mortgage system and Okonjo reasons that the country doesn’t really have a real estate sector. “What we are doing is just scratching the surface. If we really want to create wealth through real estate which is one of the major ways the developed world creates wealth, then we have to develop and grow the mortgage sector”, she emphasised.

But the operators are not deterred. “We are here to stay and grow this sector”, Olowookere assures, revealing, “at Moluabi, we are looking at the best way to do things, especially in credit management and evaluation. We are looking at the informal sector. People in this sector are not collecting salaries, but earn huge and regular income. So, we are finding creative ways of bringing them into the net. We are also looking at new ways to raise capital by bringing in more shareholders”.

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