…as Nigerian investors close deals, anticipate increased activities in H2’19
African real estate market never had it so good in the previous 24 months as it did in the first six months of 2019 when the market recorded over half a billion dollars in 10 significant transactions across multiple jurisdictions and sectors.
In Nigeria, after 12 straight quarters of negative growth that ended in the first quarter of 2019, the market has started waking up with investors closing deals and hoping to record marginal increase in activities in the second half of this year.
The last six months of the year have been the most promising period in the market and this was reflected in the high number of calls and inspections which the investors reveal they have been receiving for both residential and commercial properties.
“We have seen movements in the market; we may not see what we had in 2008 nor the boom days of 2011 to 2013, but what we see happening now are increased activities and deal closures,” MKO Balogun, CEO, PFI Global, confirmed to BusinessDay on phone.
“Though the economy is passing through a slowdown, I don’t see that affecting real estate, unless something crazy happens which we don’t expect t,” Balogun said.
The growth and opportunity displayed by a diverse spread of international funds, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), banks, institutional investors and others are evidence that despite apparent indifference to African opportunities in SA boardrooms, the continent’s real estate sector has evolved and become increasingly more liquid and provides value in key nodes and sectors.
Some of the most high-profile deals include well-known listed funds and global investors including Growthpoint Investec African Properties Investment Fund (GIAPF), Grit Real Estate Income Group, WeWork, Centum Real Estate, Nedbank, Standard Bank, the IFC and the UK’s CDC.
Due to subdued growth potential and earnings locally, Central and Eastern Europe become increasingly popular for South Africa’s property sector, but analysts are asking if such funds should not be investing closer to home.
Kfir Rusin, the host of Africa Property Investment (API) Summit, the most significant annual gathering of capital investors in African real estate, is particularly concerned about this growing trend.
API, already in its 10th edition, will be taking place on October 2 & 3, 2019 in Johannesburg. Its stakeholders have been more active in the first half of 2019 than in the previous 24 months. “For investors and developers looking for data and partners experienced in African development or looking to sell prime assets, there are men and women responsible for structuring and executing these mega deals who will be at this year’s conference,” Rusin disclosed.
These include GIAPF’s managing director, Thomas Reilly; Grit’s CEO, Bronwyn Corbett; multiple senior investment officers from the IFC; Standard Bank’s head of Africa real estate, Niyi Adeleye; CDC’s Illaria Benucci; Centum’s RE MD, Samuel Kariuki, and many more in attendance.
“The market has moved forward in the past six months, and we’re thrilled that so many major dealmakers will be at the API Summit to transact and share their experiences with our delegates,” he said.
These high value transactions, while not a repudiation of the South African-listed sector’s muted view of the African opportunity, do provide a compelling narrative that the continent’s property markets are investable, but require nuance and insights. It’s not simply a copy and paste that what has worked here (SA) will work elsewhere, said Rusin.
According to real estate analyst Craig Smith of Anchor Stockbrokers, Africa’s top markets are “definitely a more attractive entry point than 18-24 months ago” but cautions that investors still need to exercise a “higher level of diligence” when investing.
And while deal many South African funds continue to look at Central and Eastern Europe for scale (sizeable transactions) and positive funding spreads, the transaction spread by API Summit’s investors point to a market that is expanding, which is in line with his view that “the opportunity set over the long term is immense”, said Smith.
“We’re witnessing sophisticated deal structuring in affordable housing; hospitality; logistics; office spaces and mixed use, across countries and regions,” said Rusin.
Top 10 real estate deals in the first half of the year into which billions of investable funds have gone include the Growthpoint Investec African Property Fund to acquire malls in Ghana and Zambia; Centum RE & Nedbank ±$75 million debt deal for their Two Rivers development project, and IFC investment in Hilton in Lusaka and Protea Hotel, both in Zambia.
Others are African Logistics Properties (ALP) which signed debt restructuring deal with Standard Bank; Shelter Afrique in Affordable Housing deal with Habitat International; Grit’s purchase of Senegal Club Med at $12.5 million with development plans of $28.8 million, and CDC’s commitment to mezzanine debt investment in Teyliom Hospitality with a deal size put at $30.7 million.
Within the period, WeWork opened its first of many African office locations in Johannesburg; Actis & Shapoorji launched affordable housing Joint Venture in Kenya with the deal size put at $120 million, while Westpark & Siemens are to build sustainable industrial park.
Regarded among local and international decision makers as Africa’s largest property gathering, the API Summit is recognised as a platform for investing, but it is also vital in developing deeper layers of transparency for investors looking to meet and understand the continent’s divergent and complex markets to avoid previous mistakes committed by SA developers.
“Africa’s markets are still relatively opaque, and it is vital that these markets continue with their efforts to improve transparency,” Smith said. “The experience of GIAPF is crucial in my view as this will provide evidence of performance to the SA market.”
One of the starkest reminders of the misgovernance of the nation by past leaders was the seemingly deliberate effort to stifle the industrial sector that was expected to tackle unemployment.
As many analysts now agree, Nigerians’preference for imported goods has also weakened the few existing industries, making some of them exit the nation’s landscape for other West African countries.
One of the most stringent criticisms against Nigeria’s industrial policy is its inability to reform the sector and provide succour to the existing and dying industries. Hence, the ugly state of industrial estates created in the 70s to take care of rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and commercialisation in the country.
The industrial sector in Nigeria (comprising manufacturing, mining, and utilities) accounts for a tiny proportion of economic activities (six per cent) while the manufacturing sector contributed only four per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011. This is despite policy efforts, over the last 50 years, and, in particular, more recently, that have attempted to facilitate industrialisation.
But available data from the Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 revealed that national industrial utilisation is approximately 40 per cent, while in 2018, according to a real estate report by Ubosi Eleh and Company, many warehousing facilities were thrown into the market for outright disposal, few takers as firms and owners continue to seek creative ways to remain in business.
The development of new warehousing either as an investment or for additional storage space still remains limited. The major industrial areas in Ikeja, Oregun, Illupeju, Apapa, Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos, Idu in Abuja, Trans Amadi in Port Harcourt and Bompai in Kano have witnessed low warehousing activities as many of them have been converted to other commercial uses or completely abandoned. In the northern parts of the country particularly Kaduna, the demand for warehousing is virtually non-existent.
For instance, the headquarters of the Dunlop Nigeria Plc, once a beehive of business activities, has become a ghost of their old selves. The case of Dunlop property is a definition of the new role the Lagos industrial community has been given.
The same goes for Iganmu, another ancient industrial layout. Apart from the portion controlled by the Nigerian Breweries Plc, the area has lost its past glory.
With the collapse of the Central Bags Manufacturing Company Nigeria Limited and several other operators that clustered around it, the entire famous Akanbi Onitiri Street has become a shadow of itself.
While the faint industrial activities are still in some other areas, developers have converted most of them to other uses. The same decline could be seen at Ijora, Isolo and Mushin industrial settlements. Abimbola Street and its environs, were the hub of the Lagos plastic industry at a time between 1970 and 1990, when Aswani, a sub-industrial cluster in Isolo, was at the peak of its performance.
But, the industrial life at Abimbola Street and its surroundings has dimmed. Except for the resilience of Johnson Wax Nigeria Limited, an insecticide maker, and dozens of warehouses, Abimbola Street would have been described as a ghost neighbourhood.
With the likes of the comatose Femstar and Company (Limca and Gold Spot bottler) and several other ventures that made the street tick those days, the street has lost its boom.
These areas have suddenly given way to other uses.
The same goes for Abimbola House itself, which used to be a haven for many small-scale manufacturers. A large portion now houses a showroom belonging to the Tecncool Nigeria Limited, a distributor of LG products, and several other marketing companies that are serviced by a branch of Wema Bank Plc, which is situated on the ground floor.
At Matori, Iganmu, Oba Okran, Ijesha and several other industrial estates in Lagos, this is the new order.
For instance, on Kolawale Shonibare, a street on the industrial arm of the estate where the likes of Eleganza Group once commanded a huge influence, new residential buildings and hotels have sprung up.
In the 1990s, Eleganza, a company owned by a doyen of the Nigerian industrial sector, Razaq Okoya, was employing both skilled and unskilled labour from different parts of the country.
Its imposing property on the estate has been turned to other uses. Most of the collapsed companies, like what obtains in several other parts of Lagos, have been transformed to storage facilities for sundry imported goods.
In fact, the average wait time to conclude a lease of a warehouse has continued to increase basically as a result of low demand. Between 2015 and 2016, the average wait time was in the range of 60-90 days, towards the end of 2016, it had doubled to 150-180 days and in 2017, there were still many warehouses that remained in the market for upwards of 300 days or more.
Warehouse rates in Lagos are in the range of N1, 200 – N1, 800 per square metre and increases with proximity to the ports. In Trans Amadi Industrial estate, properties command rent in the range of N1, 500 per square metre per annum while Idu, Abuja attracts about N1, 800 per square metre.
Industry watchers attribute the collapse of the sector to electricity outages, transportation bottlenecks, crime and corruption. Nigerian manufacturing firms suffer acute shortages of infrastructure such as good roads, potable water, and, in particular, power supply.
Contrary to insinuations that urbanisation cut short industrial developments in urban centres, some built environment experts, and especially town planners pointed out that the encroachment by residential developments did not affect the growth of the industrial estates.
Town planners Reacting, a former President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Remi Makinde told The Guardian that what had become the sorry state of most of the industrial estates could be blamed on the poor economic situation in the country.
He observed that since about 20 years ago, the situation has been going down and many of the established industries had to fold up their businesses.
“At Ikeja industrial estate, we used to have Michelin and Dunlop tyres and the Nigerian Textile Mills. Regrettably, most of them have been taken over by churches after they folded up completely whereas the churches can’t employ such a huge number of people accommodated by the manufacturers and industries. These are industries employing thousands of Nigerians and feeding many families. The industrial estate in Apapa still maintains its status but bad roads and accessibility problems have run it down and Apapa is now a slum”, he said.
On solutions to the problem, he said there had to be a conscious government policy and amelioration project to revitalise industrial estates in the country. According to him, there would be a need for a conscious urban renewal scheme to upscale infrastructure in the estates for industrialists to move back to the country.
Makinde said irrespective of a master plan designed for an area and no matter how intelligently built, the economic situation would determine whether it would be successful or otherwise.
“ That is why master plans are being revised from five to ten years in accordance with the economic direction. The economic situation has changed so many things. A conscious policy by the federal, state and local governments will help to rejig the situation,” he said.
Corroborating his views, the Chairman, Lagos branch, Nigeria Institution of Town Planners (NITP), Bisi Adedire, regretted the abuse of the master plans for areas zoned for industrial purposes.
He, however, noted that complementary uses might be allowed in any master plan. According to him, many of the industries have moved out of that environment while some of them are no longer functional.
He stressed that when government wants to do a review of the master plans, some owners of the industries along the area complained that they are no longer interested in using the place for industrial purposes.
While some cleverly changed the use, others sold out for religious activities and they turned them to places of worship. Others cleverly said they wanted residential apartments for their staff, thereby out of the land that is supposed to be for industrial use, they now have residential houses inside the industrial complex.
“We now have a couple of legal changes but the government lacks the instrument for monitoring. Had it been there was adequate monitoring, it could not have reached this level.”
According to him, there is a model city plan for Ikeja, Lagos State embarked on the preparation of a model city plan for areas like Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Apapa, Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu and Agege. Those of Ikorodu and Epe are still being worked out.
“Recently, I saw a filings station close to Vita foam, without approval, a lot of things like that.
“As a branch, we are embarking upon a project called ‘Change the City Project’, we are seeking the support of the government so that we have various groups.
“ Each of these groups will identify some of the challenges in the areas of housing, transportation and waste management so that we come out with a policy.
“We are asking the government to allow private individual consultants by engaging professionals in the monitoring of activities in the state. “With that, all these haphazard developments will stop in these areas. The government cannot do it alone, that is what we are trying to put across”, he added.
Another town planner, former NITP Lagos branch chairman and past president, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Moses Ogunleye, explained that there is always proper designation in zoning land uses, as such no land use is expected to encroach on another, except the plan of the area has been reviewed or rezoned.
According to him, property developers are not allowed to build residential apartments in industrial areas. But he admitted that some industrial plots were being leased temporarily for places of worship, event centres and banking services.
MAN speaks But the Chairman, Ikeja branch, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Otunba Francis Meshioye, said the reason for the displacement of industrial estates was not basically an encroachment by residential occupants but the fact that occupants vacated the zone to other areas because of the issues they had in terms of meeting up with their production and business demands.
He said pertinent issues, which the association had also been talking about overtime, include the overall poor business climate, the high-interest rate, monetary policy, poor electricity, bad road network and insecurity in the locations.
“The industrialists vacated the places because they were not good for their businesses and so they have to look for better areas and so you have a vacancy for people to buy their warehouses and so convert them to residential buildings. If you look at Dunlop, they left and anybody could occupy where it had been before. In Acme road, Ikeja, many companies there, left also. They either moved out or relocated from the country, ” he said.
“They are displaced because the places are vacant and when they see good money offered to them, they get swallowed up. If you have a factory and you are occupying one-third of it and somebody offers good money to relocate, owners may be tempted to oblige. Now industrial zones have become something else.
“It should really give concerns to the government that a place meant for an industrial estate is being displaced. I believed the government knows why they are being displaced and should map out solutions that will bring them back”, he said.
Meshioye said it’s not enough to have industrial revolution plans and others, but must be seen to work to bring economic prosperity.
He said, “The high exchange rate for dollar to naira in recent times is not good for business. Only those who have a strong backup could manage to survive. Businesses have been impacted adversely and those that could not take the shock moved out of business.”
He declares that the government should formulate policies that would support industrial growth because if the established industrial estates had been functioning well, the nation would have experienced a high employment rate.
“Lagos in general and Ikeja, in particular, are industrial hubs. If things have been working in full capacity, there would have been high statistics for employment, high production of products, low prices of goods, reduction in crime rate, peace, innovation and more investment because investors would be comfortable with the environment, more taxes to government from employees/companies and other positive effects”, he stated.
Going forward, Mr Meshioye charged the government to work hard on the existing industrial policy.
“Government is putting in place low interest, this could be fine if industrialists could access it easily. Access to special funds by manufacturers would be very helpful. More support and the provision of infrastructure like good road network, stable electricity is key. Water is needed for a gradual reversal of the displacement.”
The government must ensure that an industrial estate is used for nothing else but the purpose for which it has been planned and things that would sustain industrial parks must be put in place.
“We may not need to bother about new industrial zones if those in place are maintained. In Lagos, industrialists are moving now to Sango-Ota, Shagamu zone and basically Ogun State. Nestle and Nigerian Breweries have relocated there. For Nigeria, it is a good development but Lagos is losing out. The government needs to provide industrial parks for industrialists and not just Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. We need bigger parks for big companies.”
Lagos State government But the acting Head, Regional Master Plan, Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Prince Ogunlewe Adebisi, said there were still industrial estates, stressing that residential estates could not come in industrial areas except where they shared boundaries.
He said: “We still retain Oregun, Ikeja and other industrial areas, but there are certain areas within Oregun dedicated for mixed-use. It is a new master plan. We took into consideration the existing development pattern, those sides we felt can be accommodated. In some cases, people bought residential areas and turned them to industrial use because they shared boundaries.
“But now that industrial development is not thriving again they want to revert. At times, it could have been a road that separated residential from industrial and some people because of the cost of land within the industrial area, they bought close to the industrial areas and use it for industrial purpose or lease, where there are warehouses or light industries.
“When activities are not thriving again, they want to revert and change the use. In the case of worship centres, there are other permissive uses within an industrial area. There are areas, where they allowed for a place of worship or institutional use. Personally, I will not like to see where an industrial area will be sold for a place of worship, because it is killing the economy.
“The government has not come up with a policy to forbid people from buying such property and when they want to buy they will not tell you that they want to use it for church and you give them the consent. Except you put the name of the church there that is when you will see the consent. But most institutional uses are permissible in an industrial estate.
“But the sale of an industrial area for church purposes should be discouraged because it is killing our employment opportunities. Because the number of employees a church could grant is lower than industries. We should wait for somebody else who wants to establish an industry to get. Right now, the government has no control over it, the land belongs to them, they got it from the government. There must be certain conditions too because there must be a distance.
“Most worship centres are industrial buildings or warehouses being converted legally because there is still no policy in place to check that. It is now a lucrative thing to build churches in industrial areas than residential areas because of the existence of infrastructures like roads and electricity”, he said.
The Lagos State Government has issued a warning to the residents of state-owned housing schemes to desist from modifying the approved designs of structures within such estates.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing, Mr Wasiu Akewusola, gave the warning during a meeting with representatives of the Residents Association of Abraham Adesanya Estate at the state secretariat.
According to him, it is in the best interest of all residents of government-owned estates to stop alterations of structures and buildings in such estates.
Akewusola said such reconstruction included restyling, extension of and additions to existing facilities and in some extreme cases increase in levels of buildings.
He said that these alterations were deviations from the terms and conditions stated in the deed of sub-lease signed by the two parties and warned that it could lead to a penalty as stated in the law.
“Government-owned estates are designed and built by the state government in compliance with global environmental and physical planning rules to ensure durability and liveability. Contravention of such standards often results in dire consequences such as reduced durability of the structure both for the homeowner and the other people in the environment,” he said.
Akewusola urged residents to desist from any form of redesigning of any building as this might cause damage to not only the house but the entire environment.
He stated that there was the need for the residents to maintain the original structural design to prevent future disaster.
“A building is a permanent load whose capacity of erection can only be known and accessed by certified engineers. This capability, which is environmentally determined, had already been quantified before the building was erected. Any plans to overload the capacity may result in disaster,” he said.
He also said all unapproved remodelling contravened the physical and urban planning law of the state government, adding that the affected buildings would be demolished by the appropriate agency of the state government.
“The demolition of illegal and unapproved structures in government-owned estates will commence very soon without any further warning,” he said.
Akewusola added that the state government was aware of some residents who had turned such estates’ setbacks into marketplaces and cautioned that it would no longer be business as usual as the state would ensure that sanity returned to such estates.
According to him, the state monitoring team has improved on its surveillance activities to ensure compliance with set environmental standards.
He said the state government had also concluded plans to upgrade the drainage system in the area to combat incessant flooding in the estate, adding that the government would continue to be responsive to the challenges confronting the people in the estates and the state in general.
India’s economic transition, workforce expansion and urbanisation will boost investment opportunities in real estate sector in the next decade, leading to significant growth in housing, office, retail and warehousing space, says a CREDAI and CBRE report.
In its joint report released at a real estate conference held here, property consultant CBRE said the sector would expand tremendously by 2030, led by new asset classes such as coworking, coliving, student housing and real estate invest .real estate investment trusts (REITs).
The report estimated that office space stock will touch one billion sq ft by 2030, with flexible workspace accounting for 8-10 per cent of the total stock.
The retail shopping centre stock is estimated to cross 120 million sq ft by 2030, while warehousing stock could touch 500 million sq ft by then.
By 2030, residential real estate has the potential to almost double from the current stock of 1.5 million units in key cities, the report said.
“As the Indian economy transitions and its workforce expands, it will offer vast development and investment opportunities for the real estate sector,” CREDAI-CBRE report said.
The growth of cities is going to further influence the country’s built environment, while technology, demographics and environmental issues will become the new value drivers, it added.
Commenting on the report, CREDAI President Satish Magar said, “India continues to remain a high-priority market for long term growth potential as is evident from the increased investment flows in the last few years.
“In the wake of positive policy reforms and emergence of a strong workforce, the momentum of India’s economic growth is steady and it will only grow stronger in the next 10 years,” said Anshuman Magazine, Chairman and CEO, India, South East Asia, Middle East and Africa, CBRE.
The factors which will further facilitate this growth trajectory are investment, improved governance, human capital upgrade, improved connectivity, infrastructure enhancement, strengthened institutions, policy reforms and integrated sustainability of the entire ecosystem, he added.
The mortgage industry in Nigeria has got a lot of potentials that close industry watchers say, if harnessed, could lead to the growth of the industry and the wider economy.
A lot still needs to be done for the mortgage industry in Nigeria to get out of the woods. Apparently, the industry is in perpetual growth challenge that has kept its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) at a very low level.
Many factors have been fingered for this slow growth, including the Land Use Act of 1978 which rests land ownership rights on the state governors, the right to easily foreclose on delinquent borrowers, ease of creating a legal mortgage and perfecting titles and the ease of falling back on one’s collateral to recover bad loan, etc.
The relative newness of the industry, lack of understanding of its dynamics and operational models by many Nigerians, and poor appreciation of the need and the ultimate benefits of keeping money in a mortgage bank are other militating factors.
Another major impediment to the growth of the sector is low investment in the industry. This accounts significantly for the low contribution of the industry to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP). In advanced economies of the world, the mortgage industry makes significant contribution to economic development, but in Nigeria, this is not the case.
Mortgage finance as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is as low as 0.5 percent which is several steps behind other economies including Mexico, Malaysia and South Africa where mortgage contributions to GDP are as high as 10 percent, 25 percent and 29 percent respectively.
However, notwithstanding the industry’s low contribution to GDP coupled with the challenging business environment, the industry has all the potential to stimulate the economy when all the identified obstacles inhibiting its growth are removed.
An economy like Nigeria’s can benefit a lot from a flourishing mortgage industry as it will help in directing the economy in the desired direction. As part of efforts at growing the economy, government can make the necessary investment aimed to grow the industry. Enabling policies should also be put in place, leading to reduced high interest rate that can encourage more people to embrace mortgage loans.
Operators are of the view that on account of the identified obstacles, some primary mortgage banks (PMBs) are going through very difficult times, such they are not able to meet loan applications from home seekers.
The operators insist that until all those issues are resolved in a way that encourages the provider of capital, in this case, the mortgage bank, to give out loans, the sector will not grow as desired.
But they hope that when these obstacles are removed, the supplier of mortgage will allocate more funds towards the provision of home loans while home buyers will better appreciate the implication of prompt interest and capital repayments as well as ensure discipline on the part of the people.
Some finance experts argue that limiting a mortgage institution to a fixed capital base of, say N10 billion, is wrong because that amount is too meager; even N100 billion is also meager given the kind of projects they finance.
For this reason, the Federal Government needs to come in, look at what is happening in other civilised world and copy because, these days, “copying is no longer an act of deception but actually something that is done even in the civilised world,” says Okika Ekwem, a US-based realtor.
Ekwem says that in the advanced economies like US and UK, there is a secondary market for real estate financing where commercial banks or individual brokerage banks lend money to people and thereafter sell the securitised certificate to the secondary market and come back again to lend to individuals.
Mortgage industry growth that can impact the economy, according to Meckson Innocent Okoro, is possible if the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) plays the role of a regulator while the federal government, through the CBN, should empower the PMBs.
To have a viable mortgage industry that can have significant impact on the economy, more PMBs have to be licensed such that there could be as many as 40 in each of the big cities, while each of the smaller cities could get as many as 10.
This is to discourage the concentration of these banks in urban centres and when this is done, access to housing finance will be increased. The PMBs must be positioned to champion the whole issue of affordable or social housing for the low income earners in the country.
Mortgage finance as it is today, is not particularly established as a structure and as it exists in developed economies. The culture of mortgage finance is just gradually catching on with Nigerians and mortgage is financed the same way as every other commercial financing.
It is curious that after the recapitalisation and consolidation of the PMBs, Nigerians are yet to feel the impact in the economy. As at today, the interest rate as it is cannot mobilise the industry and the situation is such that even at 10 percent, the level of income in the country cannot still support mortgage growth.
There was a time in this country when the economy and the financial system were highly regulated, there was different interest rates structure for different sectors of the economy and within that period, lending to the housing sector was as low as seven to eight percent which underscored the importance attached to the sector and the government needs to look into this.
Despitebeing among the fastest urbanising cities on the African continent, Lagos is also growing speedily too.
But one of the major challenges facing the nation’s economic capital and the Nigeria at large in the face of rising urbanisation is the dearth of affordable housing for the citizens.
Simply put, there is urban housing crisis not only in Lagos but nearly all cities in the country face similar crises. Nigeria’s housing crisis exists in urban and rural places, manifesting more in the form of slum dwelling, homelessness, overcrowding, squatter settlements and substandard housing units.
But in the ongoing effort to solve this challenge, financial institutions readily come to mind given that they have the highest number of business networks and outlets in the various states. This means that they must be involved in all efforts being made to provide shelter for both their staff and customers doing business with them.
Shelter does not come from absolute, it comes through concerted efforts with government providing the needed impetus. Although financial institutions in Nigeria especially banks are know to be providing financial support to customers to meet various needs, the challenge really borders on the type of collateral requirement which in most cases seems to target materials presented. Collateral requirements often discourage several would-be participants from the bazaar. There are big banks that can aside giving loans also go into building housing schemes.
Today however, many are no longer doing so for reasons best known to them and government that ought to be propping them to action seems incapacitated doing so. This problem is noticeable in the urban areas where you have banks, multinationals and other financial institutions.
In the rural areas, poor housing quality, deficient environmental condition as well as inadequate infrastructural facilities are the order of the day. The causative factors of this problem include: poverty, population increase due to urbanization, high cost of land, non-implementation of the housing policies, failure on the side of the government, high cost of building materials and corruption.
As more and more Nigerians make towns and cities their homes, the resulting social, economic, environmental and political challenges need to be urgently addressed. House prices and rents, on the other hand, have grown ahead of general inflation. This is why government should latch on the rules and corporate social responsibilities of these institutions to bring about housing provisions for the public.
In a situation where a bank like Zenith Bank takes up 5,000 housing units scattered all over the country; UBA, First Bank, GTBank, Fidelity Bank, Union Bank, Access Bank each taking 5,000 units and other banks taking 3,000 units on a two year basis scattered in various locations in the country, these shortages would have reduced drastically. Even if they sell these to the public, using their customers as point of contact, these would not have reached this crisis dimensions.
To make matters worse, the composition of houses for sale and rent on the market has been inexorably shifting towards very expensive house. The problem of adequate housing is not peculiar to Nigeria. According to the UN Habitat, 30 percent of the world’s urban population live in slums, deplorable conditions where people suffer from one or more of the following basic deficiencies in their housing: lack of access to improved water; lack of access to improved sewage facilities (not even an outhouse); living in overcrowded conditions; living in buildings that are structurally unsound; or living in a situation with no security of tenure (that is, without legal rights to be where they are, as renters or as owners).
There is so much criticism towards our financial system for not making credit more readily available, especially for mortgages. Banks are in business to lend, and today unlike troubled counterparts in Europe, they have good balance sheets and plenty of money available. So what’s with the apparent reticence to open the money spigot? Remove your negative emotions towards these maligned institutions for a moment and look from their side of the ledger.
In today’s world of low interest rates and a flat yield curve a bank has less than a 3 percent net interest margin….the amount between what it pays depositors and its loan rates. The very best possible outcome on a loan for our forever criticized bank is to get paid back all its principal and make a small spread on the interest. Get paid back 95 per cent of every loan and it goes broke. Careful scrutiny of any type of loan is judicious business practice and necessary to remain solvent. A top quality financial lending institution can be lucky to earn is 1 to 1.4 percent on total assets.
Although, banks in Nigeria have not been lending to public expectations but proffer reasons for not doing much lending anymore. Whether, that is true or false, one is allowed to do what he chooses with what belongs to him. Since the financial crash of 2008, new regulations have made operating a bank much more cumbersome and expensive.
Banks in the United States were (sometimes with government coercion) proactively raise hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh capital and this was after writing down billions in mortgages and other problematic credits. Some bad mortgage assets still linger, not yet fully resolved after five years on the balance sheets of our the US biggest banks like Citigroup (C), JP Morgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), and Wells Fargo (WFC).
A new study from Habitat for Humanity says that housing microfinance can and should become a mainstream offering for financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Housing microfinance consists of small, non-mortgage backed loans starting at just a few hundred dollars that can be offered to low-income populations in support of incremental building practices.
The business case study, released recently entitled “Building the Business Case for the Housing Microfinance in Sub-Saharan Africa.” This builds on a project carried out over six years in Kenya and Uganda called “Building Assets Unlocking Access”.
The project was a partnership between Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and the Mastercard Foundations. So far, the project has reached over 47,000 households and mobilised more than $43 million in capital to benefit over 237,000 individuals. The business case study argues that housing microfinance, small non-mortgage backed loans for short terms, can become a mainstream offering in the market to address growing housing needs in the region, incremental building patterns, and the land tenure realities of low-income households.
There are an estimated 1.6 billion people in the world living in substandard housing. This figure is climbing, especially as the world becomes more urbanised and people migrate to cities for economic opportunity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, however, as much as 99 percent of people do not have access to formal financing – credit, savings, mortgages – that can enable them start building or improving their homes.
Traditionally, they build homes gradually as their resources allow. Developer-built, bank-financed homes are rare in Africa, serving fewer than five percent of households in most countries.
Solving the housing challenges in Africa will require a massive amount of capital investment and most of that will need to come from the private sector which the financial institutions are the only sector that can provide such huge sums of money.
Contrary to the belief that lack of long term capital or low capital base is the main challenge of Nigeria’s mortgage industry, stakeholders in the industry and property sector analysts have spilled the beans, revealing that the structure of the industry contributes the most to its set back.
Over 10 industry players and analysts polled in a BusinessDay survey have, therefore, recommended a restructuring, not recapitalization, of the country’s mortgage system.
The industry has, in the last couple of years, seen far-reaching recapitalization and loans refinancing by the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), yet it is neither growing nor meeting market expectations, meaning that the problem of the industry goes beyond liquidity issues.
“The structure of the mortgage industry is the problem; there is high interest rate and this is coming on the back of economic condition,” Adeniyi Akinlusi, president of Mortgage Bankers Association of Nigeria (MBAN) and CEO, Trustbond Mortgage, told BusinessDay.
Akinlusi added that recapitalisation is not the main challenge, considering that mortgage banks do not “give loans from shareholders’ but fund from deposits.”
Nigeria has over 17 million housing deficit. According to the Association of Housing Corporation of Nigeria (AHCN), an umbrella organization for all federal and state housing agencies, more than 90 percent of new homes are funded from personal savings for incremental construction.
“The structure is the challenge; there is high default rate in the mortgage industry which is, most likely, because funds are diverted and not returned,” Adekunle Abdul, managing director, Metro & Castles Homes, said.
Kehinde Ogundimu, MD/CEO, Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), the company “has refinanced mortgage loans totalling N18billion as at December 2018.”
He said it was in line with the company’s mandate to promote affordable home ownership in the country by leveraging funding from the capital market to deepen liquidity in the primary and secondary mortgage markets.
Imade Omogiafo is a single parent and a manager in one the consulting firms in Lagos. According to her, she has been trying to access a mortgage for the past two years without any positive result. “I sincerely cannot even tell what the problem is; I have signed up with more than three mortgage banks, but none has been able to come through with a mortgage,” Omogiafo lamented.
According to Abdulmalik Mahdi, managing partner at Modern Shelter Systems & Services Limited, an Abuja-based real estate firm, the players in the industry particularly financial institutions need to be innovative in approaching fundraising for mortgages.
“There is a lot of scope for financial engineering if the banks are willing to think out of the box,” Mahdi said, adding, “the primary mortgage banks in Nigeria are part of the problem. They are not efficient in their transaction processes; it takes ages to process simple loans and a lot of their staff lack capacity.”
Industry players are of the view that the key culprit for the housing challenges in Nigeria is the mortgage rate. Typically, mortgage interest rate in Nigeria ranges between 7-10 percent for Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and between 15-25 percent for commercial mortgage institutions, making it one of the highest in the world.
In advanced economies, the mortgage industry makes significant contribution to economic development with single digit interest rates. Nigeria’s roaring inflation rate and the attendant high mortgage rate dampen housing demand and blunt developers’ investment appetite.
This is why Nigeria has one of the world’s lowest mortgages to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate at about 0.6 percent, which lags Ghana’s 2 percent, South Africa’s 30 percent and crawls after the US and UK rates of 60 percent and 70 percent respectively.
“There are some developed projects that do not have the right documentation, making it hard for such properties to be used for mortgage. This is coupled with the economic challenges; people in the middle class cannot afford a double digit mortgage rate,” Abiodun Akanbi, Head of Strategy at Infinity Trust Mortgage Bank, said.
Ayo Ibaru, COO/Director , Real Estate Advisory at Northcourt, agrees, noting that both recapitalisation and the structure of the mortgage industry need to be improved. “The structure of the mortgage industry and the cost of funds need help; it takes too long to get approval and documentation for real estate projects, the land also costs too much and about 90 percent of the raw materials used by developers are imported,” Ibaru explained.
Despite the real estate sector getting out of the woods as it broke its 12 consecutive quarters of decline by recording 0.93 percent growth in the first quarter of 2019, banks’ confidence in the sector waned as reflected in credit allocation to the sector which tumbled to its lowest level at 3.92 percent in four years.
Sectorial credit allocation to real estate shed 0.2 percentage point quarter-on-quarter and 2.49 percentage point year-on-year.
Of the N15.21 trillion combined credit given to 17 sectors by banks, real estate got N596 billion in the first three months to March 2019, N26 billion or 4 percent lower than N622 billion received in the preceding quarter.
On the way to go in solving the problems in the industry, Ibaru said “there should be a rethink on how the structure of the mortgage industry should function and in doing that; the point of the consumers should be taken into consideration.”
“There is a need for greater regulation of the activities of some primary mortgage banks (PMBs) as they get away with a lot of things such as charges that make transaction costs too high for clients,” Mahdi recommended.
Whether it’s for updates on a family reunion, the exam schedule from your child’s teacher or updates on when potential buyers will be viewing a home – for millions of people WhatsApp has become the preferred communication platform. Is it changing how real estate does business?
Two years ago an estate agency in London estimated that around 80% of the offers they received were made over WhatsApp rather than the traditional telephone call – they said especially among Millennials this was the popular choice.
The same agency continued that although nothing beats face to face conversation – as tone of voice can get lost in written words and messages can be misconstrued – the positives about Whatsapp include that is a faster form of communication, it is recorded, which helps to avoid confusion about what was said and what wasn’t. It is also a great organisational tool, for instance, to help set up viewing times, confirm or cancel appointments, etc.
The prevalence of WhatsApp groups everywhere from workplace to family and friends to church or sports clubs seems to indicate that this method of communication is equally popular here although perhaps not just yet to conclude such an important transaction as buying or selling a home.
Heather van der Spuy, co-owner and principal of Steer International Properties in Cape Town, says although she recently completed two sales via Whatsapp with international clients, she finds that local clients prefer to use email. She does use Whatsapp a lot in her daily communication with clients such to confirm appointments. “I find it’s a great way of keeping a record of a conversation plus its user friendly,” says Van der Spuy.
Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, says it is still rather difficult to trace the exact ROI that digital and social platforms have on the real estate industry due to the journey a buyer or seller takes from awareness to action.
A buyer or seller visiting a property website has already gone through the customer journey and is at the end of the funnel closer to taking action, where-as that same client’s journey might have started with awareness on social media. However, there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry and they are seeing a monthly incline in the activity and direct social actions taken by the customer.
“there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry…”
“We believe agents might not be using this platform (Whatsapp) to its fullest potential as yet for direct marketing, but in terms of client interaction it has definitely increased the enquiries. A client can now drop an agent a quick message requesting advice as this is a less intrusive way of communicating. They might not be ready to take action, but it is critically important that we offer clients a source of information. Fifteen years ago a client would pick up a phone, call an agent and get the information they need – today they turn to Google, social media, recommendations from friends and more” says Hutchison.
“We encourage our agents to ask a client how they came across them in order to be able to gather more accurate statistics on the impact of social media. A client showing up at a showhouse, might have only known about it through a Facebook advert, thus listing the source as show day is not enough in today’s extensive marketing toolbox.
“Accurately tracked & traced, we can say that over the past 12 months, clients who we have come from social media as the root source have been 12% of total leads on buyers and 7% on sellers,” concludes Hutchison.
Richard Gray, CEO Harcourts South Africa, says they’re also seeing an increased demand by clients to communicate with their agents and staff in real time which has resulted in a growing expectancy for instant feedback. This means that phone communication applications, such as WhatsApp, are fast becoming the primary communication tool for clients.
“These applications have also become part of the marketing process as many sellers and landlords expect the agent to harness their database to effectively market the client’s property to an instantaneous audience, and rightly so,” Gray continues.
“The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service.”
The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service. Estimates from four of their offices across the Cape Peninsula, which includes the rental division, indicate that 70% of communication with clients is done via Whatsapp and 20% of offers are confirmed via this platform.
Gray says many of their agents are now introducing WhatsApp marketing plans into their mandate strategies. There are many advantages to these applications: * They are very user friendly when sending media such as videos, photographs and embedded links to inquiring clients, which make them perfect for real estate communication. * The WhatsApp status allows agents to market homes to a growing mobile database without contacting prospective buyers individually. This strategy is becoming very popular on multiple platforms as a subtle non-invasive arm of a real estate marketing plan.
“With WhatsApp being owned by Facebook and Instagram it is no wonder this tool has the ability to cross pollinate communication and diversify it into a multi-pronged communication force,” ends Gray.
Experts have canvassed the deployment of blockchain technology to advance transactions, the profession and boost transparency between practitioners and clients.
According to them, the use of the technology would go a long in mitigating severe lack of transparency, closeness of the sector to certain people, high taxes/investment fees, lack of liquidity in the industry, delays in transaction speed and issues of pricing commitments.
Blockchain technology is a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data are secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles or chain.
The decentralised-record-keeping technology, which is designed to instill trust in the authenticity of digital transactions, could be used to create efficient solutions for both commercial and residential real estate, from buying property to conducting due diligence and to enabling crowd-sourced investments. It is useful in property management, off-plan sales, property technology process (PROTECH), smart estate management using Internet of Things and more.
Speaking at its Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Nigeria Group’s second continuous professional development series titled, ‘Blockchain: The brick & mortar of its growth in today’s world’, the Managing Partner, Blockchain Asset Management, Deji Soetan said the blockchain as one of the emerging technologies brings in several utilities into the real estate ecosystem.
This, he stated include the smart contracts which could protect owners from property fraud. He said through the technology, it is possible to link the digital ownership of individuals’ property, documents, and contracts directly to the blockchain stressing that once inside the blockchain, it is impossible for it to be tampered with or altered.
He reinforces believe that the technology would soon gain notoriety even in the least expected industries. Soetan explained that everyone who is part of the network can see all the data that is stored inside the blockchain and every single piece of data can be traced right to its very origin. He also said the process permits immutability of records as data inside the blockchain cannot be tampered with because of cryptographic hash functions.
The ICT expert declared that the proof of the technology’s merit was seen in the development of a excise trade management solution for the Nigeria Customs Service. The proposed solution, he added enabled the business processes within the excise trade to be automated to create better revenue assurance, optimum efficiency and transparency utilising the Blockchain technology.
“Within the context of payments, introduction of smart contracts into blockchain real estate ledgers and transactions, has clear potential in streamlining various real estate processes, such as releasing apartment ownership, or rental documents upon a completion of a crypto-currency transfer. One important area where it would be used is in the speed of transaction because nowadays, the process is still slow making it be so archaic and needs to be modernised”.
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