Host  Udo Okonjo, CEO and Vice-Chair Fine and Country and Keynote speaker, Professor Pat Utomi, founder CVL.

Fine and Country West Africa held its yearly Real Estate Leaders Network breakfast Gold Session at the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel. The vision of RELN is to bring together thought leaders and investors in the real estate sector to discuss the economic outlook and provide a guide for real estate opportunities in the year. This guide has been compiled into a Real Estate Outlook Report available at Fine and Country. Leaders ranging from developers, financiers, investors, HNIs, regulators, researchers and marketers, gathered to discuss the roadmap for 2017 after reviewing the recently past year. On hand to drive these discussions was the keynote speaker, Professor Pat Utomi, and the host speaker, Mrs Udo Okonjo.
This year’s theme was Economic and Real Estate Outlook 2017: Investing in challenging times. This theme was borne out of the need to champion discussions around identifying where the opportunities are in the perceived challenging times. It is needless to say that there are pockets of opportunities, the question to answer now is, where are the pockets of opportunities?
Udo Okonjo, CEO Fine and Country WA, described the real estate sector as a mirror of the economy. The real estate sector directly reflects the economic status of the nation. In the same breath, Dr. Biodun Adedipe, a contributor in the discuss, held that crisis in the housing/ real estate sector has twice as much effect on the GDP as that of the financial sector. Hence, the real estate sector is arguably, an institutional determinant of any nation’s store of wealth.
Mrs. Okonjo went further to say that, ‘Real estate as we know it is, however changing. The concept of location needs a re-look. Prime locations still remain prime locations but some emerging locations are beginning to require a relook at the definition of location. Location in terms of accessibility and connectivity is redefining the value of certain locations. Another important emerging trend which needs to be explored is the ‘’Millennia Housing’’ market which is a huge part of the middle income market. The millennial market basically needs affordable functional spaces- studio, I, 2 to 3 bedrooms. This market is important for real estate developers as they must begin to target first time home owners and not just repeat buyers. Properties need to be re-engineered and built for solution for this emerging markets’’.
We went further to emphasise that even the premium real estate market has its peculiar pockets of opportunities. Prime locations still remain prime locations but properties on prime locations can be ‘’re-designed to fit the present day reality’’. One of which is the apartment style of living as against the villa style. Market intelligence is increasingly pointing towards good value and convenience, which does not necessarily imply low cost housing. Oakwood residences on Cooper Road typifies this model of market intelligence- contemporary apartments in the prime Ikoyi suburb which were offered at below N150m at launch and now 90% subscribed.
Mrs Ukonjo also mentioned that the ‘’Confidence Level’’ of diaspora investing should be addressed and developed to attract direct foreign investments. She further reiterated that the retail hub opportunities in locations like Ikoyi and Lekki Phase 1. These locations do not have primary retail hubs and the current Lekki Phase 1 Admiralty road stores already mirrors a retail high street. This shows the already existing need for a retail hub.
The key note speaker, Professor Pat Utomi, referred to how J.R. Simplot, the father of frozen French fry in America, built his billion dollar potato business during the great depression of the 1920s. Hence, professor Utomi’s stand that foolishness actually ends and those who realise that foolishness ends will enjoy the first movers’ advantage. His session focused on four growth drivers’ framework; policy choice, institutions, human capital and entrepreneurship. These variables are largely determined and influenced by leadership. Leadership determines the melting point amongst these independent variables.
Uzo Oshogwe, MD Afriland Properties Plc, moderated the contribution session and was also on hand as a resource person. She mentioned that the last two years have rearranged the focus of developers. Unlike what was obtainable in the past- building for off-loaders- properties are now built with functionality at the key front. She spoke extensively about opportunities in the providing universities hostels. University management have begun to partner with developers on hostel projects and this is a readily available opportunity. She, alongside Dr. Biodun Adedipe of BAA Consult, suggested that a pressure group be put together in the real estate industry to lobby and inform the government and law makers on policies that can boost the real estate industry. Such policies should include legislations on continuity of projects when dealing with state and federal government. This will forestall the instances of abandon projects prevalent with change of administration. If this and many more are done, the confidence level of investors will greatly increase.