Olatunde Macaulay: We’re Changing the Narrative in Real Estate Business

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Refin Homes Limited, a revolutionary real estate company, recently hosted a breakfast event, spurred by current events in Lagos to discuss the theme ‘Create The Future’. Afterwards, in an interview with Mary Nnah, the Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Olatunde Macaulay, opined that it’s high time Nigerians changed the conventional ways of doing real estate business so as to avoid incidences of building collapse, as witnessed in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria in recent times. He also strongly advocated for builders and real estate firms to follow strict guidelines and approvals set by regulatory bodies before putting any structure in place. Excerpts:

Tell us a bit about Refin Homes?
Refin Homes is a real estate company. We set out to provide alternative home solutions; to make as many people as possible to be able to afford a house using flexible payments system based on one’s capacity. We came into the real estate market to focus on providing alternative housing solutions that add value to lives, especially the under-served middle to lower end spectrum.

Refin Homes Limited was established with the aim of bridging the housing gap in Nigeria. Our key focus is providing affordable housing for middle-class income earners without compromising quality. We are the community builders, set to establish, develop, strengthen and increase economic activities within identified localities.

How long have you been in existence and what are the projects you have executed so far?
We are going to two years now, and we have executed several projects prior to setting up this company and as a company.

You have been around for close to 24 months now. What has been your success story?
We have a lot of people who have keyed into our scheme. You know there is a time frame and you are contributing for 36 months. So we have a whole lot of people who have been contributing consistently with the goal of getting a house of their own in 36 months and we would ensure that we provide the houses for them in 36 months. In addition to that, it is a national housing fund which a lot of people do not know exist or some even know about but do not know how to access it. We would assist you in accessing the national housing fund, so that you can combine that with whatever you have contributed to be able to afford a house. So it is a process. People want to buy a house immediately but do not have the capacity to do that. So if we come with a plan where individuals pay on a monthly basis, it will take just 36 months for us to be able to provide a house of your choice to you and at the price that you have requested.

What are you doing to avoid the incidence of collapsed buildings in Lagos and other parts of the nation?
We at Refin Homes have a cordial relationship with all regulators concerned with buildings. You have to ensure that you follow strict guidelines and procedures to avoid incidence of collapsed building and buildings with inferior quality materials. We go through the process of building materials testing and getting the right approval before we put up any structure.

It is also worthy of note that for over 15 years, a 17 million housing deficit has been bandied around in Nigeria. The government cannot handle this deficit alone, so private institutions such as ours should assist the government in reducing this huge deficit as quickly as possible.

What category of people are you looking at?
We are looking at the middle to the lower end of the spectrum because we believe there is huge market – underserved market at that level.

Where are your tentacles?
You see, when people ask me where we execute our projects, I feel it is a traditional way of asking real estate questions but we are trying to change that narrative, so we build based on where you want, so I don’t go to specific locations because I feel that I should go there but I go there because you have said that you want a house there. If I assess you and know that you have the capacity, I would go there. So we build anywhere as long as it makes sense, you can afford it and then you won’t lose money in doing that. So we can build anywhere. So when you put us in the spot and ask where, you are trying to limit us and so we are trying to change that narrative and perspective – don’t think about where but think about what you want and what we can do for you to get what you want.
I must also quirkily add that for now, Refin Homes is starting with Lagos and hopes to expand to other states soon. When people see that what we are saying is possible and then a lot of people benefit from this, then we can expand to other states. And when you say we should come and build a house for you in your village, it has to make sense to us as an institution and to you as an individual. Don’t forget that as I am building for you, I have to also consider others who have similar requests at that same place and put your request together. So, I am not going to build only for you in that location that is either in your village or any other place, but I would be building for you and all other people that have similar requests, By so doing, I can lower cost and also take advantage of the economics of scale and sell to you at the right price. So it is an individual thing, in that you tell me what you want but don’t forget that it is housing and that you want a flat in a particular location, trust me, there would be 20 to 40other people that want in that location too. So all I am doing is building for all of you that want in that location.

What does it mean to “Create the Future”, based on the theme of your discussion today?
“Create The Future” is a strategic platform that calls the attention of all Nigerians on the need to plan ahead today by putting in place modalities that ensure a solid roof over their heads. “The future is not somewhere distant, the future is now, and we want to sit with Nigerians to plan based on your desires and capacity to give you the home of your dreams With “Creating the future”, we are saying that the future is not somewhere distant, the future is now. We want to sit with Nigerians to plan based on your desires and capacity to give you the home of your dreams, so we have to put things in the right perspective; you have to visualise what you want in the next five to 10 years and then you have to begin to plan for those things now. So what we are trying to do in terms of creating a future for our clients – hard working Nigerians, is to say, you want a house, come and sit down with us and plan and when we plan with you, you would get that house that you desire in 36 months if you are disciplined and then you follow the plan that we agreed on from day one.

There are lots of real estate firms around, so what stands yours out?
We are different because we build based on your capacity and we give you flexible terms of payment and we are particular about affordability and quality. So, we don’t build and say come and buy, but we build based on what you have requested within your capacity.

How affordable are you?
Like I said, I am not giving but you are telling me, I want a bungalow at XYZ location, and then I would assess and tell you if it is visible or not. And if it is not visible, I would tell you that this is the alternative and then we would plan together. I am not forcing it on you but you are telling me what you want, then we work towards that. We believe that in the long term, the Nigerian economy will become the biggest beneficiary of a system that makes it easy for people to own quality and affordable homes.
Refin Homes Limited is committed to providing affordable quality housing solutions that meet customer satisfaction and consistent with our context and strategic direction, applicable requirements and interested parties. We continually improve our quality management system to help us stand out, gain competitive edge and grow to become influential in the society.

How do you handle defaulters in terms of payment?
We have processes and procedures we put in place to address that. First of all, you must come to us and let us understand what has caused the default. Is it job loss? Is it your company that is not doing well? Then we can sit down and agree on a plan. If at all that you do not have the capacity to go on with your initial plan we can downgrade on the plan depending on your current situation, instead of you losing everything. So there is an option of downgrading and worst case scenario, if you cannot move forward, your property would have appreciated, so we sell it and your equity would have grown, so you may be able to key into something else or you key into one of our products and start paying again to get to where you want.

One of our core values is inclusiveness, so when you come to us, we would find somewhere for you to be able to benefit – so that if you cannot afford a house, you can then go for just a parcel of land first. And we would be able to provide you a flexible payment scheme that would enable you acquire a land. And we would encourage you not to sell that land when you finish paying. We would advise you to hold onto it because there is value in appreciation. Do that circle for three years and in three years you can sell two portions of the land or the three and buy a house or again key into one of our products. So there is always something for everybody. Even if you do not want to buy a house, you can also invest in the real estate projects.