The Chief Executive Officer, Hared Properties Limited in Abuja, Hassan Adamu, in this interview speaks on the opportunities and challenges in the real estate sector. Jonathan Eze brings the excerpts:
One thing we noticed is that most real estate operators do not have plan for low income earners. Is there any plan on ground to satisfy them?
Yes, there is. Like anywhere in the world where government is a major player in that kind of sector. For example, everyone wants to live close to where he or she is working. If you want to build in Abuja as a driver, secretary or civil servant working in the Central Area and live in Maitama without proper transportation or proximity, it is going to be an issue for you. That is why you see people struggling to get a piece of land around the town. And for the real estate developers who want to build low income houses around the town must firstly consider the cost of land, you have to buy the land.
Then, cost of construction, and the overheads which will equally add up to the cost of the unit. At the end of the day, you will see that it is not going to be as low income you want it to be. But if you go to the outskirts where the land is cheap, it may still be far from the buyers to get to their place of work. At the end of the day, even if he or she owns private mobility, by the time you calculate what he spends on transport, both service or others, it will also close to the total sum of a unit in the town. At the same time, if you have many units in the piece of land, the price can reduce as much as possible.
By the time you have a 10 -20 storey building without lift, maybe in the morning when you are going to work, you have the energy to come down, but by the time you come back from work around 6 or 8pm in the evening, you are tired and you have to climb the next ten storey building. No doubt, our environment does not support such buildings. That is what is affecting lower income projects. Where you see that happening, there you see work being done shabbily because you just have to cut cost to do it. People are now wise. Before, they buy houses just like that, but now, if you tell them you have some square metres of house somewhere, you will see them coming with a tape to measure it and ensure that the house is complete. Now, people are now going for houses that have value. As it is, there will be natural segmentation. If you don’t do what is right, you will just find your place within the segment.
We have so many estate developers around Abuja here, what makes your company stand out?
We want to be known for quality. What we are doing most especially is that we are not building as if we are in Europe with a tiny room, where if you put a bed, you don’t have a space again. Our houses are big and very spacious. We build homes not just houses. A home where you will want to run to and relax. Within the areas we have our facility presently, we have places of relaxation, exercise and very good serenity, such that when you are home, you will relax and have the necessary space. We also work with people to finish their houses when it gets to finishing stages. By the time we hand over your keys to you, you will be sure that this is what you want.
Building collapse is becoming a trend now, especially in Lagos and other parts of the country. What do you think is responsible for this?
Building collapse is not only peculiar to Lagos alone. Abuja had its own share sometimes ago. I believe that what usually causes it are in tripod. One, the developers, materials and the authorities. Now, there are so many materials you find in town . Assuming you go to the market to buy iron rod and they give you 16mm, test the gauge, you will see that it is eight 14 or 14.5. The buildings are calculated with the strength of the iron rod. That will show you that the strength of the building is not commensurate with what is being used. Two, we don’t have good pricing mechanism. Anybody just wake up in the morning, increase or decrease what pleases him. For example, there was a project we started and when we started, a bag of cement was N1,000. When we finished the project, a bag of cement was N1,850. We had already pegged the price of that house to a particular amount. If for whatever reasons, maybe the time frame of that project becomes elongated, if you don’t have good conscience, you may have to find ways to cut corners. Also, quarries will just wake up in one day and tell you that we have increased our product. The same with cement and other materials. We are at the receiving ends. You want to give people their houses, if you are not careful and have a good conscience, you will just do what you want to do and give people their houses, make your money and leave people at the mercy of death.
What role do you think the authority can play to forestall future occurrences of building collapses?
They are supposed to inspect these buildings at every stage. They are supposed to check your reinforcements whether you are using the right quantity, whether you are using the right workmanship and in the first place from the design, whether the design will hold. It is not only the aesthetics that matters, but really, whether the design can stand on its own. I have seen engineers complaining. They usually abuse the Architects that they will sit at the comfort of their offices and design very beautiful house without thinking whether it can be built or not.
What do you expect from the clients?
I think clients should know that Nigeria of yesterday is not the one of today. Money is hard to come by. It is not only about what you see around alone. They need to dig deep and see what they are buying. The value they are buying, the functionality. Because, buying a home is one of the emotional and hardest decisions one makes in life. There are many people that have bought houses especially here in Abuja during the real estate boom. They are now seeing the house as liability. It is their own house, but it is as if they in there paying rent because they are constantly repairing the house, constantly paying some certain charges. At the end of the day, you calculate how much you are spending; it will look as if you are still paying rent to another person.
For us, we are looking at those avenues. We are looking at modern day living and we are giving choices. We don’t just come and give package and corner you that you must pay for this. Our houses have internet server, DSTV and other packages. Although, we are not forcing people to own a smart home, but we are giving you the basic and whatever you need, we will upgrade you to the level you can afford.
What roles do you think government can play to help the sector?
In term of costing, although I don’t know how the government is going to do it, but they should find a way of getting genuine real estate developers and partner with them so that the developers can get lands almost free, so that it will also affect the cost of the houses. Because in doing that, they have eliminated a major cost in the process of building houses for the people. They can even work with the developers to determine certain design and the cost of the houses. That will also help the clients themselves.
At our present location now at Katampe, we have to construct a road. We are now working hard to bring electricity and water to the area. So, if you add all these cost to the cost of the building, you will see that it will jack up the price of the houses. Government should help in the area of infrastructure. If the authorities consider that, it will bring down the cost of houses so that people can have options. The cost of building houses in Maraba or Kuje may be the same, but the cost of lands will be different. That is what makes the difference where this one will be higher than another. So government needs to regulate land pricing and even intervene to make housing accessible.