‘Technology will soon face out ambiguous, unnecessary charges by house agents’

Lukman Shobowale, Co-Founder and Head of Business Development, Dukiya Investment, is a seasoned realtor with a reputation for tenaciously protecting his clients’ interests, and serving them with savvy client-focused negotiations and state-of-the-art opportunities. In this interview with ADEKUNLE SULAIMON, he talks about his journey in real estate, elaborating on how he amassed experience in being a high-ticket real estate broker in half a decade and how his sales consistently rank in the top 10 property sales across Nigeria. Excerpts:

Tell us about yourself and your childhood experience

I am a goal-oriented person that does not take “NO” for an answer. I am also an ardent learner that does not just learn through every phase of life but acted on every action that each phase has taught me. Regardless of no parental backbone while growing up, I have beaten the laws of nature that has placed some other people in my situation below global standard but have pushed me and directed every facet of life to this current stage of offering solutions to the current housing problem in Nigeria. I have not had the best experiences like my peers especially while growing up but within my little capacity, I believe I have learnt beyond bounds and triumphed over situations that have crippled others in a similar situation.

 As a graduate of History, what motivated your interest in real estate?

I recall my experience during my service year when I was called for an interview by one of my mentors and former boss, Oladipo Agida. Frankly speaking, I had no interest per se as of the time in Real Estate but I had only wanted to try out the new venture coupled with the fact that I saw the offer as one that will allow me to engage one of my greatest skills – speaking and networking. Eventually, the need to network and communicate with people was a motivating factor and the various other opportunities the business offers has to a great extent sustained this interest.

What is your valuable part of working in real estate?

All parts of real estate are valuable, but the networking part ranks top for me. I have always been a networker and love roles that will allow me connect with more people. Real estate added an icing to the networking cake for me, I don’t just network;  I connect and get introduced to valuable people that I will be offering a home! The feeling is awesome. And that’s why Dukiya’s mission is to spare no resources in delivering solutions that exceed our clients’ expectations. This way, we recruit them through excellent service to tell others and expand our network.

 As a 21st century realtor, what do you think could be put in place to stop unnecessary charges while renting or leasing an apartment or building?

I will definitely say technology.  Technology and automation are the latest trends not just in real estate but across other sectors and business areas such as banking, manufacturing, aviation etc. Take renting for instance, the conventional way of renting an apartment is such that you go looking for a house in your desired area oftentimes through agents and the agents takes commissions in percentage (could be 10 or 15%) depending on the area. When you finally agree to take the house, you may be asked to pay in arrears and in some cases up to 24 months, you pay the agreement fee, damages and so on. A lot of these fees will be drastically reduced with the introduction of technology into the process. With automation, the agency will be removed and house deals can be seamless. The meaning of rent really is monthly fees for renting an apartment so the arrears payment thing can be scrapped as well with automaton because there could be a system of effecting payment to avoid default with the use of technology.

How do you create a worthy client base?

I believe it starts with understanding and seeing every relationship as a bridge. People won’t buy your product until they first buy into you. It takes trust or a promise of value that is addictive enough to keep a client. For me, it has always been people before profit and this is my unique advantage. I have come to realize that people buy based on sentiments most times and justify it with logic. Therefore, for any business to build a credible client base, they must understand that the primary objective of every business is to keep and retain customers, when you do this very well, profit will naturally flow along. So, relationship building is the thing for creating a worthy and loyal client base especially if you must do well in this space.

What motivated the creation of Dukiya investment?

The World Bank estimated that Nigeria’s housing deficit stood at 17m units as of 2013. Given the country’s current urbanisation trends – with Nigeria set to be the world’s third-most-populous country in the world by 2050 and the population of Lagos forecast to double over the same period, according to UN growth projections, while the demand for housing rises by some 700,000 units per annum. However, the current levels of development add around 100,000 units annually. On the residential side, the main focus for Nigeria is affordable housing to cater for the needs of its growing middle class. According to data from the Centre for Affordable Housing, the country will require $360bn to close its housing deficit, with Lagos State alone estimated to have a housing shortfall of more than 3m units, which would cost N8trn ($25.9bn) to eliminate, assuming a cost of $10,000 per unit. Given these statistics, we are set up in a bid to contribute to the reduction of the current housing deficit. Our goal is to facilitate the creation of 100,000 affordable housing units by 2025.

How to do you manage both in- and out-of-office tasks?

As the Co-Founder of Dukiya Investment, I do a lot of work as the Head of Business Development and because of this double cap, my role sometimes involve staying around clients as well as staff of the organization from time to time to ensure proper service delivery and build an atmosphere of productivity but beyond this, I equally maintain balance by being myself by spending quality time with friends and families. When I am not at work, I am praying, at the gym or just enjoying quality time with my loved ones.

How do you handle pressure from potential clients who portend hard to convince?

Many people are afraid of failure or rejection as I love to put it.

Let me first say failure is an event, not a destination or a determination of who you are as a real estate agent or as a person. If you must do well in the current Nigerian real estate space, you must approach objection from prospects with so much enthusiasm because when you get a NO from a prospect, it means you are one NO away from getting your YES.

Also, I love to encourage Realtors each time I have the opportunity to speak to them or mentor them that not everyone is your customer and it’ll be depressing to expect everyone you meet buy from you. I believe so much in the SW Rule which states “Some Will, Some Won’t, So What? Someone is Waiting! but you must never take NO for an answer and that is how to win. I remember following up a client for 2 years and recently invested so much in real estate though our company because we didn’t give up.

What qualities make you a good realtor?

I will say ability to communicate effectively and network as well as consistency because it takes a special level of consistency to thrive in this industry. I call it the spirit of consistency but above all, you must be a person of honest reputation. Integrity is one quality you cannot overlook if you must last in the industry. You cannot sell a bad product twice, hence, if you must retain and keep your clients, you must be willing to demonstrate commitments in keeping to your words.

What are the major challenges realtors face in Nigeria?

One of the major challenges of realtors and developers is an infrastructural deficit, delay in approvals and documentation and the issue of double taxing, for instance; you pay tax to the government and still provide your own infrastructure.

 How do you think the government can intervene?

The government has a lot to do in addition to all that is already being done. Top on the list is by creating an enabling environment through the provision of infrastructural development such as good road networks, construction of drainages, electricity, among others. Government should automate its processes and documentation.

Where do you see Dukiya investment in the next 5 years?

By the year 2025, I see us creating comfort for over 100,000 families as well as creating the best working environment for people. We will surely be the delight of every job seeker and a place of pride for our staff. We want to make greatness common and home ownership as seamless as the word. We would have equally extended our frontiers to not just solving the housing deficit in Nigeria but even Africa at large.

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