NREH: Including people like Jide Taiwo?
If he wishes. It’s just that in the country now, real estate agents have many associations. I spoke about ERCAAN earlier and there are so many others but after the stakeholders meeting, a lot of them now want to affiliate with APICAN and we are all working on having a common body. The people responsible for all these however are the estate surveyors. They think they are higher than other people but unfortunately, we all meet on the field. Being real estate agents is not their job!
NREH: What is their job?
Their job is clear from their name. They call themselves Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
NREH: So they should stay off being agents?
Yes! Even lawyers are not agents!
NREH: So your jobs are clashing?
Yes! It’s just like the relationship between the motor manufacturers and dealers. When the manufacturer makes the car, he puts it down for the dealer to sell and if there are any issues with it, the dealer informs the manufacturer about it and he takes care of it but that’s not the case here. The lawyers and surveyors are encroaching on our job because all of them are in the real estate agency business now.
NREH: That means even I can be an agent if I find a house for someone and collect my commission?
Yes, that is what I’m saying!
NREH: But you are complaining about the lawyers and surveyors practising this?
What I’m saying is they should not arrogate the power to themselves only. The surveyor will say he is the one that has the right to be a real estate agent. The lawyer also will lay claim to this, but that shouldn’t be the case because we all meet on the field and are in the market together. You can’t say because you are a lawyer, what you are selling is more authentic than the people you met in the market.
NREH: Do you think it’s an educational thing since people in APICAN only have secondary school leaving certificate?
No I don’t agree. This is an organisation and you come in with whatever certificate you have
NREH: But there’s obviously an underground battle somewhere with these people. Maybe they feel they are the professionals and you people are artisans
Thank you for saying that but the question I always ask is who are the professionals? Who are the artisans and who are the quacks? Who is a quack? Can you define a quack to me?
NREH: A quack is a fake; something below the original; someone who doesn’t know what he is doing and is abusing the practice of any profession
Anybody that does something he doesn’t have knowledge of is a quack in that field, and you get knowledge through practical training or an education in school. If you don’t do any of these and you are just doing trial and error, you are a quack. For example, I don’t know anything about journalism but I can ask questions. If someone now decides to give me an opportunity to write, no matter how well I can, if I don’t go for training, I can’t do it like someone who did.
This is the same with real estate agency. A lot of people think it’s about just letting out a house but it’s beyond that. The Estate Surveyors and Valuers are able to convince their members because of the educational background they have that they want to start practising real estate agency and they were taught this within the association. They were not taught this in school, they organize the training themselves.
The major issue we are having in real estate however is that anybody can come into the industry. We don’t even have a problem with that, but you are expected to subject yourself to training under us. When you become a member of APICAN, we will teach you our ways. We will not organize a school for you since MERIA is already doing that and our job is not to duplicate services since MERIA belongs to us as well
NREH: So basically a secondary school leaver can practise and join right now?
Yes! Even some of the elderly men in this business can join because they’ve been doing this work even before we came on the scene. The only thing is that this is the jet age now. Not many of them can work on the computer or know how to use the internet to do their business. That is their level and that is why I say real estate is in levels. Some agents only let out rooms but that doesn’t mean we should do away with them because you never know what information they might have access to and in this business, information is important.
NREH: Okay. Let’s talk about LASRETRAD. They say they want to register real estate agents so does that mean anyone who doesn’t register is a quack even though you’ve been trained?
Registration with LASRETRAD does not mean that you don’t have the knowledge or you are authentic
NREH: But if you are not registered with them, you are seen as a quack?
A: That is professional registration. If someone employs your services and has issues with you as an agent, they can go to LASRETRAD and complain and they can vouch for me that I’m authentic but somebody might not register with them and still be making his money
NREH: So what they do is that they give you backing?
Yes, just backing
RP: Do they register you at whatever level you are or everybody has just one level of registration?
It is one registration, it doesn’t matter what level of education you have as long as you are practising real estate.
NREH: Is it just for real estate agents or anybody working within the sector like a lawyer, valuer etc.
Whether you are a lawyer or valuer, you register as a real estate agent; somebody practising real estate transactions.
NREH: It’s obvious that you are passionate about real estate and you are sharing a lot of insights. So please, we would like to know, are you a landlord or a tenant?
Here in Lagos, I’m a tenant but I have my own building somewhere in Ogun State.
NREH: That makes you a landlord. So what was your experience like building your first house?
Building a house depends on how your income is and how you are passionate about building your house. For me, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t very difficult because I didn’t make it a do or die affair. If I have money today, I invest it there. I started with the blocks and little by little, the structure was erected. It took me a while to get the roofing done but eventually, I completed it. I have 2 flats there
NREH: How long did it take you to put that together?
Hmmmm…. It took me about three years. Like I said, I did it one step at a time. In my business, if care is not taken, you’ll spend someone else’s money and that shouldn’t be the case. Integrity matters and speculation kills. If you assume somebody is coming to pay and you spend someone else’s money based on the commission you are supposed to get and the person refuses to come, there will be trouble, so you can’t afford to speculate. The only time you are allowed to do that is when you have completely closed the deal. Even if anything backfires somewhere, you have a surety.
As a real estate agent, you are working with the police as well as the public. Someone can just come and accuse you of anything which is why at the start of any deal you want to do, you need to be careful and make sure you put everything in order before you accept anybody in or accept any money. Explain to your client everything concerning the property you are letting out and make sure that you know your landlord properly; not one that will collect money and vanish and put you in trouble.
NREH: Does that happen? That you pay a landlord and the person disappears?
Oh yes! Some landlords can collect money from two or three tenants at the same time and disappear. They are the owners of their house but they can do that when they are in need of money.
NREH: But the law should be able to find such landlords at the end of the day
AThey will be found but the person that paid the money will suffer. For example if you want to rent a house and I promised you the place will be renovated, the money you are going to pay must be enough to take care of that renovation because the landlord may or may not put money down. If I’ve collected enough money to renovate from you, I am on a safer side than for me to tell you there will be renovations and at the end of the day, you don’t see any changes in the house
You also have to be careful of the kind of tenant you are taking into the house. Some people will lie about their profession and without proper investigation, you might end up taking in armed robbers as occupants and the landlord will not take it lightly with you. If I take any tenant in, I have a guarantor’s form the person would have filled at the time he/she was looking for the house and it’s the guarantor that will be held responsible for the person’s conduct and actions in the house. I am not liable! That’s why I always tell people, being an estate agent is beyond just getting a house for someone. You need to be thorough.
NREH: So what would you say is APICAN’s biggest achievement?
We have achieved a lot of things in the Real Estate sector. We have been able to sanitize our members to a certain level. I won’t say we are satisfied, we are still striving but to a level that keeps us at rest. Another achievement we’ve made so far is that we are getting recognized by the government; even the Lagos State Government. We wrote to EFCC some time ago and they informed us they are with us on anything we want to do.
We also wrote to Ministry of Commerce and Industry some time ago so we are gaining more recognition. What is most important for us however is not gaining recognition, but sanitization of the Industry and by God’s grace we are on track. I am always proud and boastful to say that if you see an agent in the police cell, hardly is the person an APICAN member and even if he is, he won’t be at fault per se. Mind you, a lot of people claim to be members of APICAN but if you don’t have our ID card and certificate, you are not. We also have stickers that carry our membership numbers
NREH: Oh really? That’s interesting. I thought you just give out the stickers
No we don’t give out the membership stickers to just anybody except our members. On the sticker, there’s a number you can call to verify if the membership number is real or forged so we don’t joke with our membership.
That is why as a registered agent with us, if you have any problem whatsoever, we will solidly follow you and give you support because sometimes, tenants can be funny. As long as you’re an estate agent, you are tagged to be a bad person and if any little thing happens to them, they make an issue out of it
NREH: That’s because in the eye of the public, estate agents are taken as…
… rogues, no-do-wells?
NREH: (Chuckling) Yes! To the public you are just a necessary evil. If the public can get houses without agents, they will do away with your services.
And that is what we are trying to enlighten the public about. Everybody is useful in his own sector but many people complain because of the money they are paying. When you tell them how much the rent is, they are willing to pay. When you tell them how much the landlord wants for agreement, it’s alright. The moment you mention agency fee, they complain, forgetting I also have bills
NREH: But after the agency, you people ask for money for a lot of other things?
No, that’s not true. You are to pay for three things: agreement which is the legal fee, agency fee and caution fee.
NREH: Why do you have to pay for caution fee again?
Well, you can blame the agents for that. Caution fee started because of tenants’ misuse of the house. For instance if you lose your key, the appropriate thing to do is get a carpenter to help you unlock and fix it with minimal or no damage to the door but some people won’t do that; they will kick the door down. Some tenants won’t return the key the way you gave it to them. Some would have spoilt or broken the water system, destroyed a part of the wardrobe or yanked off something they are not supposed to. At the end of the day, the burden falls on the landlord to repair the things damaged in the house because another tenant will not rent the place except it’s in good condition hence the caution fee.
NREH: But it’s not every time this comes into play. I told you the house they wanted to rent was in a bad state even though the tenant paid caution fee. They collected the money and still didn’t do anything so the tenant had to come in and still fix the place
Well, that is now dependent on the kind of landlord you have but APICAN members know better.
NREH: (Smiling) Which means going forward, if I want to look for a house, I should contact an APICAN member
Yes. If the agent does anything wrong or inappropriate, he/she will be called to order. For example there was an incident that happened recently in Agege where the agent was reported to have collected money and refused to finish renovating the house. At the end of our investigation, we found out that things didn’t really happen the way it was related. Yes, he was unable to finish renovating the house but it was because he was sick. Because the tenants didn’t see him, they thought he disappeared with their money.
At the end of the day, I told him he should have called the clients to inform them of the situation of things. They might not have believed him but at least they would have been kept abreast of the situation. Eventually we reached a consensus on how the renovation should be achieved; either they give him ample time to do it or the tenants bring in their own workmen to complete it under our supervision and all expenses made will be recorded and deducted from their rent
NREH: You’ve been in this business since 1995 so that makes you a veteran now. Can you share with us one or two mistakes you might have made in the course of this business?
(Chuckling) Well… there was a time a landlord was building a house and I gave him money to complete it. Although the money I gave wasn’t enough to do that, I figured when he collects money from the tenants, he will be able to finish it up. Eventually, the house was finished and the tenants moved in. Now, out of the tenant that moved in, one of them came to me that he needed another property. I went to the landlord and asked him if he had another property. He told me he had and I and the client went with him to check out the place. The client liked it and we paid but unknown to me, the man didn’t have the brief to the property at all. I thought with what I’d done for the landlord, he couldn’t betray my trust but I was wrong.
Fortunately, the client trusted me and didn’t even say anything to me about it. It was a day he came to my office and I asked him how he was enjoying his new house that he told me he had not moved in. I was surprised and immediately, we went to the house. That was when I found out the man didn’t have the brief and had disappeared. We started looking for him but couldn’t find him so I had his wife arrested.
It was when his wife called him to inform him of her arrest at the police station that he showed up. When he did, he admitted to collecting the money and was arrested. The case was later transferred to another station and we were at it a while but since then, I just don’t trust anybody in the business. I will hold my money until I see the house and collect the key.
NREH: So it was an issue of trust for you?
Yes. In this business, you have to be sensitive so you don’t get into trouble. For instance, there was a house I wanted to take for my clients recently. They liked the house and wanted to pay but I didn’t trust the agents in charge of the property because the first time I went to check the place, I saw only one person occupying the sitting room upstairs. The next time I went, I saw seven boys there. I told my client I don’t want him to take the property and will not be a party to it if he goes against my advice and something goes wrong and I asked him to put it in writing for me. Eventually, he still went ahead and paid and when trouble started and they showed up in my office, I was able to exonerate myself because I had warned him earlier.
NREH: Trust is really a major issue!
Yes o! It is! Whatever you are doing, you must be trustworthy. It is very important in one’s life. Another incident that happened to me is the case of a man and woman who were members of the same church. The woman wanted to rent a shop and because she trusted the man, she didn’t even bother to come and check it. She just gave him money with the mind-set that the man will do the right thing especially since he’s an elderly man.
I collected the money and gave the man his own share asking him to sign that he has collected it. I didn’t even envisage any problem. By the time the woman wanted to move into the shop, the landlord said he couldn’t allow her to sell the kinds of goods she has in his shop and instructed her to come and collect her money from me.
The woman doubted that could happen but the landlord assured her she would get her money back so she came. When she did, I told her to come with the receipt I issued and the agent that brought her money since I didn’t have any direct transaction with her. She agreed and returned with the agent and the receipt. I collected the receipt and returned their money and the issue was settled.
After about three months, I met the woman again and apologized for her not being able to use the shop. That was when she told me her agent was still owing her about fifteen thousand. I was surprised and asked how since I gave her the whole money but she told me the man had increased the charges by fifteen thousand naira.
NREH: That’s serious!
This happens a lot of times in the industry. There was one time a pastor came to me that he will give me N10, 000 but I should write a receipt of N12, 000 because of his wife. Apparently, his wife had given him N12, 000 but the cost of what he wanted me to do for him was N10, 000. Another issue was the case of a man who was going to the East and gave his Pastor money to help him get a place. He trusted the man’s judgement and committed his money into his hands. When we got the place, the Pastor asked me to write extra N40, 000 on the bill but I asked him, for what purpose?
What a lot of people don’t know is that there is no secret in this business. The landlord and tenant will eventually meet and your secret will be found out. Whether the tenant is antagonistic or friendly towards the landlord, if as an agent you lie, you will be found out and it belittles you. I recently rented out some houses for one year but a woman came and said she wants to pay for two years. I told the landlord about this and he gave me his permission to collect the money.
Unfortunately, the woman is a trouble maker and announces to everyone in the compound that she has paid for two years. Imagine if I had lied to the landlord or not told him that the woman was paying for two years! I would be in trouble by now and all the trust and work have been doing over the years will just go down the drain! In this business, trust is valuable!
NREH: Hmmmm…. True! Thank you so much sir. It’s really been great having this chat with you. Thank youPREV 1 2 3