Interview with Nigerian Real Estate Company- Fourscore Homes MD, Mr Femi Osibona
-What was the vision behind setting up Fourscore Homes Ltd
Fourscore Homes started in London (Hackney) in 1997. I bought a House on New Cross Road which i renovated, behind it, I bought a plot and I was able to develop that plot into my first real estate project, that was how i started building houses for sale.
I also noticed that many Nigerians at that time were reluctant to go into construction but i believed anything was possible with God on my side.
I developed over 50 projects in London and Manchester, from there, we went to South Africa and built a number of Estates. After developing so many properties abroad, i decided to come back to my country of birth, Nigeria, and contribute my own quota to positive development.
Apart from developing residential houses, Fourscore homes also deals in residential light fittings and other building Materials.
-What does your company stand for? As a business what are your core values?
We are really passionate about value creation, we want everyone who purchases real estate from us to derive maximum value for their money. To achieve this, we go all out to ensure we chaperone the entire process from design to completion, ensuring that we adhere to best practice while minimizing our costs. This way we are able to deliver high quality units at the best value for money.
-The real estate landscape in Nigeria has changed dramatically in the last 20years, would you say more developers are focusing on luxury properties instead of affordable housing?
Yes, many developers build Luxury houses because they believe that the demand for such properties is high, This is however not the case anymore. There is a huge housing deficit of 17 Million Housing units in Nigeria, the world bank recently provided a conservative estimate that this would cost about 60 trillion Naira. This estimate is based on N3.5m Per unit. It is obvious that the deficit is for mass affordable housing and not luxury housing.
However, due to infrastructure deficits, land in areas where there is adequate infrastructure is expensive . Also people generally don’t want to spend money providing roads, electrification etc as this is primarily the responsibility of the government.
Consequently they want to maximise the returns on investment from their "expensive land" and quickly too. That is why you find many people building the kind of houses that will help them maximise return on their investment.
- There is currently an abundance of luxury housing in Nigeria which is out of reach to the common man, what do you think is the solution to creating more affordable housing to meet the pressing demand?
The Government needs to do more with access to affordable single digit Mortgages.
The Government (especially the State governments) who hold land also need to go into partnerships with private developers. A situation where the government will provide land for developers in return for a hugely discounted houses is desirable.
Another thing the government can also do to assist and support is to simplify and speed up approval processes.
Really, the Government should not be involved in building houses that cost N40million in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000. I think anyone who wants to buy a 40 Million naira house should be able to do that himself. Low cost housing should not cost more than 3-5million Naira.
- How has Fourscore Homes played its part in addressing the housing deficit in Nigeria?
Since we arrived in Nigeria, we have built over 400 housing units in Ikoyi, Ikeja, Ogudu, Isheri, Ogun State and Abuja and we are not about to stop.
-Arguably, Nigeria is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Do you think that the value of these properties is sustainable in the long term?
What normally determines the price of properties is demand and supply especially for debt free houses which dominate the Nigerian real estate space.
As long as the government continues to develop infrastructure, roads, electrification, etc, upmarket real estate will continue to sustain its prices. If there will be a drop, it will only be marginal.
-Please tell us about some of the properties you have developed, how much would you say they are worth in total?
Remember that we don’t hold on to most of our properties. We develop and sell, but based on the present value of all the properties we have developed, they are worth over 40 Billion Naira.
We developed the Fourscore Mansions in London , the Shalom Apartments in Ikoyi, Nigeria and several housing units all over, Lagos, Ogun state and Abuja.
-What do you think of the Government’s efforts at housing development in Nigeria?
I am aware that Lagos state has done so much at PPP developments.
Lagos state should do more and other states should also do this.
When Government gives out Land to develop mass housing, this goes a long way to reduce the cost of development and definitely brings house ownership within the reach of the masses.
-What is the future of real estate development in Nigeria?
I believe the future is very bright, if the Government gets it right. We need to start from the basics, If the Government performs better in terms of providing the much needed infrastructure, it will attract more foreign direct investments and the sky is the limit.