Saturday, 23rd September 2023

‘Home ownership may become mere dream for average Nigerians If…’

By Debo Oladimeji
10 June 2023   |   3:03 am
Sir Chigozie Chukwudi Okafor is a real estate guru and the Chairman of Dynatech Group. He speaks on the challenge of home ownership in the country, saying the government needs to adjust levies and taxes on developers to encourage rapid industrialisation.

Chukwudi Okafor

Sir Chigozie Chukwudi Okafor is a real estate guru and the Chairman of Dynatech Group. In this interview with DEBO OLADIMEJI, he speaks on the challenge of home ownership in the country, saying the government needs to adjust levies and taxes on developers to encourage rapid industrialisation. Okafor, who started investing in the sector by building student hostels in Awka, Anambra State, but has now grown into building luxury homes in Lagos, also shares the story of how his firm has changed the face of real estate in Nigeria.

What attracted you into investing in real estate?

Beyond profit, it’s both futuristic and generational. As a business, it hardly fails. What is more interesting however is the fact that it is almost the only business that can be passed without stress to the next generation.

I started investing in real estate in the capital city of Awka in Anambra State. Owning student hostels in universities was the inaugural idea but I soon complemented that with buying and flipping viable lands in Asaba, Delta State. However, while traveling locally and internationally, it became clear to me that Lagos is the fastest-developing city in West Africa where any determined entrepreneur can decide to pitch his tent.
To what extent have you financially invested in real estate?

It has been a gradual climb in the last couple of years but Dynatech Homes comfortably sits on a $20 million empire. Given the projects we have lined up for the coming years and heavy investor interest from Europe, Asia and America, the billion-dollar mark is significantly in sight.

Who are your market targets?
The uncommon man, who lives and breathes luxury, and the average income earner, who is in search of affordable luxury.
So, when did you start selling El Palazzi?

We kicked off sales sometime in January this year. It was predominantly off plan sales by the way.

How affordable are your buildings?
Affordable as a word is pretty relative. I would say they are very affordable for any middle-class citizen looking to own a home in a moderately decent location in Lagos. To the wealthy, our homes are extremely cheap. For starters, however, a decent amount of planning and saving will be required to own one of our houses.

Are they all on one off sales or some are for rent?
A typical Dynatech Home construction is one of outright sale.  El Palazzi is one such example. However, we will be rolling out lease and rental units in the coming years as part of our expansionist moves.

What makes your own accommodation unique in what looks like a saturated industry?
Quite frankly, we have mastered the intricacies of real estate in this clime. For instance, I’m very keen on hitch-free construction as all protocols get duly observed. The goal was and remains to build luxury homes on budget so that many people can afford them.

However, a major game changer for us at Dynatech Homes is the fact that we pass very good titles to all our prospective home owners. I personally ensure that happens.

What are the challenges you are facing in the sector?
The bureaucratic nature of government processes can be frustrating in the very least. So, there is need for quick facilitation of land titles and documents for subsequent transactions.

So how have you been dealing with this challenge?
With government policies, I’m afraid only the government can adjust them. There is literally nothing we can do in that regard than to hope policies get more flexible with time. On our part as a company, we have lined up humongous projects that will guarantee a good distribution of value even in tough times as the existing legislation.

What can be done to make the sector more attractive to investors?
It is pretty straightforward. Government should partner with investors to build more infrastructures. Secondly, if not more importantly, the government needs to adjust levies and taxes levied on developers to encourage rapid industrialisation, which will in turn create more revenue for all involved including the government.

To be specific, the taxes are getting uncomfortably high on a daily basis, especially in Lagos, and this is a big turn-off for future investments and investors both local and foreign. To be realistic, real estate is not the only economic sector that generates money for any government, so why does it seem the emphasis is on this sector? If this is unaddressed and quickly, home ownership could soon become a dream the average man cannot actualise in a lifetime. Homes could become luxuries, which only the ultra-wealthy can afford. No democratic nation wants this.

Why do you think the cost of accommodation may keep going up?
I just shed light on the last paragraph on this. But to add to that, I urge the government to make loans available to key people to execute more developmental projects. If things like this don’t happen often, it won’t be funny to the masses as long as housing is concerned.

How have you been accessing funds so far?
I do other businesses like plastic recycling, plastic injection, moulding and production of viable brand household items, importation of power generators/industrial items and franchise ownership. These are the elementary blocks that finance most of the projects we carry out.

What about your foreign partners?
It’s a bilateral effort. I partner with the Chinese for expertise in production of some of our products. The Chinese, some Americans and a bunch of Europeans in return invest in our real estate development projects.

Tell us more about your new investment in Lagos Island?
I have been flipping real estate on Lagos Island but recently decided to go into development. We are warming the grounds with El Magnifico, which are 11 units of five-bedroom-detached duplexes in a 3000sqm. A new era of home ownership in Victoria Island is unfolding before all our eyes as the old style of shabby high rises will be almost antiquity with our new trend of luxury duplexes.

Why did you decide to go into the Island when you have not completed your investment in the Mainland?
It’s all about diversification in different locations. Growth comes with the tendency to test new grounds and explore uncharted territories in search of new possibilities.

Do you have enough resources to accomplish all these projects simultaneously?
My team and I have somehow managed to complete every project we started so far. So, by the grace of Almighty God, we are moving with faith.

What are your next moves?
Dynatech Heights and El Magnifico by Dynatech is the next big move. The former will be in the Mainland, commercially available for sale and rent while the latter will be exclusively for sale and on Victoria Island.

What are your overall goals?
The goal is to give average-income earners an opportunity to own a piece of luxury long-term or short-term in an environment decent enough for their mental health. Also, high networth individuals who prefer the company of progressive neighbours and neighbourhoods to solitary dwelling will find Dynatech Heights a soothing match for their taste.

While working on this project, my team at Dynatech Homes learnt that inasmuch as Nigerian consumers would readily grab standard housing designs, they were even more eager to own contemporary designs. This startling feedback urge my team to attempt to bring in designs reminiscent of what Nigerians see in Hollywood movies, social media and from their international travels.

To give them this standard without having to break their bank balances was the next goal. It all culminated in another grand experiment in 2018.
Following critical acclaim from industry maestros and encouraging feedback from the brand’s patrons, Dynatech Homes launched a mission to deliver housing in unusual fashion and designs.

The roofless top, appetising geometric spacing and canny choice of construction materials led to the creation of White House by Dynatech. Construction commenced in April of 2018 and exactly 10 months later, (three units of five-bedroom duplexes on three floors) were commercially available for eager homeowners.

It was in this era, some sublime five years ago, that I realised that I had indeed mastered the intricacies of delivering luxury at friendly costs. This mastery would go on to lead me to even more audacious projects.

In many ways, the Corporation Estate resembles Dynatech’s White House. To begin with, each of the four units of its duplexes consists of five bedrooms on three floors, a theme that has become another hallmark of Dynatech’s architectural creations.

Also noticeable is the fact that the buildings feature a flat roofless top that is devoid of the typical slant of traditional metallic roofing sheets. This trend would continue as we see in the subsequent ventures.