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Real estate investment is like cooking your favorite meal – Lerato Lekena-Okoro

The biggest value in Nigerian real estate would be quality buildings where certain baseline standards are met without warranting a hike in the prices as if it were a luxury listing.

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Lerato Lekena-Okoro

Out of the N2.14 trillion proposed capital expenditure in Nigeria’s 2020 budget, works and housing have the highest capital allocation of 12 per cent. Consequently, the expected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in the real estate sector has been put at 13.65 per cent from 2019 to 2022.

With real estate players being advised by experts to take advantage of this projection to reduce housing deficit in the country, Nigeria Today News chatted with Ms Lerato Lekena-Okoro, the CEO of Lerato & Adams Realty, one of the fast-rising real estate firms on what to expect in 2020. Excerpts:

NTN: May we meet you? 

My name is Lerato Lekena-Okoro, first, a business developer, then a real estate entrepreneur.

NTN: Tell us about Lerato and Adams 

We are a real estate brokerage based in Lagos Nigeria and committed to not only selling properties to clients but to match them with properties that yield cash flow as well as add up to make for a fulfilling portfolio for them.

Our goal is to continually cumulatively contribute our quota of support towards reducing the housing deficit as currently exists with as high as 100,000 houses by 2030.

NTN: That’s an ambitious target. There are so many realtors in Nigeria now, why should more Nigerians trust you?

Nigerians are a bit hard on getting to trust someone or something without a groundbreaking trend behind you; if we had this, I will very likely be sleeping a bit better already but this is our reality; of which in the past two years we have measured increasing ratios of trust amongst our existing and new customers. We now have clients who trust our expertise to invest in properties even when they have yet to view them.

The next stage of trust-building is in the area of off-plan developments and crowdfunding as a means of fundraising and investment vehicles for interested parties to also earn interest rates and/or equity shares in housing projects across most commercial states in Nigeria.

NTN: L&A has been quite consistent in trying to erase real estate investing myths. Why are you driven in that direction?

It’s the only way we know to make a difference in the mindset of the people we need to bring on board as subscribers to the real estate goals we have. So, for us, it’s a strategy to get closer and trusted by the clients we want to gain.

In giving our expertise for free, we are enabling them to experience our service even before they need to which in turn lands us in their subconscious mindset as the go-to vendor when the time is right.

NTN: We get the feeling that trust is the biggest value in the real estate business. Is that your selling point?

In a manner of speaking, trust is big, but not the only thing. In our opinion, the biggest value in Nigerian real estate would be quality buildings where certain baseline standards are met without warranting a hike in the prices as if it were a luxury listing.

NTN: Real estate companies leveraging digital media is quite proliferated, how are you making your business visible?

By putting out content, continuously looking for creative ways to showcase our skills and thoughts without having to compete or get drowned by the bigger or more established players.

NTN: Tell us about your e-book - Life In The Kitchen

My love for good food would be the single and strongest inspiration for this. In cooking, where you bring the various ingredients together to make the desired meal that nourishes you, the same applies for real estate investing too – to develop a successful investment tool, a number of things need to be brought together.

At the time I decided to write the book, it was to resolve the needs of people who had questions revolving around their not wanting to ‘get scammed’. Why do people get scammed or feel that they are being scammed? Because they don’t understand the elements and are taken advantage of in that regard; if you as an investor know what is meant to happen then the chances of you being taken for a ride will be highly reduced.

So the book’s contents are focused on those basic information pouches as needed for a potential, new and existing investor. We can’t refute that having the ebook has also proved helpful in bringing clients up to speed on what is needed or to be expected while investing in real estate.

A typical example would be when we had made an offer to a client for a piece of land they were looking to buy and when we told them (they were a couple) that they would need to pay for land documentation, they went berserk with accusations of us trying to con them into paying more money – which wasn’t the case. Clients who didn’t know but have read our ebook know this now.

NTN: Talking about challenges, what is the greatest one you have faced as a real estate entrepreneur?

In the beginning, knowing how to market and circulate our offerings without the ‘come and buy property’ was a big challenge. Whilst the intention is for clients to buy properties, communicating it like that is a hindrance to actually making sales.

To overcome this, we had to enlist for training, learning curves, research and even tutelage from people who were already making waves and all of which helped to reshape our mindset towards the opportunities in front of us.

Personally, I am a fan of industry achievers like Grant Cardone who tenaciously market their products shamelessly and with the confidence of knowing their craft.

NTN: Does being a lady make your job easier or tougher?

To an extent, it makes it tougher but we are now seeing greater adoption in the industry for female real estate industry leaders who are able to hold their own.

NTN: Will you like to share a bit about your background from your upbringing?

Growing up in a family of five kids, with both parents as doctors, life was presumed to be rosy for us. Yes, they worked mighty hard and long hours to ensure that we had a good standard of living but we also were taught that working to own your lives was the way forward. To the dismay of my dad, I grew up to like entrepreneurship a bit too much for my own good, when he wanted me to become a medical doctor.

My mom loved pretty homes and gardens so we always had a pile of subscription magazines in and around the house that now when I think back, it might have also contributed to why I grew up loving nice houses and interiors.

At some part of my life, I tried to establish an interior design and fabrication company but without the right resources, that fought me out of the market; so I left fabrication and switched to interiors where I executed a few contracts for clients to include the late General Adisa who was at the time running the Bekadims hotel in Ilorin. This further exposed me to large scale properties and I remember thinking how the hotel would always be a source of income to their family as long as the property on it was maintained.

Being somewhat of a restless soul at the time, I strayed yet again and this time into business development for enterprise businesses where I really fine-tuned all the raw knowledge I had of how business is done into documented expertise with results. I worked in experiential marketing, event design and coordination, logistics, fintech and EdTech to name a few.

Needing to earn extra income, as what brought me back to the world of real estate and this time, I was being recruited into a multi-level marketing program by the PWAN Homes company. Today, I think it’s safe to say that they are almost the largest real estate market developer for developing lands in Nigeria based on the number of sub-division companies they have collaboratively established.

And today, I am the founder for one of the upcoming real estate brokers with a vision to mitigate the housing deficit with creatively funded affordable housing projects.

NTN: What is the biggest project you are working on for 2020?

This would be the establishment of an SPV to start the development of housing developments for the middle and low-income classes in the country. Due to the enormous housing deficit, we have in Nigeria, the opportunity for this project is so huge and surprisingly we are getting even better adoption and embracing from potential partners and enablers.

NTN: We wish you the best in 2020

Thank you very much.

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