Emeka Uzoeto is the Chairman and CEO of 1st Homes Limited. A company he floated a few years ago to tackle the deficit in the housing sector. And today, he has been able to provide enough houses for many people, who dream of quality and standard houses. His area of concentration is Lekki, Osapa London. He has built more than 70 houses there in the last few months. Who is this man? He is a Chief, but he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. His chieftaincy title is Ede and that is the insignia on his Rolls Royce’s plate number. Last week, this brilliant man told City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and City People’s Senior Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE, how he started real estate business and how it has been since then. Enjoy.
Tell us about your real estate experience and why you decided to go into the sector?
Actually, I never dreamt of going into real estate business because it’s a very risky and stressful business. Before now, I have some properties such as Plaza and Shopping Malls, which I have developed in the past, believing that I would be making much income from them that would keep my life going, but as inflation came in and naira depreciated, that downturn development induced me to fully come into the sector and I have made an impact on the economy by employing so many people. Thus making life better for them.
I started with building shopping malls. I have many shopping complexes. I have always had it in mind that even when I get old, I could have something doing, but when the inflation came in, I had to dabble into building and selling property, business, employing people, paying people and contributing to peoples livelihood.
How has recession affected the real estate sector, because many people believe that if there is recession people should build more, buy more houses. How valid is this theory?
I wouldn’t say that it is valid because what drives the economy is financial power. If you don’t have financial power, where would you get the money to buy property and moreover, the cost of house development has gone up. Wages for labourers, artisans and prices of housing materials have gone up. Price of cement has gone up. Before, we used to buy cement about 1,300 naira. Now, it is 2,600 naira. At a point this year, we bought iron rod for 2 hundred thousand naira, but its price has come down now. The rising cost of building materials is not good for business, but we are also hoping for relief as the economy seems to be getting better. If the economy improves, real estate sector would benefit immensely from it. Whether you are into importation business, agriculture and other sector.
What can government do to help the sector (Real estate)?
Of course, so many areas in the sector need government assistance. Number one, in this country, we don’t have incentives, you are on your own, nobody cares. There are so many things government needs to do. The mortgage banks are not lending us loans. Cement is very expensive because it has been monopolised by a single individual. Government should encourage people to go into production of cement, so that the grip of monopoly will slaken. Government should encourage us by pumping more money into the sector.
Tell us a bit about what you have done so far?
(Smiles) I have done much. Within a space of one to two years. I have been able to produce more than 70 houses, and that’s within a year.
Can you do more than that?
As I said earlier, the economy is not so good, if we are encouraged by the government, of course, I will do more.