Ayobayo Babajide is a brilliant Lagos real estate practitioner. He is on top of his game. City People recently spoke to him about the real estate industry and how Covid-19 has changed the game. He revealed a lot.
How has Covid-19 affected the Real Estate industry?
Covid-19 has had an impact on the Real Estate industry. Regarding sales, there has been an increase in distress sales caused by people who are desperate to sell their properties to meet financial needs caused by the effects of the pandemic on business.
On rentals, many tenants are having difficulties in renewing their rents. Landlords have had to be lenient on tenants regarding the collection of rents. Payments spread of rents and similar options have been adopted.
What is your advice to real estate practitioners at a time like this?
There are a few suggestions for Real Estate practitioners this period. Simply put, Real Estate Practitioners have to Re-skill and Re-tool.
Under Re-Skilling, the first and perhaps the most important skill Real Estate practitioners have to learn is the ability to learn, unlearn and re-learn. There are things we used to do for years that drastically have to change. We have to learn what now works and make use of what works. A basic example is that in-person Real Estate training was the norm. Now, most training are virtual. Practitioners have to learn this.
Another skill to they have to learn is the right usage of the internet. Customers are now online and the is the need to meet them there. Digital marketing, especially through social media is now more important than ever. Real Estate practitioners have to know how to commence, continue and consummate real estate transactions virtually.
Yet, another skill for Real Estate practitioners to learn this period is Management skills. This entails management of people, processes and resources. Staffs, clients and networks have to be managed to make an effective this period so as not to negatively impact one’s business. Processes have to be more managed as they are not as they use to be. The modus operandi of relating to government ministries has changed. Thus, processes need to be aligned accordingly. Resources have to manage appropriately so they are not depleted beyond what the business could bear. Real Estate practitioners need to look for cheaper, more effective alternative and run their business in a way that is affordable to the client.
With respect to Re-tooling, one of the most important tools every Real Estate practitioner must have is a good phone. Some qualities of such a phone to be considered “good” is a good camera/picture quality, large memory space and long-life battery. Practitioners should then learn how to make use of such phones. Good apps for video editing, flier designing, picture editing, etc could be downloaded on the phone.
Another “tool” practitioners should have are good Social media platforms – different from personal social media platforms. A good social media presence rightly used is a good asset to any Real Estate company.
Appearance is important in the Real Estate business. Clothes and accessories are, therefore, good tools Real Estate practitioners should endeavour to get.
Other tools that practitioners could have are Cameras, drones, and a good car. All these are great tools.
To assist Real Estate practitioners to re-skill at this period, the Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria (AEAN) under the auspices of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) partnered with Facebook via the Digivate 360 program to organise a Digital Marketing training for all Real Estate practitioners. The programme was held on August 7th & 8th, 2020 and was attended by over 500 Nigerian Real Estate practitioners, who joined from various states in Nigeria as well as from Ghana, South Africa, Canada, United States of America and the United Kingdom. The programme exposed practitioners to how to make, manage and multiply customers, commission and the online community via Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
What should be the New Normal for Real estate practitioners?
The New Normal for Real Estate practitioners should mean a period of creativity, maximisation of time and care for self. On creativity, Real Estate practitioners are to seek more creative ways to connect and communicate with clients and customers to move forward. For inspections, in the new normal, virtual tours are becoming popular. People are taking good quality videos of properties to send to clients or, at least, do a real-time WhatsApp video call to clients in a different part of the country or the world.
For those who could afford the services, Real Estate practitioners are making use of 360 degree pictures, virtual reality videos of properties and augmented reality videos to make their clients fully appreciate the Real Estate product to be purchased.
On maximization of time, Real Estate practitioners are to seek how to maximise their time at this period. Google maps could be used to assist clients to know the distance between the property to be purchased and important social amenities to the particular customer. Google earth can assist to have a virtual view of the property to be inspected. The location pin could be sent to the client to see the neighbourhood of the property to be purchased or rented. There are other easy-to-use Apps that could be used by clients to maximise time.
On care for self, there is a need for Real Estate practitioners to take care of their physical and mental health. Physically, long hours of work, meetings and Seminars could pose a threat to one’s physical health. One may also be tempted to live a sedentary lifestyle, which also has negative consequences on the physical health of the Real Estate Practitioner.
The mental health of the Real Estate Practitioner is very key. Many have developed anxiety disorder or depression as a result of the pandemic. It is good for Real Estate practitioners to ensure they take care of their mental health.
Do you see the Real Estate sector bouncing back?
Yes. I see real Estate sector bouncing back. In fact, it is gradually bouncing back. We are beginning to see an increase in foreign direct investment in Real Estate by Nigerians in diaspora. This will assist to hasten the recovery of the Nigerian Real Estate sector.
How did Tope Babade cope with the COVID-19 Lockdown? What strategies did he deploy?
In coping with the pandemic, the first thing we did was to try to understand the pandemic, project its effects and plan accordingly. It will be difficult for anyone to rightly react to what one does not understand. In seeking answers to questions on the pandemic, we sought information from recognised institutions on the pandemic like the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, the African Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.
Second, we moved our operations Virtually. Internally, we held meetings and had internal communications via online platforms. Our office WhatsApp group became more active, and we held Monday meetings via Zoom. However, there were difficulties with data connectivity at some times as some members of staff were in places where data connectivity was low. We, therefore, held Conference calls on some meetings or do partial Zoom meeting and conference calls for those with internet connectivity issues. That way, we were able to take everyone along despite the telecommunication infrastructure deficit.
With clients, emails, phone calls and WhatsApp messages were used to communicate with clients. Our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – all with the name @topebabadeandco were revamped and our online property page was upgraded.
Third, we especially reached out to all clients from time to time to check up on them and to see ways we could be of help
For properties we manage, we assisted in mediating between property owners and tenants on possible concessions on either side.
Fourth, for all our properties, we had videos and pictures to assist buyers make informed buying decisions.
Finally, we gave back to the society by participating in outreaches where we assisted in giving food and palliatives to indigent Lagosians and we were part of Covid-19 awareness campaigns to markets to sensitise traders on the Coronavirus pandemic and how to prevent the spread of the virus. We facilitated a number of free trainings to educate Real Estate practitioners on the best way to maximise the pandemic. To the glory of God, I was also appointed a Member of the African Youth Front on Coronavirus (AYFC), under the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy.
Ayobayo Babade is the Legal Adviser & Head, Business Development of Tope Babade & Co (Real Estate Consultants), the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria (AEAN), Lagos State Chapter as well as a Member of the African Youth Front on Coronavirus (AYFC) under the office of the African Union Youth Envoy.