Wrothams Windsor is a global brand in property investment and asset management. In this interview with Paul Obi, the Group Managing Director of the company, Richard Priye Vedelago, spoke about the potential of Nigerian property markets, misconceptions about Dubai market and public sector investment in properties and housing
From the background of Wrothams Windsor, the company has vast areas of investment both in the private and public sector, what is so special about the company itself?
Well, Wrothams Windsor is a property advisory firm; we aim to add a lot of value to clients investing in real estate by assisting them with every aspect of their purchase. Our main focus is advising Nigerian buyers on how to invest in the property market businesses both internationally and locally in high yielding property opportunities. Our business philosophy revolves around the notion that if a client takes money out of their pocket to invest in the real estate business, their property should appreciate in value at all times. What we are trying to achieve is to create a structural approach to investing in property where we can maximise returns on investment for our clients within a specific time frame. As a business, we try to cover every sub-sector in the property market from acquisitions, consultancy and asset management in order to give clients and developers the best advice and returns in the sector.
If you take a look at the property sector in Nigeria, there are speculations that the market is saturated and that there are no immediate returns in investment. What is your take on this position?
That is not true. It’s about getting the right property, and working with the right developer who delivers on time. The property game is very much like retail where it’s about location, location, location; it is important to invest in the right development in the right area. Properties in VI & Ikoyi in Lagos are still doing very well. Why? Because there is limited land, a high demand for real estate in that area, and with every evolving market place comes the need for better properties to be delivered into the market which we are seeing realized in Lagos at the moment. The market price realities have to be considered, as a lot of properties nowadays are being over priced due to lack of market research that is being done when conceptualizing and developing projects. Even in light of this it doesn’t mean that the bubble will burst anytime soon, we are still seeing high levels of buyers looking at in country investments because Nigeria’s strong internal revenue is keeping local demand high, and the devaluation of the Naira also making it more attractive to keep money in country.
With this development, and the robust investment in properties, how do you create the synergy needed to ensure returns for clients?
Well, we offer a full 360 degree service to our clients: everything from your product identification, to your legal, to your transactions process, we drive the whole process in-house from where you are so you never have to leave the confines of our offices to achieve your goals. In an ever-changing market place we work hard to make it as smooth as possible for our clients to engage in transactions of this kind. We work with the best service providers globally to enable clients to have access to every service they might require. Wrothams Windsor works with top tiered Nigeria banks to help structure mortgages, as well as lawyers for international advice, forex companies to help with money transfers; our ecosystem has been created to give stability and support to clients for that reason. Whether you walked into our Lagos, Abuja, Dubai or London offices, we are able to give the maximum exposure and advice in those areas, as our market knowhow and access to the top service providers means that you never have to leave the country to have access to that information, and our team is ready to convert that into reality, giving you the maximum stability and upside in the investments we provide.
If you look at the property business in Nigeria, there tends to be a movement between Dubai and Nigeria, London and Nigeria. What is so special with this transnational movement in property investment by Nigerians?
You’re looking at a totally different and more evolved market place where you’re talking about Nigerians being involved in the global property market place now. We are very well traveled and with that always had a relationship with the UK due to the fact that we are part of the commonwealth. The UK property market has always been a good investment due to the stability of the property sector and London is widely regarded as one of the best performing property markets globally, seeing huge capital appreciation in the last 5 years. We are talking of a market place that property prices are now 27% higher than the height of the credit boom in 2007 and a market place that is very resilient with a track record of rebounding to create more money for clients. We have also witnessed amazing rental returns in cities outside of London where we have seen the emergence of buy to let student accommodation due to a massive shortfall in the market, with returns of about 8% to 12% annually. Our investment business has always focused on identifying areas where we see a huge supply and demand disparity that allows clients to maximize their returns as a result. This is exactly why we are seeing this movement, as we Nigerians are becoming more international we are also keying into the reality that we should be diversifying our portfolios and tapping into opportunities that sometimes lie outside the shores of Nigeria. With the world now accessible to everyone we shouldn’t be left behind.
How can Nigerians key into such opportunities?
The opportunities are out there and we are seeing more educated Nigerians who care more about the return of investment proposition, with emphasis on safe and secure investments in real estate. When we look at opportunities in Dubai, we have seen a flooding of real estate opportunities in the Nigerian market as property development companies take advantage of high interest, as a result of the ease of travelling to the UAE. Therefore, we have seen high levels of investment go to Dubai with clients not seeing much upside from their investments because of the lack of transparency and misinformation clients receive once their buildings are completed. As a result we created our asset management division, which focuses on helping clients manage their pre existng assets to help optimize returns, and if required we then advise on how to aid them out of their investment. The premises is, if you made an unsatisfactory investment, or are not happy with the returns, our team in Dubai will help you evaluate your property and advise on the necessary steps to exit or help rent out your asset to enable you to get the returns on investment required.
Our company works with the best service providers in Dubai to help rent their properties and create a better understanding of the market place, with clients being able to do all this and manage their properties from our Lagos and Abuja offices. Dubai has a lot of opportunities but we need to understand what creates upside and good returns on investments over time, just because we have access to it doesn’t mean its always the right opportunity. Nigerians spend $2 billion a year in Dubai real estate, and when you look closely you will see that a lot of the assets there are dormant and not being sweated. Properties are like cars and if you do not use them or manage them well you will find out that you will start having issues with plumbing, electrical and many more problems that will become an expense to you. That is why we help manage these properties to maximize their returns and help clients not lose out on the money they should be getting on a day-to-day basis.
You are now familiar with the Nigeria market, what do you think is the greatest challenge?
I think the pricing and deliverables of property in the market place are our biggest issue; we need to change our mindset if we are going to look at optimizing the real estate sector here in Nigeria. It is important to establish a specific standard that understand the market overview and allows people to get a realistic valuation of the properties and land. When you really look at the Nigerian market place with over 200 million people the area of opportunity is right here on our doorstep. We have to create a market reality that is not based on an artificial measuring system which has been created over time by a flow of public sector funds in the real estate market and base it on an actual tangible supply and demand formula that really understands pricing vs demand vs finishing. The truth of the matter is anybody can wake up and build their own property with the mindset that their product is worth a lot more than the market reality and that is why we are seeing a very low occupancy rate in commercial buildings as a result of them being over-priced. The largest growth in Nigeria is spurred by the emerging middle class and the entrepreneurial nature that is seeing more small medium enterprises being created. If we can tap into that reality and create viable products people can afford, we are going to see more business being achieved. Property development is an economy of scale business which is focused on building and selling, there is no value on building something no one will buy and use because you have overpriced yourself out of the market. Being a property developer is about understanding the market reality and understanding what the market requires, we need to stop building and letting properties sit idle because we refuse to accept the market reality and maximize our opportunities by developing better properties that stand the test of time.
What is your own understanding about the Nigeria market regarding the public sector investment in housing and properties?
I think the government has to do more to create more affordable real estate products whether in the form of the actual property itself or the finance of the real estate sector as we are still paying over 20% for mortgages locally. We have seen mismanagement of public sector assets that could be yielding massive returns for the public sector and we are continuously trying to work with the federal and state governments to optimize the assets they have. We help to give advice and an overview to the public sector on where to invest in real estate, manage and maximize assets that have remained dormant or underutilized, and help divest and liquidate assets. Wrothams Windsor as a property advisory firm looks at how we can add value across all sectors of the real estate world for the long-term benefit of our clients.