Demography key factor in Nigeria’s real estate sector’s evolution – Bartholomew Egbochie


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Despite the challenges in the operating environment, experts are projecting growth in the real estate sector. Mr Bartholomew Egbochie, the Chief Executive Officer of ATCO Homes, a fast-rising real estate company, talked about the Nigeria real estate sector, the prevailing economic reality, the prospects for investors and how his firm emerged a winner at the International Property Awards (IPA) and the International Standards Excellence Awards. 

Q. Interest in the Nigerian real estate sector has peaked in the past decade, especially the periods before the pandemic. What can you say is responsible for the major growth in the real estate sector?

A. You are right. There has been a major growth in the real estate sector. To be candid, Nigeria’s demography, the massive movement of people from rural to urban areas and subsequent redistribution of land rights and properties have aided the real estate sector’s evolution. Currently, Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million people, out of which, 52% have settled in the urban areas. The population settling in the urban areas is expected to peak further, increasing to 85% in the year 2050. There have been an impressive expansion of cities and the development of new ones with its attendant housing, infrastructure and service needs. That should interest every curious investor. These are factors contributing to the growth of the real estate sector.

Q. Aside the growth in population and movement of people from rural to urban areas, the consequent rise in infrastructure, housing demands, what other factors are responsible for the growth of the real estate sector?

A. The introduction of focused laws, institutions, and rejig in the policy environment have also aided the evolution of Nigeria’s real estate sector. Take, for instance, the introduction of the land use Act of 1978 which harmonised the different land use policies, customary practices and rights to land for the formation of the land tenure system. The land use act vested the powers to allocate and control the use of land on different tiers of the government. This gave room for the privatization. As well, the establishment of institutions such as Ministries and Agencies of Land and Physical Planning across different tiers of government has further improved access to land and real estate investments in the country. 
Precisely, in recent times, the real estate market has benefited from government policies targeted at diversifying the economy, which has resulted in significant infrastructure spending.

Q. Despite the level of growth in the sector, challenges remain. What are the challenges confronting the sector? 

A. I must let you know that despite the challenges, we have been able to come up with innovative operating models that focus on the effective use of digital solutions and public-private collaborations to deliver return on investments for investors. Meanwhile, the critical challenges confronting the sector remain the high cost of land acquisition and development, infrastructure deficit, a few regulatory processes that need review which I believe the government, because of its focus on creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, is looking into. 

Like I said, although these challenges hamper efficiency in the sector, we keep scaling our models to ensure we make our customers happy. What stands ATCO Homes out, however, is our transparent, honest way of doing business. We are also big on innovation, adoption of tech, modern design, use of quality building materials and pursuit of a sustainable, eco-friendly environment across our estates. For those reasons we were recognised at the International Property Awards that held in Dubai and the World Quality Assurance awards organised in Abuja recently. 

Q. The International Property Award is highly reputed. It recognises the best among real estate firms across the world. Can you expatiate more on your company’s recognition?

A. The International Property Awards prioritise as part of its selection criteria, quality of design, construction and presentation of individual properties and property developments, interiors, architecture and marketing. ATCO Homes’ Angle Blue Estate emerged top in the residential unit category of the awards for the African region after a careful scrutiny by the IPA panel of judges. The panel adjudged the estate the best in its category, taking into consideration its impressive location and superior sustainability, design architecture, marketing and security features. We are excited by the recognition. The award underlines our commitment to helping our growing investor base achieve their aspiration of owning a home in choice areas and building real estate investment portfolios that meet various architectural designs, quality and sustainability standards. The award has galvanized us to do more.

Q. You were recognised at the recent Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) Recognition & Award Night for exceptional industry performance. Tell us briefly about your entry into the real estate sector.

A. It feels great to be recognised by industry colleagues. It shows we are getting things right at ATCO Homes. Our excellent performance is down to my belief. I believe entrepreneurship is about people – engaging with people, helping people solve a problem, helping people find joy. I have always been willing to offer solutions to people’s pain-points before looking out for personal gains. The strategic model for need recognition stands out for me. I sense. I serve. I satisfy my clients. Entrepreneurship was drilled into me by my dad and my brother from adolescence. However, before venturing into the real estate sector I was involved in dredging, building barges, amongst others. Long story short, my wife was a key factor in my real estate journey. My wife invited me to a fresh, bold world. She is intelligent and caring. She has always wanted the best for me.
We used to live in Warri. So we started considering moving to Lagos. I would visit Lagos and return to Warri every other week. I needed to explore viable dredging sites to locate my business in the new city. I visited various communities. I broker a deal with some community leaders. One of the communities offered me their site. The deal was complex. I would dredge sand for them; they would offer me lands in return. I didn’t think this arrangement made any business sense. I thought about walking away from the proposal. When I got back home, I picked up the phone to speak with my wife who was in Benin. I mentioned a new community that offered to give me land if dredged sand for them. I told her that the arrangement didn’t make any sense. I was wrong. My wife told me there was an opportunity in the proposal. Those conversations led to the formation of my new business – real estate. It was also the starting point for ATCO Homes.
Q. What does the future hold for the real estate sector in Nigeria?

A. The Nigeria real estate sector will, for the foreseeable future, continue to serve as a lucrative investment platform, offering incentives in form of rents, and profits, especially when an investor sells an appreciated property at a profit. The sector will also keep providing an assuring pathway to diversifying investment portfolios. This is because of Nigeria’s population growth, continued movement of people from rural to urban areas, in addition to the demand for new infrastructure to meet the growth demands. However, a perfect understanding of the spatial and socioeconomic terrains, as well as trends in target locations, is crucial to making a rewarding portfolio decision in the real estate sector.

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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