Mr Ohis Asein is the Managing Director of Lucent Homes and Properties. He was a capital market operator, with a speciality in portfolio management. In this interview with franktalknow, he speaks on his experiences both in stockbroking and in the real estate business.
You were in the capital market space for a long time, what informed your shift to the homes and properties business?
Yes, I was in the capital market business for a long time. The business is quite good, but you can also make a loss as was the case in Nigeria some years back. There were many big capital investors that went into liquidation, some even died. No matter how much you invested, just one policy summersault could make you lose everything. We lost hundreds of millions of hard-earned money, both personal and clients’ money in the capital markets. The real estate business is less volatile. As a matter of fact, the best investment on earth is the earth itself. People will always need a house, so the probability of missing it in the homes and properties business is very low.
In fact, there was something I discovered. I bought a piece of land for about N300,000 around 2002 in the Mowe axis of Ogun State. As of today, the property is worth almost N10 million. Meanwhile, the millions that we invested in the capital market, a lot of them are yielding zero returns years after. So we’ve lost all those. Land appreciates. You see, land investment is the most comfortable business that I’ve engaged in that has never given me stress. There was a time, I was involved in the media. I had a television station, IPTV, meaning Internet Protocol Television. I came with very unique technology. We wanted to provide services that would allow people to watch movies, and TV stations via their phones without the use of data. That was our technology and focus, but regulators and big players that saw us as a threat did not allow it to see the light of the day. But in the real estate business, property appreciates. It is about the only investment whose value never depreciates. This informed the establishment of Lucent Homes and Properties which formally began operations on the 15th of January 2021.
What makes Lucent Homes and Properties different from other real estate businesses around?
Our vision is to create a smart estate for our clients, thus enabling them to do virtually everything from the comfort of their homes. Remember working from home has become the trend since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to make it easy for people to work from home. That is why we are investing heavily in fibre technology. The aim is to reduce the problem of hitches to the barest minimum which is usually why we have unstable internet connectivity in this part of the world.
Besides, we also have land banking investment packages for our clients. And this comes in the range of Gold, Diamond and Platinum. People can invest between N100,000 and N100 million and get interesting returns that range from 36 per cent to 40 per cent per annum depending on their initial investment. Under this programme, we buy land, get deeds of assignment, secure your money and at the end of the year, you get your money back with interest. We just inaugurated members of our Advisory Council. This is a solid team of men of integrity with a very strong pedigree.
We have the likes of Surveyor Abiodun Awofeko, the CEO of Quest Consolidated Limited Nigeria, a multi-award winner both locally and internationally, Mr. Ilesanmi Philips Owoeye, a First Class graduate and multi-award-winning finance professional with over three decades of experience, the last three posts being ED, Pacific Bank/Unity Bank, Regional CEO and later Director of Consumer Banking, UBA GROUP. Owoeye is currently the CEO, PROCAPITOS INVT GROUP. We have Mr Bode Oloruntoba, a chartered broker, chartered banker, chartered accountant, and administrator, now at Trinity University, Lagos.
Also on the list are Engineer Peter Onyeri, a civil engineer and Chartered Project Consultant. He worked for over three decades in the Aviation sector and rose to the position of GM; Mr Greg Esangbedo, a barrister, Corporate Lawyer and former Company Secretary, Bank PHB, UBA, KPMG, and Mr Imaobong Etuk, a chartered accountant and banker. So, Lucent has a crop of trustworthy Nigerians on its board and this should give our clients the confidence that we are not just there to do real estate as business as usual.
Don’t you think having an advisory board that probably has to approve your plans before executing them can slow down your work process?
From my background as an economist and my experience in the Nigeria Capital Market, I understand what it means to have credible people on board. And I will advise anyone that wants to succeed in business to get people of like minds to support their dreams because you cannot carry the vision alone. There’s a point where you have to start by yourself, and then get to the point where people will support you. And they will not support you unless they believe in your vision. But you must not pick any supporters unless they have value to add to your business. You must not form your board based on sentiment, by bringing on your family and friends into the business. Because if they don’t add anything, the business could crash.
Where do you aspire to be in the next 10 years?
There is this saying, ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’ As humans, we aspire to be the best, but providence determines where we’ll be. So as I said, we were making heavy investments in capital markets and other ventures, yet there was nothing much to gain. But in real estate, we started with nothing and we foresee reaping bountifully by the end of the day. And with the kind of collaborations and the synergy with people, we believe that in the next two years, the Lucent Homes brand will give some real estate companies some concern.
With the rising unemployment in the country, how can the average Nigerian youth tap into the real estate sector and be successful?
The real estate sector is wide and has plenty of opportunities. No one can tap all the abundant opportunities in the business. You can start with marketing and collect commissions. For example, at Lucent Homes, we give as high as 15 per cent for direct sales to whoever brings a buyer. Other referrals also collect from three to one per cent. So just imagine if a youth gets a 15 per cent commission for land that was sold for N10 million. That is about N1.5 million as a commission. That is a lot of money. If you consider our system, where our minimum wage is about N30,000, and even some states are struggling to implement it. So imagine how many years of wage you’ll work to earn N1.5 million. Meanwhile, as a youth going into real estate marketing, all you have to do is contact a friend or family abroad who needs trusted companies to buy land from. And that it is where Lucent Homes come in.
So what business advice can you share with youths planning startups?
Youths should come into the real estate business. And they should believe in themselves. Don’t shy away from marketing. We are all marketers and everyone is selling. Even as a young man, when you go talk to a girl, you’re selling yourself to her. So as a youth, if you can only cultivate the habit of selling, then you’ll make a lot of money in the real estate sector.
But if you want to come in and start as a real estate company, then that would be a huge and challenging task. Because you will have gotten a lot of experience in life. You must be extremely patient. You must not be greedy for immediate gain, because it might take you time before you break even. For example, at Lucent Homes, we are still building, so it is a lot of investment. But, over time, the money will start rolling in. The most important thing is to keep creating value.