There is a general misconception on careers in real estate. I recently spoke to a group of young people who spoke derisively about the profession, describing it as “hustlers who don’t even know the landlords and are going from house to house looking to make small change.” There are a number of these informal estate agents who at best have tenuous relationships with property owners and for the most part act as go-betweens between tenants and principal agents. These agents interact with many people and end up serving as the public face of the industry, but this is not a true representation of our profession. When you go just below the surface, you find that there is more to a real estate career than hanging banners advertising a property “To Let” or “For Sale”.
There are a variety of roles in the real estate profession that are suited to a diversity of skill sets and personality types. To begin with, real estate agency and brokerage are the best known aspects of the industry because they are the customer facing roles. In the housing market, this aspect is responsible for the marketing and selling of buildings. Most often you find personable and tenacious personalities being very successful in these roles. They combine the right amount of sales ability and knowledge to find their client the best property suited for their needs. In the commercial market, the profile is slightly more geared towards corporate clients. Ideal candidates for these roles have working experience in areas such as banking or consulting and hence are used to dealing with clients that they interact with in these roles. Requirements are more stringent and so is the need for process and methodology accompanied by financial acumen either in investments or finance (the ability to use Microsoft Excel for instance is a must).
Another role in the industry is valuation. These professionals assess the true value of a property utilizing different approaches including the comparative method, discounted cash flow, residual value, and/or reinstatement method, just to name a few. Obtaining an additional certification such as being a registered member of the NIESV (Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers) or the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) is a mandatory requirement for acceptance and success in this role. Valuers are key for investors seeking to acquire or dispose of individual properties or a portfolio of assets. They also play a key role for developers seeking to maximise the value of their land and potential/upcoming projects.
As more people look for solid investment advice, a growing field in the real estate space is around real estate advisory or strategic consulting. Those with great research and forecasting skills tend to excel in this area. They can suggest the best areas and property types to meet a real estate investor’s expectation and can provide guidance on future appreciation values. A good foundation for those in real estate advisory and consulting is often past experiences in strategic consulting firms or roles in asset management.
Asset managers are all about extending the useful life of the asset within their portfolio in order to maintain or increase portfolio values and profitability. This role involves professionals that manage tenancy – ensuring the property is occupied by negotiating leasing and adequately addressing tenants’ needs. They also involve Property/Facility Managers who manage the property, service the facilities to ensure the properties remain in the best shape, thus maintaining its value (key issue for asset managers). Successful property managers have excellent interpersonal skills. The role also requires analytical skills and the ability to multitask and manage projects. Property management is quite fun as no two days are exactly alike! Many entering the real estate industry might find that they learn very quickly about the industry within this role.
The real estate industry also has development and construction roles. Widely known in the industry thanks to the number of construction sites all over Nigeria, construction and development profiles span various skill sets. From architects to engineers, to electricians and plumbers; the works! All these profiles fall under the development and construction umbrella. Holding the construction site together however are Project Managers, another unique skill set in the industry. Project managers oversee the construction site and ensure that the various teams are interacting adequately and delivering their work on time, at the right quality and of course within budget. The construction sites could also involve real estate entrepreneurs, local and international investors, hotels/industrial/retail etc. specialists and so on.
The key message here is that there are many roles within the real estate industry where people with specialized skill sets or individuals seeking to remain as generalists, can plug in and become successful in a career oriented environment. There is definitely much more to the industry than hanging a “To Let” or “For Sale” banner on a gate.