By NBF News
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Mr. Victor Ayeye, national officer of the Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and head of practice, Victor Ayeye and Co. Estate Surveyors and Valuers, has given a panacea for the housing problem in the country.

He said that until the access to land is liberalised, the cost of accommodation would continue to soar. He spoke on this and others.

How would you describe the state of industry?
The estate surveying industry has been one that is very interesting and challenging. It is interesting, in the sense that you are doing what you like despite the fact that it's challenging because the expectation of the practitioners are not yet met.

What are the expectations?
In this part of the world, people you will expect to patronise the professionals don't, because they don't understand why they must use professionals and at times when you talk to those who should know, you discover that they still patronise the quacks, thinking it's a short cut. So, this is part of the expectations.

But there is high cost of accommodation…
This issue has been coming up every time, and I know it is a widely held opinion, which is wrong. But I must tell you most sincerely that we are the people, the professionals that actually persuade owners of property to come down on the rent expectations. However, the fact still remains that this same clients are the same people who bring about the hike because when we advise our clients, the owners of property and we tell them a particular price is not realistic, we will be shocked to hear, sooner than later, that the same property has gone for the price he is expecting and you now see us as people who do not know what we are doing. However, that being the case, the real underlining cause of soaring rent everywhere is that there is more demand than supply. There is an economic force, and whatever the case maybe, when there is more demand than supply, prices go up naturally and automatically. So, it is not about us; it is about the dictates of the market, which is the forces of demand and supply.

How can government tame the rising cost of accommodation?

What the government can do is very simple. I have said again and again, at different fora I had opportunity to speak, that the government should do two things. One, the subject of accommodation itself is the land; without land, there cannot be any building. So, government should make land available and affordable. It should be available in a way that the procedure for acquiring land will not be cumbersome and devoid of administrative bottleneck, which makes it easy for only the rich to have access to it. It should be affordable, so that the prices will be reasonable. If it is available and affordable, then we are getting there. Also, anywhere land is located, there should be infrastructural provisions, and we know in developed countries of the world that these infrastructure might not be made available only by the government. Our government should go into private partnership, that is Private Public Partnership (PPP). When there are private partners, then they can partner the government on the provision of infrastructure and, directly or indirectly, the people will pay for this infrastructure.

People are happier when they pay for what they see and enjoy.

The houses by private developers are still beyond the reach of the masses. Why?

The reason is that the system has degenerated so much and to a very large extent, even when the private developers are coming in and the PPP is on ground, it will not show yet. Let me give you an instance. It is as if a hole has been dug and you want to build a storey building. The first thing to do is to fill the hole. So, what is being done now is filling of the hole; so at a point in time when this thing continues and is consistent, then you will understand that it has effect. Let also point out something here specifically, that in terms of housing, for instance, which is mass housing unit, there should be machinery in place to really moderate it, to really streamline who gets what. When there is mass housing and one moneybag gets there and buys 1000 units, he will still sell at his own price; he will still dictate the price. Government should see to the allocation strictly and make sure that this thing gets to the end users, and not those who will trade with it.

What's the relationship between body of appraising and cost engineers and estate valuers?

There is no relationship whatsoever; never. When we say property or land, land is anything on, under and above the surface of the earth, even if it is superjacent and subjacent in nature, and the only people authorised, legally backed to value property are estate surveyors and valuers and we derived our power from Decree No 24 of 1975. The NIESV is the umbrella body, while the regulatory body is called the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Regulatory Board of Nigeria.

So, in the past, the Nigerian Society of Engineer has come forward to say that they want to value property and machinery. Government has empowered us, and our experience and education have empowered us to be the only professionals doing this. So, the group that calls itself the Institute of Appraisal and Cost Engineers is not made up of estate valuers. I want to tell the public that they should not be deceived. The only people who have the training, the legal backing to carry out evaluation and costing of property are the estate surveyors and valuers. Any other person who does that is just doing so at his own peril. The appraisers and cost engineers are fake. They are not recognized. As far as we are concerned, the only legal body that can value property, that can fix the open market value, that can really value plant and machinery, is the group made up of members of NIESV. Let me say this, for the sake of record, that sometimes back, the Nigerian Society of Engineers tried it. We took them to court, and they lost. As far as that ruling is concerned, which still stands, estate surveyors and valuers are the only people recognised to carry out valuation of land, building, plants and machinery, even aircraft.

Rent and high commission have become a major issue. What role do you members play in this?

It is not possible for any agent to take more than the owner of the property. I must tell you that estate surveyors are the professionals that will not charge commission indiscriminately; that is why we are saying, do not patronise quacks. In estate surveying and valuation, no matter how much the property is, we have a scale of fees that is approved by the Federal Government. So, our scale is based on this approved scale, and most at times our fees are proportional. It 's five per cent as agency fees, for acting as your agent. If we act as agent for you before you get the property taken, we have incurred cost; we have advertised the property; we have put our staff on the road to go and market the property; we have put this thing in newspapers; run an advert on the pages of newspaper. These are costs.

However, we only charge you when we have concluded transactions. Quacks charge you before you start the transaction. Before they even take you out to go and inspect, you must pay a fee. In our own case, there are instances we take more than 10 people out and only one pays; it is only that successful person's fee we earn. But when quacks, take 100 people out, they must collect money from all of them, whether they get the accommodation or not. What I am saying, in essence, is that you pay more when you pass through the backdoor.

What advice do you have for government on the provision of affordable mass housing?

To provide affordable mass housing, the procedure must be simple and direct. One, let land be allocated to people who are ready and willing to build houses. Two, let there be an arrangement between these people on how to get funds, mortgage, a sort loan from the banks. They can use that land as collateral to get funds, develop. Also, government should invest in mass building, sell and allow people to pay in installments. It is only government that can do that. Government should provide enabling environment for industries. They should encourage the setting up of building material industries, such that the price of building materials will be low. When the prices of building materials are low, people can afford to buy materials to build, and when they build, in that wise, automatically, it will affect the cost, because it will bring down the cost of construction.