Real estate market is extremely diverse, yet lawyers focus only on sales and lettings
- Tosin Ajose
TOSIN AJOSE, Lead Advisor at Deal HQ is the most recent recipient of The Woman in African Real Estate award. She is well-known for her commercial savvy, excellent analytical skills, and vast transactional experience. In this interview with LB’s UZOAMAKA NWAIWU, Ajose speaks about her journey in the real estate industry, Post-COVID considerations for the industry, and the necessity for women’s involvement in real estate investments and practice.
Congratulations on your award as The Woman in African Real Estate; Tell us about your real estate practice and how this has developed over the years?
Thank you so much. In a few months a new woman in Africa real estate will emerge. I usually tell a story about how real estate chose me and not the other way around. I started out as a young girl of about 10years writing quit notices and increment letters for my dad’s tenants. By the time I got to the university, I was fully managing his portfolio 4 properties with about 12 tenants, thereafter, he took over the estate of his uncle adding an additional 4 properties to the mix. Within a year from when I started my practice as a commercial lawyer, my boss, shared with me his vision to build the most sophisticated real estate practice run by any Nigerian Law Firm, and in that employment we handled some of the most novel and most sophisticated transactions in the market including REITs, Property Securitizations, Real Estate backed notes amongst others. A few years later, I became the practice lead of the Firm’s real estate practice and after I left the Firm to start DealHQ Partners, we quickly earned our spot as the go to firm especially for complex, green field real estate projects spanning Construction, Project Finance, Hospitality, Real Estate Capital Markets to mention a few.
The Nigerian real estate market was currently valued at ₦59 trillion; how can Nigerian lawyers position themselves to be key players in this sector?
First and foremost, the real estate market is extremely diverse, yet most lawyers focus only on sales and lettings. There is real estate development/construction, real estate finance, real estate capital markets, real estate hospitality, proptech with other areas emerging daily. To be a key player in the industry you must understand how diverse the industry is including the various asset classes (industrial, commercial, residential, retail, hospitality, healthcare amongst others), you must also determine what segment of the market you want to play in and then grow your expertise in the select area or areas.
What notable shifts in investments and legal practice focus have happened in Real Estate sector, post-COVID?
I think that primarily it would be focusing on technology and innovation to achieve efficiency and cost reduction. This rings true as much for the legal industry as it does for real estate.
As a Lead Advisor at Deal HQ Partners, how do you balance being a player in various practice areas (capital market, financial restructuring, infrastructure)?
I am thankful that I was well-advised as a young lawyer on the value of versatility, I started out as a generalist lawyer and became well grounded in corporate commercial which is the bedrock for all other specialist practice areas. My solid grounding in corporate commercial makes it easy for me to work across different practice areas. That said, my core expertise is in Capital Markets, Real Estate/Construction, Finance and most recently Technology.
What are some values that have kept you on track, and motivated you up the success the ladder?
Interesting you would ask; I will say my biggest motivation is past failures which I wear proudly like a badge. Over the years, I have also tried to consistently model the values of patience (or what some call delayed gratification), integrity, hard work and fairness in everything I do.
From experience, do you think that there is sufficient opportunity for women, especially young women in the legal industry?
Surprisingly, I think that the legal industry is way ahead of others in terms of opportunity for women especially within the last decade. There has been an upsurge in the number of female nominations and elevations to the bench, number of women-owned law firms, number of female partners in law firms and number of women in general counsel roles within Nigerian Corporates. I do hope however that more will be done by stakeholders to promote more gender diversity and better opportunities for younger lawyers.
What are some of the best ways to support women into becoming excellent players in the real estate industry in Africa?
I think I will answer in two parts, first of all, women must understand that property ownership is not an exclusive reserve for men and that real estate is at the core of wealth creation. To be able to take a place at the table of power and leadership we must be economically empowered. Since last year, I have been making a conscious effort to support women on their journey to home ownership by training women for free in different focused groups. Secondly, for women that want to develop a career in real estate sector, the women who have gone ahead must be available and committed to mentoring younger women knowing that we have a better fighting chance when we support each other.
Looking back at how far you have come and accomplished in the legal industry, what would you have done differently?
Wow! This one is quite tough! Ok, I think I would have paid more attention to peer networking. I would also have been more actively involved in the activities of industry associations.