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As He Speaks On His Career And His Re-Election.

Otunba Charles Alabi Alaba, CEO of Halleybuks Engineering Services Ltd and Halleycute Resources Ltd, is the President of the Real Estate Managers Association in Ondo State and he had been re-elected for a second term as the association President. This graduate of Criminology from National Open University (NOUN) is re-contesting for the 2nd term in office this year. In his interview with Adeola Shittu of Event Diary Lifestyle, Otunba Charles Alaba spoke about his career and his second term ambition. Enjoy!

Who is Otunba Charles Alabi?

Thanks so much, I am Otunba Charles Alaba Alabi, the CEO of Halleybuks Engineering Services Ltd and Halleycute Resources Ltd. I am a realtor, a builder, and an entrepreneur. I attended Areromi Baptist day school, Okesuna, Lagos for my primary education. Due to my father’s transfer to Ondo state in 1979, I completed my primary education at St. David’s primary school, OkeIjebu, Akure. I proceeded to Oyemekun Grammar school, Akure for my secondary education. In 1987, I enrol at C.A.C Grammar School to retake my WAEC. I gain admission to Esa Oke College of Technology, Osun State where I bagged my OND in Real Estate Management and I further went to National Open University where I bagged my B.Sc. in Criminology. To the glory of God, I am the President of the Real Estate Managers Association in Ondo state, and I am re-contesting for the Position by his Grace.

What inspired you into the Real Estate Business?

Interesting why growing up, I had it at the back of my mind that I was not going to work for anybody, rather I will be an employer of labour. It was not easy at the beginning, but I thank God for where I am today. I started with timber business while I was in school. I later went into the petroleum business; we hawk petrol from Lagos to Benue, Ondo state. At a stage, I ask myself which of the businesses gives the best cash and I realized that, if not politics, it is either you are into Oil and Gas, Property or Telecommunication. These are where the real money is and with determination, I said, I will find my feet in any of them. But oil and gas with telecommunication require massive capital, unlike real estate. That was how I opt for the real estate business because I don’t need a kobo to start it; rather, all I need is a good office for the business. The fact that I don’t want to work under anybody, inspired me more and all thanks to God for the success story. As I speak, to the glory of God, am engaged by the federal government to identify all federal government properties in Ondo state and its environs (Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, and so on). I deal with any states sharing a border with Ondo state. Aside from that, I am also into construction. We are currently handling some construction projects for the Oyo state government and in the next 2 months, we will be handling over 10 health centres for them. We buy and sell properties as well.

Share with us, how you started the property business?

It all started 2 decades ago, precisely 2003. I started as an agent known as a caretaker to become a builder and a property merchant in the sunshine state. I had a vision and I believe I was going to make it in the business. My vision was to do the property business differently from others. Differently in the sense that, if I want to show my client any property, the normal way is to take the client to the place, but what happens after showing them; they are not interested in it, one person will be losing out. So, I decided to do it in a modern way by putting all information concerning the property on my laptop with the details. For instance, if my client needs a two-bedroom flat, I have all the information on my laptop, starting from the street that leads to the house, the compound, and the interior. Once my client is satisfied, they proceed with payment but if the clients are not satisfied with what they see that is when it will cost them. I dislike all these inspection fees, it's like they are mortgaging themselves to the client. From what I gathered, I realized that some clients appreciate my service and even pay more; instead of me placing my value at two thousand naira inspection fees. While some clients don’t even pay us if we take them to inspect properties. That was how I started a property business and my slogan was next level, I told those I met in the business, that I am taking property business in Ondo state to the next level. As I said, it all started from being an agent to becoming the President of Real Estate Manager in Ondo state. It’s all about hard work, determination, commitment, and being focused.

Looking back, 20 years down the lane, how do you cope with the challenges that come in line with your business?

There are numerous challenges but one thing I discover when I started the business is, that if you do things differently, you will get results and if you decided to go on a manual way surely you will get results. I had my challenges, but I learn from others. One of their major challenges is that agents don’t have an office. Having an office is more or less our means of identification as an agent so that our clients will be comfortable doing business with us. And not see us as someone who will run away with their money. Furthermore, people are faced with sales challenges; some don’t even sell for 6 months or more. In my case, I make sales every month because I was able to identify my clients and what they need. Countless challenges, but because I learn to do things in different ways, there is always a way out for me. This was what I brought to the association when I was elected the president. 

What are the challenges facing the association? 

Numerous challenges, but I will state a few. One of the challenges then was that clients have more trust and deal more with lawyers when purchasing properties than us. The reason is that we are not traceable unlike if a lawyer dupes his or her client, their licence is revoked. As a realtor, I am not talking about valuers or surveyors, when elected, I partner with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Ondo state, for proper registration; today we have successfully introduced an Operating Licence. For anyone to operate as a realtor in Ondo state, they need to collect an operating licence from the Ministry through the Association. Secondly, many don’t have means of identity as a realtor, I am not referring to the roadside ID card; we are working on our digital ID card, which will enable clients to identify a real realtor from the fake ones. All they need to do is to visit our website page; enter the code on the person's ID card, to know whether to deal him with or not. Many have to fail victims of the fake agent/caretaker, but with this process, the narrative will change. Thirdly, as an individual, if one is not buoyant in this business, it will be difficult for such a person to grow. This business is good if one does it right and is focused. 

Why did you seek re-election?

I was elected the President of Real Estate Manager 4 years ago and by the grace of God, am re-contesting for another 4 years. I started the restructuring in the Association, and my desire to re-contest will enable me to complete the repositioning exercise for whoever is coming on board after me. Before I became the President, much is not heard about the association in the state, but today we have a platform where we sell and people advertised their products and company. Some months ago, we were on Adaba FM on a 90 day program; educating and enlightening the public on how to deal with realtors (agents/caretakers). We are using all means to raise awareness so that our clients will be comfortable working with us.

By the grace of God, the records are there to show for it. Within a space of one year, we brought the Association bus. Before I came on board, the Association can’t boast of 100,000 naira in the account; in less than 2 years we know what was generated for the Association. When I took over, their dues are nothing to write home for, it does not befit the kind of business we do; today we have improved on it. Aside from the bus, we associate with the state Governor, His Excellency, Arakunrin Odunayo Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), we proposed to support his government and contribute our quota to the state IGR through individual income tax as we earn, and the proposal is still in process. Another proposer at the ministry of Commerce and Industry has been attended too. Like I said, our digital ID card which comes with a code is almost ready. It will interest you to know that, the NBA Chairman in the Ondo State, Barr. Rotimi Olorunfemi said he was going to eliminate what we have done and that means, we are on the right track. We put in place a Remasos venture, the platform is to take care of members' welfare. I realized that some of our members don’t have any means of livelihood aside from the caretaker job; this is one of the reasons they spend their client’s money when their tenant makes the payment; this situation gave birth to Remasos venture. We do contributions and members can assess from it and start a small business. We have done countless things in the last 4 years of my administration. Likewise, we have been able to reposition the association; so that anyone contesting for elective posts in the state will recognize us. Furthermore, we have rebranded and reshaped the association in the sunshine state and I make it bold to say, we are a force to reckon with.

Despite all measures put in place to fight against fake realtors among you penetrating evil, you still have them, and how do you deal with this?

As I mentioned early, one of the benefits of our radio program was to enlighten the public on our activities and how to deal with us. For anyone who falls victim to this unregistered “realtor”, the world is a global village, we know ourselves, all we need is his or her contact and such person will be fished out. We have a good relationship with the police in the state, when cases are brought to them, they know what to ask and failure to provide it to such a person is in problem. And if any of my members are involved in such, of which I know we have zero tolerance for such, we know how to deal with the person within us. 

Going by your years of experience, how will you rate property business in Ondo state compared to the then?

Hahaha presently, I won’t deceive you, property business had gone beyond what it used to be before. Properties don’t depreciate, rather they appreciate. For instance, back then in Ijapo Estate and Alagbaka area with 6 million naira or highest 8 million naira, you get a good property but today in Ijapo half a plot, one can’t get less than 10 million naira and for a standard full plot is between 25 million naira and 30 million naira; property business in Ondo state is not what it used to be. Realtors in Lagos and Abuja look down on us because they are selling properties in billions now while we are making our millions, we are getting there. The business has changed from what it used to be, it's new dawn now.

What advice do you have for the upcoming realtor?

In a simple language, property business is good and profitable, but one needs to be focused and have a pure heart and a determined mind to succeed.

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