Beyond Parity: Women climbing the property ladder
Real estate which has been identified as a major contributor to the Nigerian economy, has traditionally been looked at as a man’s domain. As the concept of “a woman’s place being only in the kitchen is being replaced by, women playing lead roles in both boardrooms, and their own businesses,” we have witnessed first hand a growing trend of women climbing and staying firmly on the real estate ladder. Interestingly a recent Fine and Country survey showed that more women are actively investing in real estate as an asset class, with approximately 28-30% of its’ clients in the residential investment category at the mid- premium price range being female entrepreneurs and professionals/ executives.
A CASE FOR FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE TO CURB ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS
As the annual International Women’s Day is being celebrated with this year’s theme being “Pledge for Parity”, one wonders in what ways we can encourage more women at different levels of the Economy to take control of their financial independence, through getting on the property ladder at whatever level. There’s convincing evidence that the physical and emotional violence amongst lower income women, including the working class has escalated as the income disparity between men and women widen. Many professional women remain in abusive marital and professional relationships because of low incomes, and a lack of financial independence or in cases, fear of not having a roof over their heads, sometimes suffering a double jeopardy in the both the work place and at home. With investment in real estate at any level, women can become more confident whether in the work place or at home.
NO LEGAL GLASS CEILINGS.
Some of the challenges that arise with regards to attaining parity in real estate investments, include local traditions which stifle a woman’s sense of confidence in investing in real estate, with fears of appearing to be too masculine, or too independent. Many women invest in secret, thereby losing confidence, or running the risk of not going through the proper due process with unprofessional agents who may even take advantage of their secrecy. Some questions such as inheritance and tax planning also arise with many not having sophisticated advice on how to structure their investments especially in a society where women owning significant investments is still looked at with “funny eyes or funny explanations”.
Legally though, there are no restrictions preventing any Nigerian woman from investing in real estate. The Land Use Act is universally applicable irrespective of gender. Section 43 of the Nigerian constitution guarantees right to acquire property anywhere in Nigeria.
FINANCE AS A DOORWAY TO PARITY.
In terms of access to financing, banks and financial institutions are increasingly recognising this that female entrepreneurs especially offer an emerging opportunity, and are providing products targeted at women. Most of these products, however, are ill-conceived and mismatched to the reality of most entrepreneurial or professional women. In addition, the cost of financing remains a major source of discouragement for women who generally tend to be more conservative. There is definitely a need for property developers, and financiers to get more creative to tap into the ingenuity, and commitment of an increasing army of women who are rising up in the market place. The winning outlook would be to create products and payment terms that work with women’s cash flow and financial dreams, while nurturing, educating, empowering them with up to date market and investment information to make them more astute and confident in climbing the real estate ladder, thereby unlocking a new era of parity.
For the women themselves, it’s important to realise there are 5 keys to succeeding as a real estate investor:
1. BELIEF AND DESIRE: It doesn’t matter what state your finances are in or how old you are – it’s never too late to start planning, setting goals and taking the right steps towards achieving financial independence and security through real estate. Most of the limitations I’ve found are mainly in the minds of the women.
2. KNOWLEDGE: All types of investment require knowledge. The more knowledgeable you are about the opportunities that exist and understanding the risks, and how to mitigate them, the higher the likelihood of success. Lack of financial knowledge is a stumbling block. An inability to interpret the market will affect your success. Be aware of the economic indicators and get clued in through seminars, readings he news, researching, joining investment clubs etc.
3. CONFIDENCE: Access to the right information increases confidence. Confidence prevents women from being bound by analysis paralysis, or a knee-jerk response to every fly by night opportunity. Caution is critical in real estate investment. But fear that leads to paralysis will affect your success in all areas of investment and curtail your financial future.
4. FINANCIAL DISCIPLINE: This is perhaps the most critical element of success. Real estate is generally a mid to long term play, and financial discipline requires investors to not only save for a rainy day, but sometimes sacrifice a bright designer bag or jewellery for a brighter future, an area that many women have a challenge. In addition, as traditional nurturers, many women tend to put others needs ahead of theirs. Many give up their financial nest egg for the privilege of helping desperate spouses, children and relatives without realising how this impacts their long term emotional, and financial wellbeing. Balance is required.
5. COMMUNITY: Successful female investors tend to network actively with other successful investors through work or other opportunities, including female run investment clubs which tie in with their own investment ethos and appetite. Such groups can provide them with crucial opportunities for networking, education and support where confidence is lacking.
Women bring a unique eye to real estate investments especially and add significant value to real estate naturally, because of their natural affinity for enhancing and upgrading things in general. “Beyond Parity” is a great theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, and one which we are confident is feasible in Real Estate Investment as well as in other sectors of the economy.
Udo Maryanne Okonjo
CEO Fine and Country/Founder Inspired Women of Worth Network.