In the Jones Lang LaSalle 2018 Global Real-Estate Transparency index (PDF), which tracks the ease and confidence investors have in buying commercial real estate in a given country, the highest ranking African country is South Africa in the 21st place out of 100 countries, with Botswana coming next in the 45th. Other African countries fall within the bottom half of the index.
Granted that there is an abundance of opportunities for investors in African real estate, assessing the market is difficult for them due to a lack of data that would enhance market research.
Realising this challenge, while working as a real estate consultant, Dolapo Omidire officially launched Estate Intel in 2017, alongside Damilola Adepoju and Kayode Ola, his co-founders.
“I was doing it for a couple of years as a blog while I was working in real estate but the problem never went away. While doing it as a blog, it developed quite a following and everybody always wanted more information so I just decided to structure it into a web application,” Dolapo said
Estate Intel is an online platform that provides data, news and research for commercial real estate investors, developers, agents, property owners, consultants and other players in the African property market, helping them to make data-driven decisions.
“We collect rent trends, lease and investment transactions, cap rates, property lending data, demographic and other data that real estate investors and advisors need” .
Using Estate Intel
At first glance of the Estate Intel website as a potential user, you’d be able to read about new developments in the commercial real estate industry across Africa.
To delve deeper, users would need to log on to the company’s newly launched web app to access different tools that would be relevant to them, for a monthly fee
Subscriptions range from between $100 and $700 a month, depending on the sensitivity of the data.
For now, the app which is in its beta stage is currently open to only 50 users. It offers users five tools; Database, Analytics, Reports, Maps and Promote, all promising to help users make data-driven real estate decisions.
According to Dolapo, all of these information provided by Estate Intel are gathered by long hours of research.
“We achieve this by doing a lot of leg work. Leg work in the sense that we use a mixture of research methods that go beyond pounding the pavement which takes a long time and is difficult. Through our network, we speak directly with those involved to ensure our info is pure”.
According to Dolapo, Estate Intel is still largely self-funded. However, funds are also realised from consultancy and advisory charges.
Although most of Estate Intel’s customers so far have been acquired organically, through web searches and referrals, Dolapo wants to be proactive in the acquisition of the next set of customers.
“With the launch of our web application, we’re engaging people a lot more now, listing down our customer base and going to meet the key ones. Since it’s a paid service, a lot of them need to see a demo and experience it because it’s not something they are used to”.
Although the Estate Intel team is a small team of five, they have been gathering data for years and working towards increasing their coverage across Africa.
“The data we collect goes beyond actual buildings, we have various types of information on the property markets of over 15 African countries and we are working on growing this further”.
Asides the funding challenges faced by many startups in this part of the world, Dolapo names technology as the biggest challenge Estate Intel faces.
“I’m not a technical person, I’m not a programmer, I only managed to launch our old website using WordPress but if we’re going to scale up, that’s definitely not going to be a reasonable way to continue”.
Dolapo has had major challenges outsourcing the technical part of his company.
In order to keep up as demand for Estate Intel’s services rises, the team is partnering with leaders in particular property sectors as well as those in particular regions across Africa to gather data more efficiently.
‘The hard part is the first level of data which we have spent years doing. What’s next, which is more difficult, is to consistently update and maintain”.
Estate Intel is operating in a new space and hopes to be able to serve everyone in the commercial property sector across Africa in no distant time.
“Anybody that is doing anything in the real estate business needs to have an Estate Intel subscription” Dolapo adds.