Ekweoba Arnold Chukwuebuka is an estate surveyor and the CEO of Arnold and Associates. Arnold & Associates is an Anambra based real estate company with interests in dredging and haulage services. He is one of the promising young people in real estate in Anambra state. In this interview with ANAMBRA PEOPLE, he talked about his company, real estate business in Anambra state and sundry issues. Excerpts;
WAS REAL ESTATE THE ONLY OPTION YOU HAD?
I would say my journey into the field of real estate was divine. When we were in secondary school, everybody wanted to be an engineer, medical doctor and all that. When I left secondary school, I spent one year at Federal University of Technology, Owerri studying engineering. But at FUTO, I knew engineering wasn’t my calling, so I had to sit for JAMB again and got admission to study Estate Management at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. That was how I left FUTO where I was studying engineering and moved to UNIZIK for Estate Management.
WHO REALLY TALKED YOU INTO REAL ESTATE?
At final year in secondary school, I knew nobody that was into real estate and one day in a discussion, our senior prefect mentioned estate management and the opportunities in the field; that was how I picked interest in the course. That same senior prefect in school equally ended up studying estate management in the university.
WAS REAL ESTATE THE FIRST THING YOU DID AFTER LEAVING THE UNIVERSITY?
After spending 5 years in the university studying the course, I couldn’t do anything aside real estate. In fact, I founded Arnold and Associates in my third year and by the time I got to my final year, it was already doing well.
HOW WAS THE JOURNEY AT THE BEGINNING?
I started in my third year as an agent, I was renting rooms to students, but we had this hunger to be the best and we were the only people in school then giving out rooms with bed sheets. Once the student paid the agent fees to us, we gave out free bed sheet to them. The gift we offered made our brand a household name. I would later have my internship at Anambra State Housing Corporation and from there I moved fully into land agency/ valuation. In my fourth year, I was introduced to the people in charge of the Ukwulu layout, mapped out for sale. Ukwulu shares boundary with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, so since I was already renting flats close by, most of the landlords I was renting their flats bought the Ukwulu land through me. I did my youth service in 2017 and while in service, we had our first acquisition at Ifite-Ogwari. Before I got the land, I had little money on me, but by God’s grace, I convinced the owner for a three months payment plan. We called the place ‘Divine Favour Farm Village’ and it was an agricultural site. The land was re-plotted into 5 plots and when people make payments, we cultivate and take care of the land for them and before two years, we sold over 90% of the property. So this was how we started even though we would encounter some challenges like when I invested in agriculture and the whole investments went down the drain and set me back a little.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BRANCH INTO AGRICULTURE WHILE YOU WERE DOING WELL IN REAL ESTATE?
You know all these motivational speakers will tell you that a millionaire should have multiple source of income. I listened to such kind of advice and invested in agriculture but my branching into agriculture was a major setback for me. I started all over again; in fact, I had to auction some properties because I invested almost all the money I had in the agric project. In 2019, I went back to Ukwulu for an acquisition of about 70 plots of land and the owner equally gave us a three months payment plan to the glory of God. The initial payment allowed us to start work immediately and before the three months elapsed, we were able to complete the payment. We got another phase and sold it in less than three months. We moved down from Igbariam to Enugu-Agidi and then Awka.
SOME PEOPLE ARE OF THE OPINION THAT ANAMBRA IS NOT REALLY VIABLE FOR REAL ESTATE BUSINESS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MADE YOU ABLE TO BREAK THROUGH ANAMBRA REAL ESTATE MARKET?
I would say it is consistency. We have been able to build a trusted brand and people believe in the brand now and there are so many of our properties that have increased to over 300% within two years.
YOU ARE MAINLY INTO SELLING OF LANDS NOW, WHEN DO YOU INTEND TO MOVE INTO BUILDING OF APARTMENTS?
We are starting with about 5 terrace buildings in our new estate. It is something new in Anambra as an Igbo man would love to buy land and build his house to his taste, but we intend to start with about 5 quality terrace buildings and we believe we will change the narrative.
WHAT IS YOUR SELLING POINT IN REAL ESTATE BUSINESS?
Like I said earlier, we have been able to build a brand and when we tell people we would do something, we make sure we keep to our words. A lot of people that are into real estate in Awka, sell layouts, they just divide the land into parcels and sell without making provisions for infrastructures and that provisions for infrastructures has been standing us out. I have never sold an encumbered property to anybody; the grace of God has been there and then integrity. These have made us stand out.
HOW ARE YOU POSITIONING YOUR COMPANY TO START PLAYING BIG IN THE NIGERIAN REAL ESTATE MARKET?
Over the past two years, we have been running feasibility studies in Lagos, Abuja and we have gotten a branch at Abakaliki. Like they say ‘Rome was not built in a day’, we are doing heavy consultation and feasibility studies and by God’s grace, new branches would be given birth to in Lagos and Abuja.
ARE THERE PEOPLE YOU LOOK UP TO IN THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS?
I look up to a lot of people like Sujimoto, Ned Okonkwo and when you come to estate management practice, you talk of Raji, Patrick Obianwu and Co. and many more that inspire me.
HOW HAS YOUR STUDY OF REAL ESTATE IN THE UNIVERSITY RUBBED OFF ON THE SUCCESSES YOU HAVE ATTAINED SO FAR?
Yes it has, I spent 5 years in the university studying about land and it has added a lot of spices to the food we have been cooking.
WHAT IS THE STAFF STRENGTH OF ARNOLD AND ASSOCIATES NOW?
We have over 20 staff that are employed directly and then indirectly, we have over 100 of them.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUNG PEOPLE CAN LEARN FROM YOUR JOURNEY SO FAR?
They have to be consistent, disciplined and honest and when they do and keep improving, definitely within a short time, their brand would be announced to the world.
ARE THERE PIECES OF ADVICE YOU WOULD LIKE TO GIVE TO THIS ADMINISTRATION HEADED BY PROF. CHARLES SOLUDO ON HOW TO REVITALIZE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IN ANAMBRA STATE?
If the governor could look into infrastructure and security, there will be a lot of improvements not just in the real estate sector but even other sectors.
APART FROM THE MONEY YOU MAKE FROM THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS, WHAT OTHER THING GIVES YOU JOY ABOUT THE BUSINESS?
The creativity of turning a virgin land into a beautiful city is what gives me joy about real estate business.
THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IS IMPROVING IN LAGOS AND ABUJA, WHAT INNOVATION DO YOU PLAN TO GET INTO REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IN ANAMBRA STATE?
The normal practice over here is to divide land into parcels without infrastructure but we have been able to change that by putting in infrastructures. We also intend to bring in a different view of real estate where one can just buy a fully furnished house and then move in with just your bag.