Get My Job: Spotlight on Real Estate Development
In this Nexus series, Get My Job, we interview alumni and faculty from one of the University’s 160-plus undergraduate and graduate professional programs. The latest installment features MS in real estate development alumna Temitopeoluwa “Temi” Akanji.
As a student, Temitopeoluwa “Temi” Akanji would often explore Philadelphia, looking for inspiration in housing structures that she could take back home after graduation. In fact, her company’s name—Osborn and Falls Limited in Lagos, Nigeria—is an homage to her time in Philly: Osborn for the street she lived on and East Falls.
The 2020 alumna now works to positively impact the country’s real estate industry, “a sector with far-reaching potential and opportunities,” Akanji shares. “Community development is the business of the compassionate. Affordable housing is a cause championed by the selfless.”
How did Jefferson’s real estate development program prepare you to enter the field?
Housing production in Nigeria is approximately 100,000 units per year, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa. This is inadequate considering the estimated 20-million-unit housing deficit in a nation of over 200 million people.
With a background in economics and risk, I studied real estate development at Jefferson because it’s offered within the College of Architecture and the Built Environment; at many other schools, the program is part of their business colleges. I wanted to learn the way other stakeholders, such as architects and construction managers, think about real estate development.
The program helped me understand the dichotomies between opportunities and challenges that are inherent in the real estate process. Real estate development is an art. It’s beyond just making a profit—it’s about creating a safe place for people. At Jefferson, I learned the systems of development that help all players make the most of their potential for success.
What was your career path to your current position in Nigeria?
Having started in the insurance industry, I was headhunted by a real estate firm facing challenges of huge debts and an under-performing housing portfolio due to poor sales. Armed with my existing database and relationships with high-net-worth individuals and the natural drive to achieve, I helped to convert the heavy portfolio and minimal leads to sales in record time.
This achievement wasn’t only humbling, but it awakened my passion and interest in real estate and allowed me to experience first-hand the potential of this sector. I now run Osborn and Falls Limited, a small-scale multi-family real estate development company as the managing partner.
Describe your core job responsibilities today.
Working with my two partners, a lawyer and an architect, I investigate and identify viable land for affordable workforce housing projects. I also review and analyze project design ideas, project financing, sources and uses of funds, pro formas and cash flow.
How did your work on your capstone at Jefferson help to develop affordable, sustainable projects in Nigeria?
Before going back to Nigeria, I was armed with vital information on land acquisition and the various government housing schemes. More importantly, as revealed by data, I became more confident that a deficit in affordable rental housing exists and there’s a huge market counting on such projects. I replicated my capstone with fewer units in Nigeria, and it was a huge success.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Funding rental projects in Nigeria is difficult because of the high interest rate above 18 percent per annum and short repayment period. The best option for me to secure funding is through private investors; however, they expect high returns within a short time period. As a result, they’re more inclined to fund housing projects for sales. On the other hand, building approval processes by the government take time. Fortunately, the Lagos state government has committed to digitizing the approval process, which should speed up everything.
What’s your one piece of advice for students considering entering this major or profession?
Be bold. Be visible. Network as much as possible and attend seminars and lectures organized by the University. This will help you to know the other players in the development process and make you a more grounded developer.