The Pearl in City: A 150-Apartment Project in the Heart of Accra by Acacia Build Ltd

Erdinc Asar shares his assessment of the construction sector and the real estate market in Ghana and presents The Pearl in City, a 150-apartment project located in Cantonments, in the heart of Accra. The residence is a lifestyle concept, offering residential apartments as well as a supermarket, pharmacy, hairdresser, spa center, restaurant, etc.

Interview with Erdinc Asar, Managing Director of Acacia Build Ltd

Erdinc Asar, Managing Director of Acacia Build Ltd

What is your assessment of the construction sector and the real estate market in Ghana? What are the latest trends?

The real estate market demand is too slow at the moment but we are not hopeless. We started and completed our 150-apartment project named The Pearl in City. It was successful and our buyers are very happy for that, as we are too. We hope 2019 will be better. Our plan is to start a new project which is now processing and hopefully at the end of February we will start the foundation.

You say the market is slow but The Pearl in City project is already almost full. What is the percentage of occupation?

The Pearl in City is a 150-apartment project in Cantonments, in the heart of Accra. We finished this project two years ago and sold all of it out. Almost 95% of the apartments are occupied with people living there happily. There are families and kids and business people there. Our compound is also a bit different than the other projects in Ghana. We want to do this lifestyle concept on our next project as well.

How do you define this residence?

Our compound has high standards and we are following the safety regulations, we have all the fire certificates, our balcony, stairs, balustrades and all those technical things are according to global standards, so people choose us.

We have residential apartments and then we also have some shops, so it is a lifestyle concept. We have a supermarket, pharmacy, hairdresser, spa center and restaurant. So, most of the residents do not need to go outside, they can live there very happily. We have social activities and sports complexes with a gym, tennis, basketball on the roof, we have a big swimming pool for adults and children, a playground, and chairs in the garden. It is a very nice environment and the people love it. All the apartment owners and the tenants are living very happily in the compound. The market is too slow but people love our next project and our goal for 2019. It will be 150 apartments from studio to four-bedroom, duplex and penthouses. We will use almost the same concept: a nice environment, shops, cafeteria, restaurants, and for this project we want to bring some franchises in. I cannot mention the name of the companies but we are looking at bringing in some famous cafeteria and restaurants to the compound. The project will again be in the Cantonments. The difference is that we want to build a glass floor rooftop swimming pool. And we saw that so many tenants, especially expats, are coming with their families and they are trying to find a good place, especially for their kids, so we decided to make a bigger children’s pool and we will also put in a water slide and a bigger playground along with the sports complexes you see in The Pearl in City. The new project’s name is The Diamond in City. Hopefully, after The Diamond in City, maybe The Sapphire in City and The Gold in City will come. We believe in the market and we believe in Ghana. It is a very safe country. That is why we are here. That is why we have done work here and will continue to in the future.

Who are you looking to attract?

In the buyers category, 85 to 90% are Ghanaian but most of them are living in California, New York, London. 10% are from other countries in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and Africa. Our concept is that we are not thinking of what the buyer wants, our target is what the tenants want. For Cantonments, our target tenants are expats who are living in other countries for two or three years temporarily for work. In our tenants category, 85% of them are expats from America, England, or European people mostly. In The Pearl in City project, there are people from 35 or 40 different countries in our compound.

What brands and franchising would you like to attract?

The people need mostly cafeteria and restaurants so it will be like a bistro. For the cafeteria or fast food style we might deal with Pizza Hut or Starbucks. These companies will be very good to work with.

Is it difficult to attract brands like that or are they the ones coming to you?

They have their own calculations. McDonald’s or Burger King will come and look at the size of the shops and the traffic. The project will be very nice and attractive to them.

Are there people that want to buy one or two apartments or large investors that want to acquire a huge chunk of the apartments and then rent it out?

For example, we deal with some companies that have clients in The Pearl in City project and they have 10 to 31 apartments. On the whole, their goal is to choose the correct compound so they can live well and happily with their family. So then, they decide to come here and they do not want to have the company staff living on different compounds. It is better for them to keep their staff in the same compound. Of course, they have a strategy as to what kind of compound they need. They check all the safety regulations from stairs to windows to balconies to swimming pools to fire certificates and how fire problems are solved. Our compound has high standards and we are following the safety regulations, we have all the fire certificates, our balcony, stairs, balustrades and all those technical things are according to global standards, so people choose us.

What is the major challenge for a real estate company like yours, coming from abroad, to grow your business and start new projects here in Ghana?

In African countries, not just Ghana, the rules and procedures are different from European countries. Big challenges are time, procedures, and of course Africa has a very different environment and different weather. But, if you want to do something, if you do not stop, if you have discipline, if you work hard, you can be successful. When I came here in 2010, the rules were more difficult than today. Now, it is a bit better. When I came here, it was very difficult to get a building permit and to get other permits. Most of the expat companies coming here have feasibility for two or three months, they spend some money, but after that they are told it is not possible and they have to leave. They are actually making a mistake because when you are climbing it is always difficult to go higher. But, if you continue on and you do not stop, you can get to the top. After that, you have to stay there. Staying at the top is also difficult. Most of the companies from Europe or the US or England and other countries like Russia and China get up the hill about 70% and then they leave. They are losing and they are spending. When I went up 70% of the hill, I was too tired. I wanted to take off my jacket and go back. But my shareholders and I decided to stay. We said we will do it. Now, we have just 30% of the way left. So then, we continued and this is the result. We are very happy to stay in Ghana and I am sure that the clients working with us and our tenants are very happy to work with us. Now, we are a family here. We have a very good relationship with all of them. We are a well-known company here. What I can advise to people is that Ghana is really a very safe country. The environment is very beautiful and there is no winter or snow. The people can live here. Walk or run, if you work you will get to your target. So, they must not stop. That is why we want to continue on with our second project. The people supporting us, our lovely apartment owners, most of them want to buy from us again because they are happy that they made a perfect investment. Even though our rental prices are high, income is better than other countries. Ghana is among the top ten countries in the world for property investment. For example, when you buy an apartment and want to rent it in Europe, you will see a return 25 or 30 years later. In the UAE, maybe 15 years. In other countries, mostly 25 years, maybe 20 years in some. But in Ghana, for example, if you buy a studio or one-bedroom, you will get your money back in only 8 years. If you buy a two-bedroom apartment, you will get it 10 years later. If you buy the correct apartment at the correct location, if you work with the correct developer, you will make a perfect investment. This is a very good opportunity to build residential projects, offices and shops in Ghana, but we must not stop. Sometimes, we feel tired, but we have to continue to go up the hill.


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