Q: Can you briefly tell us about Lesedi Lebone Properties (Pty) Ltd, how it started and the motivation behind starting a real estate company?
A: Lesedi Lebone is a property development firm established in 2011. I have always been fascinated by construction and home ownership. I didn’t just want a taste of what the industry had to offer but the whole cake. Coupled with my entrepreneurial instinct, that paved the way to inception of Lesedi Lebone. This gave me an opportunity to offer a tailor-made service, from identifying land eligible for development and developing the property to exchanging keys with the homeowner. It is a journey we pride ourselves in taking with our clients.
Q: What products and services does your company offer?
A: As I have mentioned, we are a property development company. The essence of our services is to offer a one-stop shop property ownership service to our clients. We specialise in buying land, financing real estate conception, marketing and eventually selling or leasing the completed projects for both commercial and residential markets.
Q: Is real estate a good path to building wealth and is real estate good for long term investing?
A: Real estate is indeed a good path to building wealth and good for long term investing. The most common strategy to building wealth in real estate is ownership, be it buying or building. If the market is steady enough, it is almost a guaranteed return on investment. What’s more, one can have the added benefit of being able to ‘leverage’ one’s existing real estate investment to buy an investment property using borrowed money to grow one’s property portfolio even further.
Q: Can you tell us about the state of the real estate industry in Botswana. Is it thriving and being innovative?
A: The market offers huge growth potential. Botswana was ranked as one of the top 5 attractive investment destinations in Africa by the Africa Investment Index 2018. We saw a rise of average prices of residential property in the first quarter of 2019 by around 11.4 percent. From then on, quarter-on-quarter residential property prices saw a steady rise. I would say the industry is innovative because since COVID-19, most, if not all, industries went into survival mode and the real estate industry was not spared. As such, the support of the government by dropping the prime rate ensured that Botswana still had a fighting chance with property ownership.
Those already committed with mortgages can retain their property. This also challenged banks to come up with more attractive mortgage offers as the traditional offers were no longer going to cut it. Other innovative changes include the imposition of the 30 percent transfer tax on foreign property buyers and the absolution of transfer duty fees for first-time home owners, all of which give the ordinary Motswana a leg up should they wish to invest in property.
Q: Please tell us about financing real estate conception and whether an ordinary Motswana can invest in real estate with little money or a meagre salary?
A: Financing of real property can be done in various ways, the most straightforward one being acquiring a building/purchasing mortgage with whichever commercial bank that offers an attractive mortgage deal to the potential homeowner.
Evidence over the years has shown that mortgage application requirements may close out some candidates from qualifying for this loan. This has seen the birth of more creative ways to raise funds, such as crowdfunding or motshelo. However, it is always advisable to involve financial advisors and to have above board binding contracts when exploring these options. An ordinary Motswana may sometimes have been lucky enough to have acquired land through inheritance or land board placing. if one cannot afford to develop the land, another option could be leasing out the property. This is still investing in real estate and a way to build wealth.
Q: We see many people venturing into real estate, mostly through multi-residential properties, how is residential real estate different from other forms of real estate and is it in a way more profitable?
A: Multi residential houses are a form of business and a business’s primary function is to generate profit. This form of business happens to be through provision of accommodation. An individual feeds two birds with one seed – the property itself is guaranteed to increase in value over the years and the owner collects profits in rental for as long as the property is occupied. Others may invest in property for the sole reason of owning a home or the need to provide a room over the heads of the family. This investment only gives back in terms of the overall value of the property. It is not a regular profit generating business.
Q: Has the real estate industry been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how do you see it thriving or surviving in the long run?
A: As I have said, the government has helped buffer the effects of COVID–19 by dropping the prime rate. The appreciation of value of property has continued to rise because the market did not take a catastrophic knock. However, the sale of property was on the rise due to the rippling effects that COVID -19 has had on homeowners while job losses were on the rise amongst other reasons that may have motivated the sale of property. As such, most property owners have had to sell their properties under their actual value. In hindsight, COVID-19 has helped enlighten Batswana on the importance of property investment as it is one of the few industries that was not as hard hit.
Q: What have been some of the challenges that you encountered since the inception of Lesedi Lebone?
A: I knew it was not going to be easy entering a male-dominated industry. I knew I would be underestimated or undermined at times, but that has never fazed me. I am not here by mistake or luck. My hard work has put me where I am today and I was not about to allow my gender to deter me from following my passion and doing what I love. I do not let gender stereotypes affect my wor. What Lesedi Lebone has achieved and continues to achieve speaks for itself. I work with a team of mostly men who see past my gender because we share a common goal of seeing Lesedi Lebone reach new heights. So gender should never be a reason one is disadvantaged or is unable to live one’s dreams.
Q: But still, how do you cope with being a female in a mostly male-dominated environment?
A: Change is always scary. However, if you don’t do it, you will never know what’s on the other side and will always wonder “what if?” You deprive yourself of the opportunity to reach your full potential. I’ve always had a passion for real estate and it would have been a great injustice to myself to not explore it. So the switch was inevitable. Driven by passion and my zeal to succeed, the transition was fairly easy. I put in the work and everything just fell into place. It was a bold decision that I have never regretted.
Q: Apart from real estate, what other business ventures have you invested in?
A: We have a new business, MACO Hardware in Phakalane. We are also pursuing construction tenders.