ASPIRE Pick of the Week: Kimberly’s Apartments by Short-Let Property Maven, Tayo Adejumo

A week before we were to speak with Tayo Adejumo, the founder and CEO of Kimberly’s Apartments, one of the most successful premium short-let apartment services in Lagos, Nigeria, the #EndSars protests took a more intense turn. We were not sure if a physical meeting would still be possible, and decided that a tentative Zoom meeting should be scheduled while we hoped that demands would be quickly met and that the situation would become better.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Tayo Adejumo, founder and CEO of Kimberly’s Apartment Management Company. Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

Sadly, the #LekkiMassacre happened, followed by violent looting and burning of public properties, as well as a 24-hr curfew. The anxiety and fear that permeated the whole of Lagos did not miraculously evade us, and it appeared as though even our scheduled Zoom meeting would not hold. At the last minute, however, we decided to go along with it, frazzled nerves and all.

It is in this context that the lights come up on both Tayo and I, and as we face each other in as close a proximity as technology can allow, the first thing we do is to check up on each other, virtual strangers before that moment, but ultimately joined together by a tragedy so profound that we were still in shock. Tayo runs Kimberly’s Apartments, a management company that offers and oversees short-let and service apartments. She has been in the business for over seven years, and within this period of time, has added more than five short-let apartments to her portfolio, branching into the luxury segment of home listings and property development. She describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur”, and her move into the real estate market in Nigeria was purely accidental. Her success in the market, however, is not.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
One of the short-let homes Kimberly’s Apartment offers. Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

How did Kimberly’s Apartments start, and what is the future of short-let stays in the Nigerian real estate industry?

ALM: Tell us a bit about yourself

TA: My name is Tayo Adejumo, I am an entrepreneur. I’ll say a serial entrepreneur more like because I’ve dabbled into different businesses over the years before I settled in the real estate and short-let apartments industry. Academically, what I studied does not have anything to do with property. I studied criminology and law – most of the things I studied are law-related. As a matter of fact, I did terrorism studies in UNILAG as a diploma course. So everything I have done is criminology and law-related and not linked with properties.

I used to live in the UK, but I moved because I couldn’t extend my student visa at the time. So I had to come back to Nigeria and start from scratch. I did not have much capital to start any huge business with, so what I kept thinking to myself was what could I start with zero capital? Then, I dabbled into businesses like doing business cards, prints, graphic designing, events, web designs and decorations. These are jobs that just require sitting at my computer and coming up with ideas. From there, I got to where I am today. That is who I have been.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

ALM: How did you get into the property business?

TA: Funny story: when I moved to VGC, my neighbour – Mr Austin, he is deceased now – he used to stay at the flat in front. I designed and decorated the apartment for him. It was a 2-bedroom flat. Unfortunately, 3 months after he moved in, Mr Austin died. His family lives abroad. So when they were through with mourning, they did not know what to do [with the flat]. Everything in the house was brand new and it had been set up to live in, so I suggested, why don’t we just use it for short-let? And that was how I started.

ALM: Why did you not think of long-term lease/rent?

TA: From my experience living abroad, I know that you can actually rent out a furnished house. Most people coming back home from the UK and the US are looking to stay in a place apart from their family house or hotels.

So I thought that this is a niche that people were not really paying attention to; it was still small at the time – we weren’t many. And I always like to be a pioneer of something, I like businesses where I am a pioneer because I think that way I can make a huge difference. And it does not look like I am copying someone. I can grow and actually know that this is all me. That is why I chose short-let and not the more common ways of renting apartments to long-term tenants. In addition, with short-lets, you get to meet different people from different walks of life, you grow with them, they become your new family. Today, we have a lot of returning customers who are now like family to us.

ALM: Do you own any of the apartments you manage, or you do it on behalf of other people?

TA: I do not own any of the apartments I currently manage. Maybe because I feel obligated to wanting to deliver something [for others]; I don’t know why. I feel more confident or more in service when it is for others. You know, when it is mine, I will be complacent with it. But when it is someone else’s, I will not want to mess it up. You don’t want to be put in a position where you are questioned on [your shortcomings]. You want to deliver, you want to be on top of your game every time. It pushes you to be better and do better. 

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

ALM: So, how has the journey been so far?

TA: It’s actually been very interesting with different properties and different owners. I have learnt, I have grown to be better. I have tried things that did not work until I tried things that did. It has been an amazing journey, it’s been good. It’s been a lot at times, but it has been all good.

ALM: Where are the apartments located? Are they all over the country?

TA: We’re just on the island; however, when it comes to the UK and the US, we have other companies that we have liaised with. So if any of our customers are going to these countries, we always talk to them and they can give them an apartment on our behalf. And if they have clients coming to Nigeria they contact me as well.

ALM: What packages do you offer guests?

TA: Our apartments range from a one-bedroom mini-flat to an 8-bedroom house. In addition to water and other basic amenities, we give guests a free item upon check-in. Short-lets are different from hotels and that is why it has to be an entire house. Packages are based on the number of rooms you would need, which would give you access to the entire house.

We make sure whatever house you are going into is beautiful, neat and smells good. Sometimes, we surprise guests by calling restaurants or bakeries to deliver to them. This is not included in our packages: this is just us trying to create a relationship. However, regardless of the number of rooms you choose, you would need to pay a caution fee to forestall damages or take care of them if they occur. This is refundable upon check out if nothing is broken or missing.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

ALM: How do you screen guests and carry out background checks?

TA: It is very difficult to do background checks in Nigeria because there is no database of anything anywhere. However, I always request for international passports and call the next of kin. If this person is a part of the [visiting party], I will ask for someone different. I notify them of the guest(s) and ask if they are aware of the person’s stay, while also informing them that they would be called in case of any incidents.

ALM: Have you had any problem with guests so far? How did you manage them?

TA: Oh yes we have. We had a guest who tried to scam us with fake screenshots of payments made. We assumed it was network issues and agreed he could stay over. The next morning, we got a report that he was fighting with the escort he brought over. So apparently, he tried to employ the same trick by showing her a screenshot of payment made. But she refused to leave and an argument ensued.  

The police were called and they were both arrested. Investigations revealed he had been lying all along with fake screenshots! He was charged to court and it took 3 months to get our money back.

Based on past experiences, we no longer allow parties or movie-sets on our properties as we are situated in residential areas. Minimum stay is 3 nights with a maximum of two guests per room.

ALM: Besides letting out short-stay apartments, what other services do you offer in the real estate industry?

TA: I just started premium rentals which is [a service] for premium customers looking to get suitable accommodation. Instead of contacting real estate agents and being taken from house to house, they get to choose from the luxury listings we have available. I also just started developing and selling houses.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

ALM: What is the best property advice you have ever been given?

TA: I have not been given any, but I have seen many great examples that have served me well. Anytime I travel, I stay in short-let apartments and compare with what we have here in Nigeria. For example, headroom. We usually do not make provision for adequate headroom in Nigeria. You put up a chandelier and your head will be touching it. But abroad, the headroom is high enough. Their tile work is also different, Sometimes, they don’t even use tiles; they use wallpaper and laminate it. These are the things I see that I bring back into the homes I manage. So the best property advice I have received has been from seeing and not hearing.

ALM: Did the pandemic affect your business in any way? If yes, how?

TA: Shockingly, it didn’t. We thought it would since everyone had to stay at home. But most university students, for whatever reason, decided to come together and take apartments. Then there were people who work in Lagos but do not stay within the state. They too did the same thing. Some companies also decided to take our apartments for their staff to continue working unhindered. So all the apartments I manage, in addition to those managed by my associates, were fully booked during the lockdown.

ALM: What other amenities can guests expect to enjoy when they stay in any apartment managed by Kimberly’s?

TA: Wifi is important, so we make that available. 24-hour electricity too which is supplemented by a back-up generator. However, due to the high cost of electricity now, we give guests a fair amount of units and advise that they use it fairly. If these units are used up before their stay is over, they would have to make provision for new units themselves. We clean every other day. Our TVs are smart so customers have access to as many stations and programmes on Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and all other video streaming platforms as they want.

We also take feedback from guests and try to ensure that they are implemented in our apartments so that returning and even new customers can get the best of the best in terms of amenities.

ALM: Is catering included?

TA: We had tried providing a chef but due to inconsistencies on the part of the chef, I had to discontinue this service.

ALM: Do you curate experiences for vacationing guests?

TA: Yes, we have a welcome booklet that contains everything from house rules to places you can visit and things you can do. We feature restaurants, fun activities you can do locally as well as their contact details.

ALM: How do you think the short-let apartment market would look like five years from now?

TA: For now, very few people understand the business in spite of the increased number of short-let apartments that we have in Nigeria presently. It is a profitable business, but one that you need to understand with time. It also takes a good management company for you to be able to make any profit. Unfortunately, people are greedy, have issues with choosing the right pricing models and do not have any patience to learn how the business works, so there may be a lot of players, but very low competition five years from now.

ALM: What is the future for Kimberly’s?

TA: At Kimberly’s it is different. We have affiliates outside the country. We also have a website where you can conveniently make bookings. I don’t just take apartments from everyone: we are selective of who we work with. I hate pressure, especially from clients who want a definite figure of monthly profits. I tell them the market is unpredictable, but I can assure a 100% occupancy rate.

Moving forward, I am going to have my own properties listed. In 5 years time, I believe Kimberly’s will be better and we would be even more selective about who we take on and we would be more of a household name.

Kimberly's Apartments from Kimberly's Apartment Management and Cleaning Company provides short-let/airbnb apartments in lagos, Nigeria
Tayo Adejumo. Image courtesy of Tayo Adejumo

ALM: What is a typical day for you like as a short-let apartment manager?

Once upon a time was crazy. My phone would ring from morning to night, as late as 1:30 am. My day used to start at 5 am and end at 1 am. It took a long time for me to manage my time. Now, I have been able to delegate to two more managers that share the workload with me.

My typical day is busy. I am always home and I monitor the cleaners, available apartments, track subscriptions for cable TV and all other amenities provided by 3rd parties. It is surprising and that is what I like about the business. I can’t plan my tomorrow: no two days are the same. I can be called to manage customers who are having parties and that can take a greater part of my day. By the way, if you are having parties and you are caught, you get evicted without a refund. You cannot feign ignorance because this information is in the invoice and the welcome booklet.  

ALM: What has shocked you the most about this niche?

TA: Interestingly, most of my guests have become homeowners. After staying with us and experiencing the area, they went on to buy their own properties which they now use as short-let apartments. The first person who gave me their apartment to use as a short-let is one of my most recurring guests at my other properties. He liked the way I decorated one of the properties that I managed and asked that I build and furnish a personal home for him. This is another reason why I like the business- everything is unpredictable and events cannot be pre-planned.

ALM: Do you think you will ever manage a property on Lagos mainland?

TA: I would have, but the challenge around the business is getting a good manager and good staff. In this business, you do not just manage the property: you manage the owner, the guest and the staff. Managing staff is extremely tough as most of them come in with ulterior motives. You need to be able to have the properties and staff within your reach so that if your attention is needed, you can get to the location and get back home quickly.

Homeowners on the mainland think differently and I need a reliable manager to handle them. If there is even a good enough property on the mainland, then we can make that commitment. But for now, I have not seen one that qualifies on the mainland.

Also, in my experience, short-let apartments need to be done in a house, not a building that is being let out to long-term tenants. No matter how careful you are, you will clash with the tenants. We will definitely come to the mainland if we have a good owner and a good property.

ALM: What are five fun facts people don’t know about you?

I love movies a lot… I know a lot about food, I like it and I am adventurous with it… I am a good cook. I love to cook and can make both local and international dishes… I love a challenge. I enjoy challenges and think it’s fun to learn new things… I enjoy graphic design, and recently, I learnt videography and editing. All the fun things about me are related to food and movies!

To make a booking at any of Kimberly’s Apartments, go on Instagram, @kimberlysapartments, or visit their website here. You can also book on Facebook here or call the following numbers: +2347051002214, +2348183333396, +2349013333396, and, +2349013333363. It is advised you book ahead because they are always fully-booked before each day. 

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