More than 20 years after nearly being swindled out of $1,000 for a house he had only seen and didn’t want to buy, Kennedy Akinlosotu is bringing his real estate brokerage Nations Realty to ERA Real Estate with the mission of ensuring other immigrants aren’t taken advantage of during the homebuying process.
When Akinlosotu moved to the United States from Nigeria in 1987, the idea of homeownership became greatly appealing to him after a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the class about how to buy homes in America with no money down.
“I thought he was crazy,” Akinlosotu recalled. “I had never heard of anything like that before.”
“Where I came from, you have to build your own house,” Akinlosotu added. “It might take you 20 years.”
Not long after that, Akinlosotu went to look at a house one night with a real estate agent. He only spent 15 minutes inside and didn’t fully get to see the whole house, but after pressure from the agent, signed a contract to buy the home not fully understanding what he was doing.
“I didn’t know what I signing,” Akinlosotu said. “When you sign a contract in Nigeria, it means nothing — you can just forget it.”
Later, when he reached out to the agent again and asked to tour the house to get a better look, the agent informed him that he had already signed a contract to buy the home, which had one less bedroom than he was told, among other issues.
Akinlosotu was able to go back to his professor, who was also a lawyer, for help. The professor told him to not turn over any of his documents to the lender and eventually he would be denied financing, which in turn would void the contract.
But his experience is what eventually launched his career in the real estate industry. “That’s why I started Nation’s Realty,” he said.
“I want to help people from other countries,” Akinlosotu said. “What I went through in 1987, I don’t want anyone else to go through it.”
There are a number of challenges to the path of homeownership for members to the immigrant community, according to Akinlosotu. The seriousness of contracts and documents — like Akinlosotu faced himself — cause difficulties for new immigrants and there are a host of financing issues they face as well.
“A lot of people who come to this country, they don’t buy anything on credit; they just buy things with cash and save up their money to buy things like a car,” he explained. “We don’t use credit back home, so a lot of people don’t have credit and don’t know how to develop their credit. So when the time comes for them to buy a house, they are not qualified because they don’t have credit.”
Akinlosotu engages the community by going directly to local events and places where immigrant communities congregate, like churches. He also hires agents who speak native languages of immigrant communities; he has agents that immigrated from Kenya, the Congo, Portugal and other countries.
Akinlosotu believes recent affiliation with ERA Real Estate will help him grow the company and further allow him to help immigrants achieve the dream of homeownership.
He started looking at opportunities to affiliate his brokerage with a different brand, about five to six years ago, and about a year ago, he “fell in love with ERA Real Estate.”
Akinlosotu specifically cited ERA’s business model, marketing, family attitude and environment as big reasons for the affiliation. But it was perhaps the company’s major international footprint that was the biggest selling point. ERA Real Estate has a brokerage in South Africa, for example, which Akinlosotu believes will allow him to connect with buyers and sellers internationally.
“It’s going to align with my vision, in terms of what ERA has to offer,” Akinlosotu said.
“I can think of no one who better personifies the importance of the American Dream to the many diverse people who live in our great country,” Chris said. “Akinlosotu’s laser focus on making homeownership a reality for those who may not think it is within their reach is inspiring and we are deeply proud to have Akinlosotu and his like-minded team become part of the ERA family.”