Less than 15% of Sri Lankans live in urban areas at present. Vertical living is in the nascent stage, with only around 10% of Colombo’s housing high-rise. This has to change, says Chandaka de Soysa, founder and chief executive of Acquest. He sees a shift to condo living on the horizon. Acquest is a real estate agency launched in 2013. Besides sales, it provides advisory services to developers, a function that had not existed in this market before, de Soysa says.
They work with individuals, corporates and developers, who are developing or looking for leases, investment properties and homes to live-in. Acquest used to be focused on the premium and super-prime segments. Now the company is expanding aggressively and aims to be a market leader across all segments.
“Banks don’t lend to the wrong projects, developers position their projects better to cater to investors, investors find the right project, and home-buyers are getting the type of product they want. It’s ambitious, but we are in a position where we can do this easily.”
Over the last two years, Acquest has completed over 300 transactions. The company also invests, using their expertise to identify the best 0.5% of the market. De Soysa feels a genuine custodial sense of responsibility to clients he works with, each of whom is making a major life decision. He has been interested in real estate, design and architecture since he was young and dreamt of how to improve his family property by better utilising the space.
To tackle what he describes as “a serious lack of transparency in Sri Lankan real estate”, de Soysa wants to pivot the market to be buyer-centric, providing an end-to-end service and advice based on in-depth and first-hand market data. Last year, Acquest established a dedicated advisory department for this. “The Sri Lankan market is still evolving, and we want to offer these services, so banks don’t lend to the wrong projects, developers position their projects better to cater to investors, investors find the right project, and home-buyers are getting the type of product they want. It’s ambitious, but we are in a position where we can do this easily,” he adds.
Their soon-to-launch online platform is designed to give people as much information as possible, improving market transparency. The company also has plans to branch out into the mid-range segment under another brand. Acquest already collects granular data across Sri Lanka’s real estate market. By making this available and accessible he hopes that all stakeholders of the industry, including developers, will be able to make better informed decisions.
Over the next ten years, de Soysa anticipates massive growth in the Sri Lankan market and is positioning Acquest to guide the industry in a responsible way. “This is bigger than the company itself. We want our clients to make the best possible real estate decisions—ultimately that has an impact on the economy and the entire industry with capital flowing into the right projects.”