Renting a Home? Here Are Some Useful Tips to Guide You

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Anita Mba

Where we live is such a huge part of our lives, so getting it right is important. Finding a new place to call home in a city like Lagos and other big cities can be both daunting and exciting. It could take days, weeks or even months. If you are not familiar with the complexities, and have neither the time nor the energy, then enlisting the services of a real estate agent or firm is the way to go.

House-hunting can be quite stressful. There is a lack of reliable market data in Nigeria and poor quality of professionals available for the most part. In your search, you may have to weigh up important factors such as your ideal property type, size, and location. You will also be inevitably constrained by your budget. Fortunately, the tips I’m about to share with you will ease the process of finding your ideal home.

Your Agent
There are no licensing requirements for real estate agents in Nigeria. As a result, there are very few credible agents. Thus, you must undertake sufficient background checks before choosing an agent to reduce the risk of fraud. Also, it is advisable to engage the services of a lawyer to carry out due diligence and verification on the property title documents, and more importantly, before signing any agreements. Engaging the services of professionals saves you time, potential financial losses, and unnecessary stress.

Budget
In Nigeria, majority of landlords demand either upfront payments or significant deposits. A security deposit (‘caution fee’) is also required. The generally accepted minimum lease term is either a year or two years. If you plan to take a long-term lease, discounts can usually be negotiated. Also, if your ideal choice is a serviced property, it is important to evaluate your total rental cost. In most cases, there is no fully fixed service charge due to unreliable power supply in Nigeria. We recommend that you allow room for potentially arising miscellaneous costs such as extra diesel payments.

Security
Security is non-negotiable and should not be compromised in your decision making. If your ideal property is not in an estate or gated community, you must ensure your locality has a residents’ association and there are adequate security measures in place.

Neighbourhood
Would you live in an estate, a quiet street or a busy city block? Would you mind neighbours who host late-night parties? What about parking? If you use public transportation, how accessible is it? Etc. It would be sensible to visit at different times – rush hour, mornings, and the weekends. You can also randomly ask about the neighborhood from the locals. You need to know what the flooding situation is, especially if you don’t drive, during the rainy season. Finally, there is the electricity conundrum; not too much we can do about electricity but it’s worth knowing to effectively plan your total budget.

Meet the owner/caretaker
This is where having a lawyer is essential. It is important to ascertain the individual(s) you are dealing with possess legal ownership or rights over the property. Unfortunately, there are several cases of fraud and you must take every step necessary to avoid being a victim.

Inspection/Viewing
Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth. The sheer volume and daily movement of people especially in big cities like Lagos can only mean one thing – the physically and mentally draining traffic. We recommend you schedule multiple viewings and take a day off to inspect all the properties.

Take Inventory
You must insist that an inventory list is inserted in the rental agreement. You should also take photos of your property prior to moving in. This is important especially so that when you are leaving the house in the future, if there are any security deposits or caution fee paid, it can be refunded.

Tenancy Agreement
So, you’ve found the perfect neighborhood and your home, don’t sign anything yet. Take the time to thoroughly inspect before paying the deposit, rent or fees. If you notice any damages: holes in the wall, scratches on the floors, etc. be sure these are all noted on your lease prior to signing. If possible, ask the landlord to give you a written document stating that that repairs will be made within a certain timeframe and paid for by the owner. If you decide to pay for repairs, then try to get a bargain on rental price. For the umpteenth time, I recommend you have a lawyer reviewing legal documentation on your behalf.

Moving In
Finally!!! Moving in, the fun part. It could be stressful lifting boxes, furniture, moving things around etc., but if you have a knack for arranging, organising and putting stuff together you’ll definitely love this part. Ensure that the property is thoroughly cleaned and fumigated if necessary before you move in. You might want to get acquainted with the neighbours and security guards, they can assist with finding local artisans because you will most likely need them. Generally help you settle into your new home and neighbourhood.