How to buy real estate in Nigeria


Buying Real estate in Nigeria is not like your everyday buy, it comes with its own garbage. The issue of Real estate in Nigeria has its complexities and sometimes can turn into a tussle which might linger for years when you do it the wrong way, so when buying, caution must be applied. Otherwise one might be swindled.  In this piece we are going to discuss steps to follow when embarking on a buy.

1. What’s your aim?

The aim of purchase or should I say the purpose or what you intend to do with the property is a major factor you must pay attention to. This is because it will determine the location of the real estate. For example, some areas are meant for residential buildings only, meaning you cannot cite a factory or poultry in such areas while some other areas are meant for factories or industrial clusters, which means if your aim of getting the land is for erecting a residential building, you should not be considering such places. So your aim for the real estate is the number one thing you should put into consideration.

2. What’s your budget?

Another thing you should put into consideration when buying real estate is your budget. How much are you willing to spend on this property? What is the price range you are looking at? These will play a major part in determining the area you or the real estate agent will be looking at. The reason is simple, there are highbrow and low cost areas, and the budgets have no similarities. For example, you can’t have a budget of 50 million Naira for a purchase of property in Banana Island Lagos, or Civic Center Owerri. In fact if you are made that offer, it should trigger the sense of fraud or something fishy. Understanding your budget and working with it will save time and energy for you and your Agent. More especially, it will also save you from the hands of fraudsters. In fact in Nigeria when an offer is too good to be true, then it is actually too good to be true.

3. Work with a legitimate real estate agent or company.

After the above mentioned two steps, the next thing you have to do is to engage the services of a legitimate real estate agent. Why should I pay attention in the choosing of agent you might ask? Well in Nigeria there are road side real estate agents everywhere. Truly they may be very cheap to work with, but the danger is that you may also end up defrauded.  Legitimate real estate agent or company on the other hand might be a little expensive but it saves you a whole lot of trouble. This is because a legitimate real estate agency has a name to protect and in most cases provides all include service like real estate verification at the appropriate quarters, an attorney, survey and transfer of documents in your name at the end of the transaction. A legitimate Agency wants to build a robust brand, clout and go higher in his business, so he wouldn’t want to get involved in any deal that will dent his reputation. For this purpose, we recommend that you use an honest agent or corporate Agency when transacting real estate business in Nigeria if you don’t want to suffer heartbreaks.

4. Ask to be shown many lands and make your choice

After contracting a real estate agent, make sure you have a pool to choose from.  What does this mean? Ask the agent to show you as much properties as possible; this would provide you varieties to make a good decision. When you have different real estate to choose from, the number 1 and 2 points stated in this article would help you make the best choice. Mind you, human emotions also comes into play in business, no matter how professional the agent is, he might still want to sell off that piece of real estate that would make him  more money first. This means he is likely to offer you the one that favour’s him most, but when you ask to see other options, the odds swings back to your favour…smart move isn’t it? So no matter the pitch an agent makes to you for purchase, only go with your gut feeling.

5. Verify the land. Hire a lawyer and surveyor to help you out.

In a country like Nigeria where properties can be acquired through various means, buying real estate can actually be a complex issue, especially considering the fact that there’s no electronic real estate database or directory like they do in developed nations, so following land history is very difficult. Some real estates are family properties (owned by the whole family), some are communal (owned by a community) and acquiring such is one hell of a job. This is why you must verify the authenticity of any property before making a purchase; it saves you from the hands of greedy and ‘smart’ business men.

 How do you verify properties? Most properties does not have certificate of occupancy. Certificate of occupancy (C of O) is a document issued by the ministry of lands of every state to the legitimate owner of a property. So if this is the case, how can you verify a real estate? If a property does not have C of O, it is recommended that it has Power of attorney. A power of attorney is a document that shows that an owner of a property has authorized and transferred ownership of his property to the buyer. Though a lot of agents has format of this document in their computer and can edit it per time to make transactions without the consultation of a lawyer, it is recommended that this document be prepared by a lawyer and duly sealed. This also reduces fraud chances. Most powers of attorney are not registered and my recommendation is that you insist that it be registered with the government before making payment, that way you can have bullet proof verification. This does not mean that unregistered powers of attorney are not legitimate but it’s better if it is registered. In fact you can actually pay your lawyer to do the verification for you if you are not using the services of a corporate real estate agency who in most cases does all the work.

6. Make sure you pay to the rightful owner.

Here comes the main issue, payment? This is the part where you can be swindled, even after you have done almost everything right. Make sure you pay to the rightful owner of the land, not the agent, not even your lawyer. It’s advisable to pay to a bank account bearing the name in the real estate document except when the owner is deceased. Make sure that the seller duly signs with credible witnesses.

Why we recommend bank transaction is because it provides you with a money trail and proof of payment both in hard and soft copy. Should any argument arise regarding incomplete or denial of payment or any argument at all that bothers on the legitimacy of your payment, these documents will save the day. Paying for a real estate in Nigeria is totally unadvisable

7. Transfer real estate to your name.

 Buying real estate in Nigeria will not be complete without this step. After purchase, the next thing to do is to go the necessary government offices to change the documents to your name as the rightful owner. Most people take this lightly but this is very serious. Make sure you fulfill this process after you have met your obligations as the buyer. Ask for the help of your agent or lawyer if you find this difficult to do, I’m very sure they will guide you accordingly.

8. Survey

If the real estate you are buying is land then surveying it after all the process is very important. Use a certified surveyor to do so. There are many racketeers in this space so make you use only a certified Surveyor. Why do I need a certified surveyor? Because he has experience, understands the job and licensed by the government for the job and will make sure the land is accurately measured; the landmarks and boundaries properly spelt out and then produce a survey plan for which he will submit to the local or state housing authority or ministry of lands and survey for proper approval and certification! After which the government will issue a survey plan in your name which he will handover to you. Do not forget that a survey plan is one of the compulsory legal documents required by law as part of registering a land, and the survey plan must be done by a registered surveyor.

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