Monday, April 8, 2013


The week started out looking very hopeful but ended up mirroring the proverbial tale of Solomon Grundy who was born on Monday but due to a series of unfortunate events, was no more by the end of the week. Let me explain before you panic. This story centers on a choice piece of land on the Island, in which I was given the direct brief by a client who wanted to buy a house in Lekki, but wanted my company to sell their land first, which was approximately the cost of the house , which would be paid for in full, if the land as sold. She explained that all the papers were up to date and in order and was in her and her husband’s name. Armed with this information and the fact that she had assured me it was direct through my company, I thought nothing could go wrong, I was so wrong!

I managed to find an interested buyer for the land, through some Lawyer colleagues, who expressed immediate interest for a client of theirs. I arranged a meeting at the site of the land and called to confirm with the owners that they could meet us there. The owner said she could not make the meeting, but would send her husband’s brother, who had been trying to sell the same piece land for almost one year!  She said he had all the necessary land documents to give us to carry out searches. This took me by surprise, as I had expected that my company would be the only agents in this transaction. She explained that s he had been involved previously on her husband’s instructions, she could not cut him out!? This was the first warning sign that all was not well.  The title documents for the land had the relevant names blacked out for some strange reason! When I asked the owner, she said she was not aware of this, but would check with her husband’s brother. He rang me up to say that the papers were not fully in order and there were some outstanding charges that need to be paid first, before the land could be sold, so he could not reveal the name of the owners. The Lawyers carrying out the search on the land, found the withholding of the name odd, but had proceeded with the search and got the information they needed to proceed with the sale, less the outstanding land charges.

For some reason, the fact that the purchasers lawyers had found out about the outstanding land charges and were querying this with the owners brother, seemed not to sit well with the brother. He said he was settling this directly with the land owners. I had been on the phone constantly with my client seeking clarification and updates on what was going on. She seemed not to be aware of the outstanding charges. She informed me there was now a lawyer from husband who was now involved and had a found purchaser? I was gob smacked and told her I had a client who wanted to buy the land immediately! I rang the purchasers’ lawyers who got on to the phone to the landlords lawyers, but hit a brick wall. It was clear there as something underhand happening here.

I received a call from my client this morning to say her husband felt I was her friend and she was doing the land transaction with me because of this. She said ‘I am tired, I don’t understand how you Yoruba people operate, I can’t continue with this any longer.’  So, my dear readers, this is how a potential land transaction was terminated.  People widely believe politics is a dirty business, I can safely confirm that the property transaction business is just as, or if not dirtier.


The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez sadly lost is battle against cancer and died last week. The people of country are still in mourning for a man who put in place policies for the provision of decent, affordable homes for those who could not build or buy their own. Every year he successfully delivered hundreds of thousands new homes to grateful citizens.  He was a man on a mission to ensure that all his citizens were housed and provided for. How as he able to do this?  Venezuela, sits on vast oil reserves just like Nigeria, and this is being utilized for the benefits of its people. Policies were put in place for delivering a certain number of units of homes every year until everyone had a decent home to live in. The truth is that a man cannot achieve his potential in life without a roof over his head. It is proven that one of mans most basic needs apart from food is a roof over his head. In any society you will find the have’s and the have not’s which vary in degrees depending on how organised or developed that society is or what policies are in place for the provision of homes for its less well off citizens.

In the UK, you are entitled to subsidised government provided homes if you are unemployed or on a low income. These homes are now usually of decent standards with clean running water, heating, electricity and safety provided as standard. Should these not be provided, the tenant has a right to complain and take that local Authority to court. In the United States it is basically the same. Therefore giving citizens opportunities to live healthily and improve themselves should they want to. Here in Lagos, there are a few areas where “low cost” homes are provided for residents, but they are in such poor conditions that living in these homes can often be more miserable than sleeping out in the open. They have no water, electricity, have not been maintained or repaired since they were built and offer no comfort whatsoever to its occupants. Due to the steady influx of people into Lagos State without any means or hope of affording decent accommodation, they find themselves sleeping in shanties, under the bridge, on the beach or in derelict buildings. These are the hidden homeless who seem to get along without any real hopes of affording to put a roof over their heads.

Even if we examine so called affluent areas, like Lekki1, Victoria Island, Ikoyi etc we can see that a lot of homes in these areas still lacks basics like roads, running water and electricity, the only difference is that they can afford to buy water and generators to make life easier for themselves. In most developed or developing societies, infrastructure like good roads, power and water are put in place before homes are even built. But here in Nigeria the opposite is the case, we build the homes on un-motorable, flood prone areas or in the bush, without any water or electricity, and life just seems to go on as normal. No one raises an eyebrow or queries why homes are being built in these inaccessible areas. In some areas residents have to hire canoes or hire human beings to carry them through their flood ravaged streets. The lack of affordable good homes is a national problem that needs to be dealt with urgently. More and more high brow homes are being built for the high income earners without anything being provided for the masses. This is a something that needs urgent attention, but who will lead the way?


Frequently I get owners of land coming to me to ask if I can market their land for them and more often than not, there is always an issue with the land documents or the estate. Although the sale of land can command good returns on fees, the stress of trying to sort through the information that has been withheld or finding out that the papers are not genuine after six months of negotiating with an interested buyer, can be quite upsetting. I was approached by a friend of a friend, to help market a very large parcel of land along the Lekki Expressway axis. I explained that I was not too comfortable taking it on as they were finding it hard to answer simple questions like what name the land documents were in? or if there was a Certificate of Occupancy? My instinct told me not to take this on, but I was persuaded that this was different and had no problems. I asked for a copy of the papers to be sent, and was assured it would be sent the next day. The next day came and went with nothing being sent. Three days later, I was told the owner of the land could not give me a copy of the papers because there was a legal dispute on the land and the case was in court! So as you can see my instincts were right. Next time I will stick to my instincts. I think I will turn down all future land sales that are brought to me without papers or promises of papers surfacing at a later date. Land sales almost always have issues associated with them which makes it unsellable

The heat of recent days has been unbearable! It is almost impossible to walk around outside for more than a few minutes. I had to show a client a property on an estate and the client had to ask for the appointment to be rescheduled for an early morning or evening when it is cooler. Unfortunately there was no parking allowed on the estate which is brand new and quite expansive, so a viewing would have taken a good 30 minutes, which would have probably left us suffering from heatstroke. The continuing epileptic power situation on some parts of the Island has been so bad that many estates have had diesel trucks parked permanently outside the estates with a ready supply due to the constant reliance on generators. Whereas generators used to provide back supplies of power, it appears they are now used as permanent reliable sources of power

A quiet unassuming lady I met at a party, came up to me and asked if I dealt in properties, as she had heard someone mention it. When I said I did, she asked if I could market her property in Lekki Ph1? She went on to tell me it was a block of 14 flats, fully serviced, with swimming pool and air conditioners in all rooms! When I asked if she was the owner, she said “by the special grace of God” It never ceases to amaze me the types of clients that own multi billion naira properties. Some so humble and unassuming that you would never think that they even owned anything like that. It just goes to show that with landlords and developers, you can never judge a book by its cover!


It has been all over the media recently that the Lagos State Government is on a quest to demolish all slum dwellings in the state, as they want to ensure safety of the residents and to be taken seriously as a “mega city” My question is, would they have allowed these dwellings to flourish if they did not want to be taken seriously? And what do slum dwellers have to do with the government’s seriousness? Do they have a say? What about the slum dwellers who want to be taken seriously by having safe and decent homes to live in? I sometimes fail to understand how decisions are arrived at that concerns those that have no voices. Whilst I will be the first to acknowledge the immense work the Lagos State Government puts into the State, there seems to be no plans for the resettlement of these people, which makes nonsense of the hopes for mega city status. A city that cannot provide homes for its masses is not a mega city by any standards.

We watch daily as “billions of naira is stolen or squandered on one building or a private aircraft. If only a fraction of this loot, was put towards building safe, decent and affordable homes as well as maintaining them, there would not be so many slum dwellings or shanties around. Already the mass demolition has started, displacing at least 10,000 people in the Iganmu area. Some of these people have lived there for 40 years!  We are told there has been no resistance from the people although most have nowhere else to go. Last year there were attempts to move residents of the Makoko river community in Yaba, which had to be halted as things got out of hand. The scattering of existing low cost Government homes around the state, are suffering from a terrible lack of maintenance and have literally fallen apart, with crumbled or decayed plumbing, doors and windows fallen out, roofs blown off, no electricity etc. Residents mainly resort to doing whatever patch work they can just to keep a roof over their heads.

I read that some brand new luxury residential estate had been demolished because the land was acquired under controversial circumstances. So rather than sort out the land details all the dozens of completed homes were demolished, depriving the numerous numbers of people searching for a home, the chance to benefit from a roof over their heads. Where is the logic in that?

It is quite worrying that some landlords will rather leave their properties empty for years rather than lower the asking amount or consider using it for alternative sources of income ie a school or a book store. Some landlords want their properties for residential accommodation but receive offers to use it for commercial uses and do not consider these offers even though the property is better suited for commercial use. I went to a property during the week that was on a main busy road, and the area rapidly becoming commercialized. The owner wanted “corporate tenants” but was not getting any offers that matched what he wanted. He had received two offers for a pharmacy and one for a phone shop. He had refused all these offers, because they were not his idea of what he wanted his property to be used for. I had to sit him down and explain that he should seriously consider the offers as the area was being commercialized anyway. He rang me a few days later to say he had accepted an offer for the property to be used as an office space for a telecoms company.


You may wonder what the above heading has to do with property? Let me explain. Sometime during the week a company rang me to help them find accommodation for an expatriate client who would be coming into Lagos from the UK during the week. I lined up a few apartments as specified, for viewing. At the appointed time I met the client at the first apartment. During the viewing he asked if I had heard about the raging controversy about horse meat being sold as beef and being used in meals in the UK? I confirmed that I had heard about it on the news. He seemed more interested in getting my views on whether Nigerians ate horse meat or not. I tried to get his mind back on the property viewing, but after a few more minutes he mentioned that he had seen horses wandering the streets on the island and wondered what happened to the horses as they always seemed to disappear into thin air. I tried to be as patriotic as possible in my reply to him. I told him that the Lagos State Emergency Patrols arranged for the horses to be taken to a horse sanctuary and kept there!  He looked at me like he thought I was the biggest liar on the face of this earth. He then asked if I considered that these horses were being killed and sold as meat in our shops and other meat outlets like Suya joints?  I must have looked horrified, because he went on to reassure me that horse meat is edible and was actually eaten in many countries as part of their meat diets. I quickly changed the subject and carried on with the viewings

My encounter with the horse meat client, got me thinking the whole week safe our meat processes are? Every time I now see a sick horse wandering aimlessly on the road, I picture it being killed and ending up on my plate. I will need to seriously consider cutting meat out of my diet. Thankfully the client ended up taking one of the apartments, so my encounter with him ended on some positive note. It can be interesting meeting clients and talking to them about other issues than property, I have made a few friends and many repeat contacts through my property business. I must add that not all are so interesting and have left not too good memories behind.

Someone called up to ask if he could do business with me in Abuja? He wants me fly to Abuja to meet with him without him telling me what it is all about. All he will say is that it will be very beneficial to my company. He will not give me his full name, except to say I should call him “Joe”.  He wants to know if I will foot the air fare to Abuja and he will reimburse me when I get there. I told him I will think about it and get back to him tomorrow. He must have seen “MUGU” next to my phone number before he called. The whole phone call had 419 written all over it. I am not sure how many other Agents he will ring with that proposal or if any will take him up on it. Like I said, in this job, we come across all sorts of people and situations that require the patience of Job and the skills of a psychiatrist.


It is difficult to answer the above question as I know that if you speak to ten people, you will get ten different answers. I guess that in itself is an answer that the Tenancy Law is not as cohesive as it should be. In my opinion the Law is not being followed to the letter, I guess because it is difficult to implement some of the requirements ie collecting only one year’s rent in certain areas and not in others. This creates confusion for landlords and tenants who cannot understand why Lekki should command one year’s rent and Victoria Island, two years. Some landlords who are paying off mortgages, really cannot afford to take one year’s rent as they need to service their mortgages. Landlords will tell you that if the tenant cannot pay the two years or more rent that he wants, they are welcome to go look for a property elsewhere that accepts one year payment. The landlord is well within his rights to decline a tenancy as long as monies and an agreement have not been exchanged, which can be tendered as evidence in a court of Law

The rate at which court decisions are made for the eviction of illegal occupiers, defy the purpose for taking them to court, as they end up staying rent free for up to a year or more before a judgment is made. There is unfortunately a lack of confidence in the court system.The property market environment is of course open to corruption and unregulated practices when one or all parties involved, try to cut corners. I frequently receive requests from Agents looking for properties for their client, some are so insistent on viewing without their client, that an alarm bell goes off as to why they are so insistent on viewing the property alone. Unfortunately some “Agents” give the business a bad name by going back to the property without the knowledge of the principal agent and many times, closing the deal with the landlord. Some landlords plead ignorance and some tell you that they owe no one any allegiance, therefore the property market regulations are really subject to the honesty of those involved in its practices.

A lot of tenants are not aware of their right and therefore get bullied by landlords who increase rents without notice or because they have received an offer of higher rent payments or they tell the current tenants to leave the property before their lease expires. If the tenant does not move out or increase the rent to match the offer being touted by the landlord, their belongings are thrown out and locks changed. Most tenants resort to begging the landlord instead of taking the matter to court. Sometimes Agents capitalise on this by demanding exorbitant fees and higher rent from the tenant in order to assure them of getting a sought after property.  

Repairs is another area where tenants and landlords are not clear about responsibilities. Some landlords feel that a tenant should take their property in the state of disrepair it is advertised and fix the repairs themselves. Some tenants carry out all sorts of alterations and works to their rented property without consulting the landlord. Both actions are wrong and can be taken to a court of law for resolution. There may really be no way of ensuring the Law works due to the mindset that operates in the property business and the country as a whole. What needs to be done is closer monitoring of practices and instant penalties from the monitoring agencies for those found breaking the law.


In layman’s real estate terms, “Buyer Beware” simply means that you should be armed with all your facts before you proceed with the purchase of a property. The emotional travail and stress of buying a house are well known. A big contributor to this stress is when hope for settling down is later turned into disappointment. Last week I came across some distressed clients who felt they had been cheated by other Agents in their purchases and now want legal redress. Usually a property for sale does not spell out the problems that may lie ahead for the potential buyers. Sometimes a house’s serious issues are hidden but it is wise to heed the phrase “buyer beware” with caution and all seriousness. Most times, however, there is no clue to what problems may be ahead of you. Homebuyers just have to go see and then decide for themselves whether to proceed or not. Some common examples of deal breakers (the immediate problems that may cause homebuyers to remove a house from their list)

External Issues

Among the typical deal breakers I come across are a house’s proximity to high-tension wires. Nigerians have not been well educated on this and therefore a lot of residential homes still exist near or under these electric poles. The radiation from power lines has been found to cause serious health problems. There are things that can be good or bad depending on the needs of the client. Being close to a commercially zoned area could be undesirable for someone looking for peace and quiet. When a house is located on a busy street, it’s often a significant enough safety concern for parents of small children or families with pets that it is a deal breaker. Busy streets also create a noise issue, however, that does not rule out busy streets for everyone. “A busy road could be a turn off for someone with small children, but a real benefit to someone who needs access to public transportation.

Other significant causes for concern may include old roofs, old septic/water tanks, fumes, and smells. A home buyer turned down a property recently because it was near a petrol station. Another classic make-or-break issue is the quality and safety of the surrounding area ie, the number of armed robbery attacks.

Internal Problems

Water issues are notorious deal breakers, and homes in sand filled water logged areas are more difficult to sell. One must be vigilant for dampness on walls, this can be an expensive mistake. The cost of service charges can be a problem for some buyers.

A client told me the worst place she saw while house hunting: “There were hundreds of huge dead cockroaches inside the door, her son was afraid to go inside the house so she left  


Not all problems are obvious or explainable. Owners being evasive can mean they have something to hide. Some deal breakers cannot be explained; some people just have a feeling that it is not right for them and pull out. A client said he had a funny feeling while checking out an apartment and that was enough reason to leave immediately.

Having a list of deal breakers means knowing what to watch out for before you sign the sale documents. Buyers need to work with a good estate agent that understands their needs and can identify listings that are in line with those needs. I personally advise visiting the home at various times with friends and family before buying and talk to neighbours. You may find out things that are not evident in the sales documents


The term “Estate Agent” seems to conjure up various emotions in people, ranging from annoyance, anger, disgust, fear, amusement and suspicion. None good, I must add that this is not peculiar to Nigerian Estate Agents alone, but Agents around the world. The sad reality is that many so called Agents in Nigeria are mere cowboys and opportunists out to make a quick buck! The reason they succeed in getting away with this is the clients who use them so they can pay minimal fees and cut corners. The problem with this is that anyone willing to accept mediocrity will ultimately pay for it in other ways and that is usually by meeting a 419 Agent, getting a bad service or a worst case scenario, the Agent disappears with their money. Because this happens so often, most Estate Agents are often viewed with suspicion before they have even started their work.

 During the week I was approached by someone who claimed he had been cheated by an Estate Agent. The Agent had collected the rent on the landlords’ behalf and disappeared with the money! When I enquired from him where he had gotten the Agent from, he said the Agent had approached him and told him that he did not have to pay any fees, as this would be collected from the tenants, so the landlord gave him permission to let the property, without any checks. The 419 Agent proceeded to collect three sets of rent for the one property and promptly evaporated into thin air. The name he gave the landlord was different from what he gave to the tenants, all fake. No one had an accurate description of him, no address and the phone was turned off and not traceable!  Whilst I sympathise with the landlord, I am fairly certain that he was trying to save money by not using a legitimate Estate Agents service, which would entail paying fees. The saying “you pay for what you get” rings very true here.

 Another fee paying incident that occurred recently was in a Lease renewal case. The Agent who had originally placed the tenant three years ago on behalf of the landlord who resides abroad, had been contacted by the landlord to renew for another two years on his behalf. The rent on the property had gone up substantially in the three years, so the landlord of course wanted market rent which the tenant did not want to pay. A tug of war ensued between the tenant and landlord of whom the agent was the mediator and negotiator. After a month of negotiating and sending emails, telephone calls etc, an acceptable amount was agreed by both parties. The Agent sent a formal letter to both parties to confirm the amounts and his fees. The landlord despite the one appointing the Agent to manage the property point blank refused to pay fees, saying it should be the tenant’s responsibility. The tenant point blank refusing saying the first set of fees three years previously should cover the management forever?

My advice would be that legitimate Estate Agents must cover themselves by stating in their formal letters of contract/offer, how much their fees are, the period in question and for what specifically. Where an Agent is appointed by the landlord, the landlord should pay his fees. Where an Agent is appointed by a tenant, the tenant should pay the fees, both initial and renewal. This is clear and simple and stated in the Lagos State Tenancy Law. Yet still we get so much confusion over fee payments and amounts.The unfortunate truth is that no formal training has been given to most Agents


Whenever I advertise a property as a detached house, I still get calls asking if it is a duplex, townhouse or bungalow? I get asked this question so many times that it may be best to explain what the differences are. A detached house is a single unit property (usually having a downstairs and an upstairs) that sits on its own plot of land, not joined by any other property. A duplex normally refers to a residential property and consisting of two separate living units sharing a common wall. A Townhouse is a row of residential home usually constructed as a two or three-story unit all joined by a common wall. Parking space is sometimes included into the building. A bungalow is a single story low level residential unit, usually on its own plot.


It was interesting that the President made an unannounced visit to the Police barracks in Ikeja recently. I guess he saw for himself what we have all known and continue to see at all the barrack accommodation littered around Lagos, from Falomo, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Surulere, Yaba etc, they are all eyesores. Not only barracks but all the so called Low Cost blocks of flats that were put up years ago to support the population of low income workers. Even our University accommodation halls are now a sight for sore eyes. Public infrastructure has long been and continues to suffer from a lack of maintenance which seems to be a boil in the backside of the nation. Everywhere you turn; there is evidence of infrastructural decay, from our roads, airports, hospitals to our housing estates. When will it end? It will be interesting to watch and see what will come out of our Presidents visit to the barracks. It may well serve as a shake up for other areas of infrastructural rot

The continuing lack of electricity to homes, has meant that there is an over reliance on generators. Unfortunately a lot of so called affordable generators are the loudest noise producing machines to be ever invented by man. These machines can be so loud that prolonged use of them can make you deaf once they are turned off, because the silence is an assault to the senses. I experienced this at a friend’s place, where the racket from the generator was so loud and had been on all day, therefore we had gotten used to the noise. When good old NEPA brought the light and we waited for a few minutes before agreeing that it would be safe to turn off the generator, the silence that engulfed us was shocking!. It took about 15 minutes before we felt comfortable in the silence to start talking normally again. We have become desensitized to the noise pollution and filth around us.
 Some new serviced estates have sprung up along the Lekki Expressway corridor, that are surprisingly well managed and good quality, moreover they start out affordable for those who can get a foot in quickly, and seem to appreciate alarmingly over a short period of time. I must stress that this seems to only happen to one particular developer that I am aware of. The units get sold out so fast, leaving other developers wondering has has happened to their own units. A bench mark is also set for other developers in terms of quality and pricing. It is well known that competition is good and brings about regulations and lower pricing in commodities. Let us hope that this formula works for the future of our housing market  


The New Year has started with the Federal Government yet again promising that by the end of 2013, we will see electricity generation rise from its current estimated output of 3000mw to 10,000mw? It will be recalled that over the last few years we have been promised an increase in power generation at the beginning and end of every year, yet nothing comes of it. The one constant in our lives and homes, is our generators and fuel supply, without which we would have no life at all. We can rely on our generators to provide power as and when we want it, not PHCN. The power generation in the country is at best, comatose. Power can be taken ten times in one hour, damaging electrical appliances and leaving one to foot the cost of these losses or in many instances, no power is supplied for days or weeks. The issue of power generation despite promises of privatisation, seems to be a growing one with no end in sight.

Most estates now come as serviced, with power supply for which there is a charge. Of recent a number of estates have cancelled this service due to complaints from residents that they are being cheated by the ever increasing diesel charges. The residents are then left to buy their own individual generators and supply their own fuel. The problem with this is that most estates are built with the houses adjoining one another or in close proximity, thereby not leaving much space to do anything other than park one or two cars, if at all. Noise becomes a big issue as the neighbour has no control over the size of generator his neighbour can buy or the fuel spills that go with refilling the generators. The surroundings then become noisy, choked up and filthy, leaving the residents living in misery.

During the week I visited an estate in Lekki 1 that had ceased its power provision to residents at the end of last year. Some residents are moving out despite their leases not expiring yet, as they will not run their own generators. This estate has ceased to be a desirable option for those who want their comforts met at an extra cost. 

An estate that can successfully provide services for its residents, will be a much sought after estate. Unfortunately there is no pleasing some residents who will always insist on disputing charges, even when the charges have been broken down to its last kobo, and when they signed they bought or signed the lease on a property in the estate knowing full well that the estate is to be serviced. Some of the larger estates have two or three industrial sized generators so that there is continuous power supply to residents and charges are collected up to one year in advance.

On the Lagos Island it is common to see prices of properties and services listed in $. Whilst I do not agree with this, the accepted thinking is that these properties are targeted at the expatriate community who understand the value of the dollar better than the naira. Unfortunately these properties alienate the wider Nigerian market who may also be able to afford to live there. A lot of high end properties are not being sold or let as quickly as previously, some are remaining empty for two years or more while the owner looks for a “corporate letting” or expatriates only. The property market needs a shakeup in all areas of its operations