House hunting for affordable and quality apartments in Lagos can be a tedious activity for most. A megacity with over 23 million people (more than 10% of the country’s population), Lagos has more people looking for homes than there are available and affordable. One report says the state is three million homes short. Another study shows that some households are spending 70% of their yearly basic income on rent, instead of the recommended 30%. All of these point to a fierce housing-hunting competition.
But beyond the data points, people have shared stories of agents making the renting process more difficult by misrepresenting the condition of rental properties and charging exorbitant upfront fees. Their common, exploitative practices are compounding the housing deficit and inflation already caused by high demand, limited supply, and rising construction costs.
How do you navigate this challenging housing market and secure the right rental property for your needs? To answer this question, in this article, we spoke with a Principal Partner at Eagle Eye Property Ltd, Odebode Adebayo. According to the real estate agent you can increase your chances of finding a suitable apartment and avoiding any potential problems, by following these tips.
Set your budget
Determine your financial limits before you start hunting. This includes factoring in agent fees, which typically range from ₦3,000 to ₦10,000 per house inspection. Having a clear budget in mind means you won’t waste time and money exploring properties that are beyond your affordability.
Adebayo admits that “it often takes people a long period to find a suitable house because they are on the hunt for places that match their personal preferences while remaining within their budget “.
Rent prices can vary widely based on location, property condition, and amenities, However, Adebayo, says that the cheapest rents in Lagos can be found in the outskirts of the city, such as Igando and Ayobo and some parts of Ijegun and Aboru.
The rent on the island is typically higher than on the mainland. For example, a three-bedroom apartment on the island may cost ₦6 million per year, while a similar apartment on the mainland may cost ₦600k per year.
Find the right location
For some people looking for a new place to rent in Lagos, the biggest headache may not be the money, but deciding where to call home. That requires a little Q/A to arrive at the best decision. Do you want to live in a quiet neighborhood or a bustling area? Do you need to be close to schools, parks, hospitals or other amenities?
Whatever your expectations or lifestyle choices are, you should never ignore the distance of your home to the workplace. You must give proximity to work a priority because Lagos is notorious for traffic congestion. For example, if you live on Lagos Island and work on the Lagos Mainland, or vice versa, you will likely have to cross the Third Mainland Bridge on a daily basis. This can be a very time-consuming and frustrating experience, especially during rush hour. By living on the Lagos Mainland and working on the Lagos Mainland, you can avoid the daily traffic congestion on the Third Mainland Bridge. The opposite is also true.
Remember that Lagos is a coastal city at risk of flash and urban floods. Check if the area you want to rent is prone to flood. Adebayo suggests prioritizing house hunting during the rain season to get first-hand information about the drainage system and how the property fares when faced with flood.
Bonus point: Living on the Lagos Mainland has several benefits, including affordability and a wider range of housing options. But while the mainland can be more crowded and noisy than Lagos Island, the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks, especially for those who work on the mainland.
Work with a reputable agent or property firm
A good house agent or agency firm should be knowledgeable about the local market, have a strong network of contacts, and be committed to providing excellent customer service. That means they should help you to find a property that meets your budget or needs, disclose the history of the property, including any accumulated dues or unpaid bills, and the frequency of rent reviews. In addition, they should be transparent about the agency’s commission and fees, provide assistance with signing the lease agreement and be responsive throughout the rental process.
Bayo warns that “exploiting the ignorance of others for personal gain is not an uncommon practice.” He advises renters to watch out for red flags such as “roadside agents” who have no office or those who pressure homeseekers to pay a deposit immediately.
To be on the safe side, look for a firm with a physical office that you can visit, that is registered with relevant bodies such as the Estate Rent and Commission Agent Association of Nigeria (ERCAAN), Nigeria Institutes of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). Make sure they have a good reputation among renters. This, he says, can be done by asking for recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues who have rented in Lagos before.
Inspect the property carefully
Take your time to inspect every room and every appliances in the room. According to Bayo, most homeseekers look for a room with a POP ceiling these days. In any case, it is advisable to have a friend or family member with you during the inspection because they can help you spot problems that you might miss on your own.
Note any problems that you find so that you don’t forget them. And after informing the landlord or caretaker about the problems, don’t just take their word that they will fix it after you move in. Get everything in writing and make it part of the agreement.
Prepare for additional costs
Besides paying the rent fee, you need to consider three more costs: the agency fee or commission, the legal fee or agreement and the refundable caution fee or damages. Each of these three additional costs are typically between 5-10% of the rent on the island, but it is not fixed on the mainland. When you add up these expenses, the cumulative additional cost can amount to as much as 30% of the rent. Your skill in negotiation, however, can help you manage and potentially reduce these expenses.
Read and understand your rental agreement before signing
The tenancy agreement should include all of the important terms of your rental, such as the rent amount, lease term, security deposit, and maintenance responsibilities. Be sure to read and understand all of the terms before you sign.
If you have any questions about the tenancy agreement, ask your landlord or lawyer for clarification. It’s important to understand everything you’re signing before you commit to renting the property.