Nigerians abroad and those living in the country have been scammed several times trying to purchase a property. This can be traced to either they don’t understand the process involved in acquiring a property or choose not to carry out due diligence.
As a property professional, I have seen people fall prey to scam and other dubious acts making them lose millions of Naira. Even though we know that government has not played its role in providing affordable housing, the onus is up to individuals and corporate organisation to know the process involved in buying a property. With this knowledge, they would know if they are involved in the right transaction or are being scammed.
After several years as a real estate consultant, it is no news that the government is not taking the appropriate step to combat the bureaucratic process involved in verifying a property and the lack of affordable housing in Nigeria.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs puts shelter as a basic need for every human. Without shelter, a man’s social activities and other areas of life will be distorted. Also, adding to the fact that man needs a place to rest after the day’s work.
What should have been a basic provision by the government has become a den of lions for scammers and fraudsters who claim to be Real Estate professionals.
According to 2011 housing survey report, there is 17million housing deficit in Nigeria. These challenges of housing in Nigeria also existed in previous administrations. In 1991, the government of Ibrahim Babangida promulgated the National Housing Policy aimed at making housing affordable and accessible; but the policy failed. I would not bore you with the failures of the past administrations. Even the current administration under the leadership of Babatunde Fashola as the Minister of Works, Power and Housing also introduced a policy to address the challenge of housing in the country, you can tell the result. The foregoing shows that Nigeria is not bereft of policies. And I am sure it is not stopping soon; this is the reason I believe you should understand the process involved in purchasing a property of your own so you are not scammed.
What both the state and federal government have failed to address is an indicator of the many abnormalities that happening in the housing industry.
Every adult at a time or another would get involved in housing transaction, either for outright acquisition (purchase) or on Lease (rent).
My focus as a practising real estate professional is to explain the process involved in the acquisition of properties (Virgin Land or a House). And to help individuals and corporate organisations who want to buy properties have the basic knowledge of what to look out for when involved in buying a property. I tailor this article to properties in Lagos, but I am sure it can be applied in other parts of the state.
When considering buying a property, the first process is to sort out the aspect of finance, location & housing type. Immediately you find a property of interest and have agreed on a purchase price, quickly request for the copy of the subsisting title or registration details of the property for a title search at the Lagos State Lands Bureau.
The essence of title verification at the Lands Bureau is to ensure that there is no encumbrance(s) on the property. You may not do this yourself; the service of a professional is required in the verification of Tttle. This is one of the most important aspects of buying a property, in the real sense, it is the residual interest in the property that will be transferred. This aspect must be handled with utmost professionalism. The realtor handling this process must be detailed & ensure that the buyer is protected from any provision(s) that may serve as an additional burden if the property is acquired. If possible, apply for the Certified True Copy from the Lagos State Land registry; the buyer and the realtor must be satisfied with the existing title before going ahead with the transaction. Most potential transactions end at this stage when the buyer is not satisfied with the documents provided.
However, the process is different, where the property does not possess a registered title and requires a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) after purchase. In such situation, a copy of the survey is taken to the Surveyor-General’s office for charting. This is to establish whether the property falls within the Government Acquisition Scheme or not. This is because not all properties within the government acquisition scheme are rectifiable.
Another basic consideration when buying a property is the issue of development permit. The purpose of buying a property is specific, it is best to find out whether the development permit for that area will allow the intended development. Things to consider include: prevailing land use zoning, height restrictions (permissible number of floors), the allowable number of units, car parking requirements, Setbacks/ Airspace considerations and Landscape requirements. If all the issues stated above are not considered, the application for Town Planning approval to develop from the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban development may not be granted. This is a serious issue.
The next is to carry out due diligence on the owner of the property. It is important to establish that the person selling is the owner or has instruction. Sometimes people bear the same name, impersonation or fraud. Where it is established that the Assignor (The person assigning his/her interest in a property) is not available and has confirmed his/her representative to the Assignee (The person acquiring the residual interest in a property), a Power of Attorney is required, authorising the person to act on behalf of the assignor. When the property belongs to a family, there is need to establish that the people selling are the accredited representatives of the family, to avoid dispute from an aggrieved family member(s) or Lltigation after the purchase.
After you have confirmed the documents, make sure that your payment goes through bank clearing, payment is acknowledged once received by the assignor/his representatives and the signing of the Deed of Assignment is done when the assignor has received value on the payment.
Finally, once the Deed of Assignment has been signed, the assignee takes physical possession of the property and commences the Title perfection process at the Lagos State Lands Bureau.
I’ll advise you to follow these processes to secure your transaction.
Olusola Oduleye has a Masters Degree in Urban & Regional Planning from the Centre for Planning Studies, Lagos State University. He has over 19 years of experience in Town Planning & Real Estate Practice. He can be contacted on 08023026848, 08098213273.