9 October 2016

Hafiz Adewuyi

Renting a place in Lagos


  • Go with a friend for a trusted second opinion
  • If you value your time, shun offline and go online. You don't have to use an agent referred by a friend. Most online listings (at least on Nigeria Property Centre) have legit agents behind them. Doing your hunt online will save you the trouble of visiting unpalatable places, because quality listings contain all the information and pictures that will help you decide if this is even something you want to go inspect.  
  •  My house search took me only two days of inspection and the period from deciding I wanted a place to finding a place was only 8 days. And only because I did not have time to inspect on 6 of those 8 days.

One dull Saturday night, right in the middle of August, I suddenly got inspiration to start searching for my own place. At the time, I was living in my awesome brother-in-law's spacious flat, a fifteen-minute drive away from my workplace; very convenient. However, I'd been there for a year and counting and it only makes sense that I was considering moving out, after having been accommodated completely free for that long.

House-hunting had always been something that I shied away from because I had zero experience in it and by general opinion, it was guaranteed to be a tedious endeavour. At the top of my mind were the stories of people who got swindled by dubious agents that rented the same space to multiple people. I had also heard/read of stories of agents who took their clients to horrible spaces and still demanded payment for the service at the end of such fruitless endeavours.

According to all my friends who lived in rented spaces that I consulted, the only way to avoid all of these pitfalls was to work with a friend's (trusted) agent. Not a bad idea in itself, but then I had trouble accepting the suggestion that I ignore all the online directories and put all of my hope in one man. I'm like, why stick to the traditional approach of doing this if there are good technology solutions that can help you do it much more efficiently. Enter property listing websites.

I was on my PC, so it took little effort to kickstart my search. I started from Google and perused dozens of listings on several listing websites (of which we have like a gazillion of those in Nigeria these days) based on the results. After spending a significant amount of time perusing, the one source that stood out for me was Nigeria Property Centre (NPC). The three top things I like about the site are:

  • the quality and quantity of photos that accompany each of the listings
  • the quality of the search engine. It has several useful filters and the results are always relevant to your search
  • the general ease-of-use of the site

Now, I really wish this was a sponsored post for NPC but no, this is just me being an impressed customer and trying to make life easy for other people.

By Sunday evening, I had seen a couple of spaces which piqued my interest. So, for each one, I just copied out the agent's number from the NPC website onto my phone and made viewing arrangements with him (yeah, they were all guys; so typical). It was too late to fix any appointments for the same day, and as I have next to no free time on working days, I fixed all my appointments for the coming Saturday.

Almost all of the agents tried to talk me into finding inspection time during the week as "weekend is so far away that it's more likely than not that the listing would have been snatched up by then". Some of them even called me up during the week to remind me of the need to move my viewing appointment up in the calendar. But I borrowed wisdom from one article I read online which advised not to yield to pressure from the agents. The market will always have something for you.

Not too much time passed before Saturday came by. I headed out very early (with a friend) to ensure I was in time for my first appointment. Please, permit me (because I'm lazy and I'm scared I might bore you) not to go into detail of each house I checked out. Let's fast-forward to Sunday evening when I found my final pick (which I've lived in for a month now).

Prior to then, I had met with two other agents on Saturday. Both agents were pretty courteous and helpful, but I was having trouble making a pick from all the places I had inspected. The first place I checked was okay but quite pricey. The other place which I was considering (mostly because it was quite spacious for its price tag) had a terrible road network leading to it. So, on Sunday afternoon, I decided I needed to explore more options to help me make a better decision. I hopped back onto NPC and within a few minutes, I had selected a couple of new listings I wanted to go inspect. I called up the two agents and made appointments for evening same day.

The first of the flats I visited ticked off virtually all the boxes on my checklist. I was pretty sold, but I still went on to honour my appointment with the other agent, just to ensure I was not missing anything. All the flats he took us to inspect were unsurprisingly underwhelming as the first place had set the bar quite high (it was a newly built facility). One of the flats was a room in an uncompleted building and the other is a room in a brothel (defined as a shitty hotel which comes bundled with an outdoor bar that plays loud music all night long).

I paid one year rent for the first flat I inspected on Sunday the next day (Monday). And that was how my house-hunt came to an end, just a week after it kicked off. There's a lot of incredible technology out there which we can employ to do things much more efficiently, but it's up to us to take the first step to seek them out.

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