Finding an apartment in Lagos can be a very challenging task, especially if you are new in the city and don’t know where to start. Since I grew up in Lagos and spent most of my adult years here, I have a pretty good idea of what to do before you get that fancy apartment or not fancy -depending on your taste.
Also, living in different apartments in Lagos, some might say I have a lot of experience in this department. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to save you from getting into any house drama and getting your monies worth.
For me, my home is my sanctuary and as an introvert that’s where I want to come back and feel safe and comfortable – Like I’m in another world. You don’t want to have to face Lagos stress and home stress as well.
So before you rent an apartment in Lagos;
1. Beware of time-wasting Agents
Most people go into real estate because they believe there is a lot of money to be made. Yes, there is but if you don’t go about it the right way, you won’t make any reasonable money.
We have so many agents these days all in the name of 10% commission. They don’t care about the client; they just want to rent an apartment so they could get their cut. These guys waste so much of your time, taking you to different houses that you don’t even like, so they could keep getting change from you for every inspection. Avoid these guys.
Thank God for the internet, but beware, there are scammers there too. But why I love the internet is, you can always go on Google and search for apartments, flats or duplex on these real estate sites. You can get a lot of contacts there. Make sure these people are credible and have an office where you can place complaints if there is an issue.
Most of these agents are not direct agents. Make sure you get the direct agent’s contact or if you are lucky, the landlord’s contact.
2. Ensure there are no outstanding electricity bills
I know my non-Nigerian readers might be wondering – outstanding electrical bills? Yes, most landlords in Lagos do this. After their tenant’s leaves, they just abandon these flats and wait for another desperate tenant that won’t have the time to ask questions or do background work and would just move in, only to start getting threats from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to turn off their power due to outstanding bills.
So when you meet the Landlord of an apartment you want to rent, ensure you find out if there are any outstanding electricity bills.
3. Ensure it has a prepaid meter
Though we have had prepaid meters installed for years now, the past four years made it mandatory in Lagos. But some houses till today don’t have prepaid meters; you don’t want to get an apartment in these places.
The electricity bill is ridiculous -since it is estimated, you would be paying more in a year than your actual rent (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little but it’s a lot). Once again talk to your landlord about the prepaid meter and ensure it is installed before you pay. If you move in without it being installed it won’t get installed, trust me.
Don’t live in a compound where the landlord Stays/lives Lagos is a commercial place- people look for jobs here, start businesses here, while some build houses just for rent while also living in the same compound.
I won’t advise you to get an apartment in a compound where the landlord lives. You know why: if it’s a Landlord that his work is just to rent his apartments, hence is always around. If he/she is also a busy body then you would have an ear full of how you should live in their compound.
It could be how you hang your mop on the balcony, what time of bulb or materials you should use in the flat, increasing rent because he noticed you bought a new car, and the list goes on…
4. Ask questions on the rules
Most houses and compounds have rules; you should read the agreement well to avoid any issues. Most agreements don’t state the important things, it mostly states things the homeowners expect from you. What most people don’t know is anything that does not involve your apartment, doesn’t have anything to do with you.
The common area in the compound is your landlord’s problem to fix and it should be included in the agreement except the damages was done by you.
Houses in Lagos, especially the mainland make tenants pay for a lot of things in the common area which is wrong; we have bought a pumping machine in the compound we lived in, also getting a plumber to evacuate sewage and it was not deducted in the next rent. Most landlord gets away with this and it should not be so.
5. Do your inspection during the rainy season
Let’s face it rainy season in Lagos is just terrible; I personally don’t like when it rains in Lagos. The road is messed up; you can’t even enter a public bus without feeling like throwing up. So imagine living in an apartment that you can’t stand during the rainy season –not worth it.
Ensure you check the street for flood; the drainage in Lagos is not properly managed and this could lead to flooding. Also, check for leakage in the apartment.
6. Ask the neighbours about the living conditions
Most times, we don’t get to meet neighbours living in the compound when we are inspecting. Unless, you are inspecting a face-me-I-face-you (a block of rooms where you have shared passages, toilets and kitchen) compound, then you might be able to see someone sitting outside to be able to ask.
If you are lucky to meet a tenant you could find out if there is no rift between the Landlord and a relative; yep we moved into a flat that two brothers were fighting over the building –it was messy.
7. Get clear on bills- water, security, and waste.
Some compounds pay for water while some don’t as long as there is electricity. If you have to pay for water, find out the cost either monthly or yearly. The same goes for security and waste management; make sure you ask questions on how that is done.In my area, we pay for security in the compound and the street.
Find out how much is expected so your Landlord doesn’t rip you off or your gate-man won’t charge you more than you should be paying – yeah, I faced this too. I was paying twice for my monthly waste bin. Thank goodness, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) has a fixed monthly fee for flat, duplex and high-rise buildings; I would have been in the dark.
8.Get a well-ventilated home
Don’t know about you but I love space and a well-ventilated apartment. Sadly most Lagos houses are not well ventilated, even the so-called luxurious apartments. So try as much as you can to ensure there are enough windows and light in the apartment –you will be thankful during the hot season.
9. Find out how old is the building
While some people might not care about the building history; I think it’s important. That is how you know how good everything is; from the plumbing – water closet, bathtub, sink or shower cubicle to the Carpentry –if the cabinets are in good condition and there are no moulds or infested insects, to the electrical- is the power box and sockets in good condition or needs to be replaced.
Most of all if the walls are not falling off and if the house is not hunted (for the superstitious ones, lol). I’m sure you have heard of buildings collapsing – I’m not trying to scare you, just try not to get an apartment that is ten years old; unless it is properly managed and you just love the design. With all these, you would be able to know if the building is properly maintained.
10. Stick to your budget
We all know what we are looking for in an apartment but sometimes our budget is not up to our taste. Well until you start making enough money for your taste, stick to your budget. Tell these agents what you want from the beginning and do not deviate from the budget; If not you might end up using your money wrongly and be homeless.
If it’s a one or two-bedroom apartment, duplex or penthouse, a quiet environment or a commercial environment, tell your agent and let them know that they shouldn’t contact you if they don’t have your requirements.
11. Consider the distance from work
Most people can’t afford to live on the island, so they live on the mainland while their work is on the island. If your work is on the island but your budget is for the mainland, try to get an apartment close to the island or a central area that links to anywhere in Lagos.
You might feel you don’t have money to stay on the island but if you check the amount you spend on transport alone from mainland to island, coupled with the stress of traffic, don’t you think it’s better to sacrifice a few naira and get a place on the island.
Living in Lagos on its own is stressful; your home shouldn’t be one of them. After the hustle and bustle of the city, you should be able to get to your house to relax and attend to your family needs, not trying to sort things that could have been avoided before you moved in.