Land is a widely sought-after asset in Nigeria. And in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital and most populated state, it assumes an even greater value.
Real estate is one of the state’s key sectors. Because the metropolis is expanding all the time, physical development continues to reach farther out to its fringes, bringing the outskirts into the city’s urban fold. Within Lagos, property is relatively expensive. Prospective landowners have to venture further out to find something that fits with their budget.
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But getting the land acquisition process right can be difficult. It’s not always clear what the correct steps to take are, and there are the added problems of bureaucracy and multiple interests to deal with. Add the infamous omo-onile to the mix, and you’ll see why many are wary of exploring the real estate business in Lagos.
This article breaks down the process into clearly defined steps below, so that it’s easier for you to acquire property in Nigeria’s Center of Excellence.
Choose Your Desired Location
It’s up to you to decide where you’d like your property to be. Prices will vary depending on location. For instance, expect land in a little developed part of Ikorodu to be less expensive than one in the Lekki axis.
Think about the purpose for which you’ll be buying the property, and be sure that the area is accessible and possesses other features you’d want in an ideal location.
Get a Lawyer
Don’t just hire any lawyer. Go for one who’s well versed in property law and has hands-on experience helping clients to purchase the property.
Your lawyer will help you navigate the legal complexities of the acquisition process, and represent you where there are technicalities to be ironed out.
Seek Out Suitable Property
Find a real estate agent who’s familiar with the area you’d want your property to be located, and let them suggest options. You can arrange a visit to these locations with them, and choose from the options after having reviewed them.
If you decide to work with a real estate company, you could avoid the difficulties associated with finding an agent. But if you’re keen on prospecting for your own property, your lawyer may have a few contacts you could use.
Authenticate the Seller
Next, get in touch with the owner of the property you’re interested in. And be sure that they’re the true owner.
This part is important. Fraudsters posing as landowners are known to have swindled unsuspecting buyers, taking payments from them for property belonging to someone else.
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True land ownership may be ascertained by inquiring of the principal members of the family said to own the land, and by searching for documents relating to the land at the Lagos State Land Registry (if the land is registered). Your lawyer (who should be knowledgeable about this process) should help with carrying out the search.
Investigate the Property
You also have to find out details about the property that may be relevant to your aim of acquiring it.
For instance, you can check with the court registry to determine whether the property has been (or is) the subject of a legal dispute. And if you’re concerned that it may be marked as government property, you can find out for sure by charting it at the Surveyor General Office.
If you’re buying the land from a business, check with the CAC to ascertain that they’re duly registered.
Don’t forget to conduct a search at the Land Registry for documents related to the land. The Lagos State Land Registry is located at Alausa, Ikeja.
Again, your lawyer should help you take care of these issues.
Inspect the Property
Next, visit the property and conduct a detailed inspection. It’s a good idea to have a surveyor with you while you do this so that defects not obvious to the trained eye can be spotted. If you are satisfied with what’s available, you may go ahead with negotiating a deal.
Agree on a Deal
You have looked through the records, asked questions, examined the relevant documents held by the owner, and inspected the property. And you’ve found that everything’s in order. It’s time to bargain with the seller for a deal.
You should have an idea of what the market value for a similar property would be. This will let you know what to expect, and what you should be bargaining for.
Obtain Title Documents
After agreeing on a deal, your lawyer will prepare a Deed of Assignment, which indicates that you now own the property. The deed will be assessed and approved by the seller’s lawyer. After this, the seller will hand over documents related to the land to you. Besides the Deed of Assignment, other completion documents you should have are the receipt and contract of sale.
Be sure to have the survey document for the property as well. It, along with the Deed of Assignment, will be useful in the process of registering the property with the government.
Register with the Government
You are expected to register your property with the government. This process involves obtaining the governor’s consent, paying stamp duties, and registration of the transfer of the property at the Land Registry.
Note that your application letter for the governor’s consent should also be signed by the seller of the property. You will receive a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) once the governor’s consent is obtained.
Take Possession of Your Property
If the property you’ve purchased is open land, you should secure it to keep unlawful interests out. Have a fence built around it; if you can, set the foundation for the structure you’d like to build. This will discourage encroachment from unwanted parties.
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