By Iyiola Oyedepo
You must certainly have noticed the signs on buildings announcing, “THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE”, “BEWARE OF 419” especially in places like Lagos where it is now like a design pattern on houses. The average Nigerian home or abroad is very much aware of the existence of dubious characters who go around duping people by selling properties that do not belong to them hence the popularity of the above slogan.
Despite this awareness a lot of people still fall prey to shady property deals daily and the question on the mind of most buyers is how to safeguard their money so that they won’t be duped by fraudsters or lose their lands to the Government,. Our article today focuses on six essentials you should note when buying property in Nigeria.
1. No matter how much you trust or know the Seller, you should ensure that you request for all title documents that a land seller must have such as a Receipt, Land Survey, Certificate of Occupancy, Deed of Assignment etc.
2. Ensure you do not gamble with your money by failing to conduct a verification of the documents given to you by the land seller. In doing this you should retain the services of a Lawyer knowledgeable in Real Estate transactions. In cases where the land has no formal title, the lawyer would also be able to advise on how you can get the necessary comfort. A common mistake is when such verifications stop at the land registry but an in-depth verification process should reveal details like identity of the owner, how he got the land, why he wants to sell, whether there is any dispute or litigation, whether the owner bought a very bad land and wants to dispose it quickly before the problem manifests or whether he has dubious and unreliable documents that do not confer title or ownership to him.
3. You must ensure that you or your trusted representative physically views the property. The physical inspection should be conducted at least twice before you decide to purchase. The initial visit would be with the owner/agent in attendance whilst another visit should be scheduled without notifying the owner/agent. The second visit would afford you the opportunity of seeing things you might have missed during the first visit and also enable you ask questions from neighbors’ and property owners in that environs. It is risky to buy property from the comfort of your office or what your family, friend or colleague has told you.
4. As much as possible, do not make any payment in cash but through Cheques or Bank Drafts so that there would be a history of the transaction. Also ensure that your Lawyer prepares a purchase receipt in your favour so that all parties would acknowledge receipt of these Bank instruments.
5. Ensure that your lawyer properly documents the transaction and that all necessary parties sign in your presence. You should also ensure that the agreement is witnessed by reputable and identifiable people e.g In the case of property in remote locations you can get the king of the locality to be a witness to the transaction.
6. Take possession of your property immediately you buy or within a reasonable time after you buy so as to ward off land speculators. This advice is very important especially where the property in question is bare land. You can take possession by constructing a small fence and gate house where you can hire a guard to watch over it till you are ready to build.