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Due to the high cost of acquiring properties in Nigerian cities, many have resulted to renting apartments, but getting suitable accommodation has now become more difficult than building one.
This is because the fresh tricks by estate agents who post nice pictures of available apartments for rent online without actually having them.
Checks by BusinessDay revealed that, most of the time, the pictures posted online by real estate agents are either from the previous apartments they helped a client to rent or it was copied from their colleagues’ gallery.
For many, this act by these agents has made it almost impossible to have easy access to accommodation in a country where there is more than 17 million housing units deficit.
Mathew Adebowale, a young man squatting with his friend in Lagos, knew that finding an apartment to rent in Nigeria’s commercial centre would be difficult, and so he resorted to searching for a studio apartment online.
But he wasn’t prepared for what came next. “After I saw nice studio apartments online, I contacted two of the agents and I was asked to come to their offices. I went there and I was told I had to register before I could go to check out the apartments,” Adebowale said.
He told BusinessDay that he paid the registration fee as he was in urgent need of the apartment. “My friend’s family was already complaining of my continued stay with them because the apartment where seven of us were staying was a studio apartment like the one I was searching for,” he said.
The 24-year-old has been living with his friend and his family since 2015 when he left Ogun State for Lagos in search for a white collar job.
When Adebowale was taken to view six different apartments, none of them was anything close to the pictures put up online by the real estate agents.
“When I asked for half the entire amount I spent in transporting the agents to the various locations and for registering to view the apartments, since they did not meet my expectations, I was told I was not serious,” Adebowale lamented.
According to him, he had such encounter for five months until he eventually got an apartment through a friend of his.
Checks by BusinessDay revealed that Adebowale was not the only victim of such circumstance. Joel from Abuja, Ada from Port Harcourt and Nwakego in Enugu said they have had similar experiences.
This was affirmed when BusinessDay reached out to a real estate agent in Akoka, the busy area where the University of Lagos is situated. The agent who is fondly referred to as ‘Baba small rent’ had this to say: “them go pay first before I carry them go show them any house, whether them like the house or not, I must collect my money first, abi you no want make I chop?”
According to BusinessDay findings, some of the challenges that make apartment renting process difficult in most cities in Nigeria include illegal fees collected by the real estate agents coupled with the fact that most landlords ask for 18 months’ rent in advance instead of 12.
The housing shortage is also aggravated by the luxury but unoccupied apartments in the high-brow neighbourhoods like Ikoyi and Victoria Island where rent typically begins from about N7 million per annum in a country where almost half of the population lives on less than N720 a day.
This makes it difficult for many low-income earners who work in these neighbourhoods to rent apartments there, hence they live in areas in the mainland where they can afford the rent.
That narrative is even changing as many apartments in the areas considered low income are beginning to go up, almost wanting to reach the same level as the amount paid for accommodation on the island.
This is due to the country’s growing population, and in a city like Lagos, population is said to be growing by 77 people every hour as Nigerians from less industrialised regions seek jobs in the commercial hub and so Lagos is home to about 23 million people and counting, more than double New York and London.
On the way forward, an industry expert who asked not to be quoted said government should regulate the real estate agent industry while looking for a sustainable solution to the country’s housing problem.
“If that space is regulated, these agents won’t be at liberty to do all that they are doing now. They won’t have the freedom to charge whatever amount they dim fit and, most importantly, the government should find solution to the growing housing deficit,” the source added.
He advised that the government should pay more attention to landlords and real estate agents to ensure they were not left to do whatever pleased them.
“There are still a lot of issues you are yet to discover; every one that has rented apartments in major cities in Nigeria, has ugly experiences to share,” he said.