Searching for land to buy in Nigeria is not a walk in the park especially when the buyer is new to property transactions. In view of this, the first thing that should come to mind when you want to buy land is the issue of finance.
Although finance is the major fuel that drives the intent to acquire land, you still have a couple of hurdles to cross to make your property ownership dream a reality. One of such is doing your due diligence. This is a very essential part where you do proper search and verification
In fact, having finance to buy a piece of land in Nigeria without doing your due diligence is like crossing a busy road blindfolded.
Thus, my ‘Number 1’ real estate investment rule; ‘Never wave your due diligence’:
The people I find most interesting to sell to are those who ask lots of questions while I am making my sales pitch. This is because the person will have me take full cognizance and responsibility of those questions asked, because I know I will be held accountable for it.
I really don’t like those who go into a purchase with sentiments. People who say; “I don’t need to ask too many questions; after all we are friends. You can’t dupe me”.
Yes, I am not planning to dupe anybody but I appreciate people who will go through stuff like “Terms & Conditions” ask me all the questions they can think of and be sure they by themselves know and understand what they are getting into.
I cannot and do not intend to dupe anyone but still I can’t break your medulla open and stuff it with what you should know about what you are buying if you refuse to read!
I have come to realize that most times, this type of buyer is running away from taking responsibility for his/her purchase. They are the people that will return after the transaction has been closed or following some other development to start asking questions and make it seem as if you forced the purchase on them.
Irresponsibility carries a huge cost nobody pays with a smiling face, so avoid it like a plague.
There is no one who really wants to do a thing without counting the cost. It is in counting the cost that you do due diligence. Don’t do it after you pay, do it before you part with a dime of your money, no matter who you are investing with.
So in doing your due diligence, do the following;
1. Discountenance the document you are given about any landed property and do your due diligence from ground zero. By ground zero, I mean, go to the site you are to buy to pick co-ordinates. If you do not know what that is about, you may want to visit the site with a competent Land Surveyor to pick the coordinates for you.
Chart the Coordinates at the State’s Surveyor General Office to know the status of the land. It is only after doing this, if the land comes out clean and the coordinates you picked matches with what’s on the documents you are given that you can start relying on the survey document as referring to the same land you were offered to buy. Otherwise, run!
According to the 1978 Land use act of the Federal republic of Nigeria, land in all parts of the country is held in trust for the people by the Government. As stated in section one of the land use act:
“Subject to the provisions of this Act, all lands comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are vested in the Governor of the state and all such lands shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provision of the Act.”
Using the example of Lagos State, A landed property can be in one of these following 4 states, status wise:
- Acquired land: we have specific or committed acquisition and general acquisition. My blanket advice is, do not touch land under specific or committed acquisition if a private individual is the person offering to you. Government has a clear purpose for this and except you are involved in the actualisation of the purpose, you do not want to risk your hard earned money on this.
If the land is under general acquisition and there is any serious indication that it can be processed for excision, then you can confirm that but do not part with money until you are sure it is excised. That leads me to the second status.
- Excised Land: this is when a land was previously acquired for overriding public interest but later released, that is excised either in part or whole to the original customary owner. There are documents and correspondences between Government and the customary land owning family to substantiate the excision in terms of size, actually location and title. Layout plan was added as part of what should attend such excision by the Government of Babatunde Raji Fashola.
You can buy excised land that has supporting document to confirm the excision.
- Acquired but ratifiable: this is when a land was previously acquired for general or specific use but Government has had a change of mind for whatever reason to allow part or the whole land to be used by private individuals. This is usually as a result of heavy encroachment, politics, etc
It is what people call buying twice. Reason is, you will pay the land owner, customary or whoever currently holds possession at the time of your purchase and still pay the relevant department of government for the ratification before you can get title on the land.
- Freehold land: this is when a land is free from any known encumbrance and can be transacted on without fear. For such land, you only need to be sure you are buying from the rightful owner.
2. Make findings to authenticate the documents and owner. One way you can authenticate the original owner is by going to the site independently on your own without the Vendor and/or his/her agent to ask questions in the vicinity
If you notice anything that puts you on the edge, please get to the bottom of it and satisfy yourself, otherwise, don’t pay.
The following are some of the tell tale signs of lands in dispute:
- Fake document or no document at all
- Negative report from Land Registry
- Negative report on vendor and/or agent
- Advice of caution from your environmental/neighbourhood investigation
- Below market price offer or closing price, when it’s too good to be true, it probably is not true
- Persistent and abnormally aggressive demand for payment with the excuse that other people are showing interest in the land
- Strong preference for cash payment
- Signs of physical development on the land without satisfactory and/or verifiable explanation
- Signs of structural demolition on the land without satisfactory and/or verifiable explanation
- Any other measure aimed at achieving hasty closing.
3. Do title search at the appropriate government office. Surveyor General’s office, State Land Bureau or Land Registry. Enquire about the owner and his title. I
4. Above all, I will always encourage that you use professionals in all your acquisitions. Use professionals who belong to a body of professionals they are accountable to. It is for a number of reasons and the safety of your investment. You cannot claim to be an expert because you have read this article or have purchased landed properties a few times. No two transactions are the same. Most buyers run from the cost of hiring a professional. Don’t be fooled, the fees they charge can be negotiated. Don’t be kobo wise, naira foolish.
I will recommend that you get my book “Sack Your Landlord” for a lot more about what it takes to buy landed properties and much more. Better still, sign up for our weekly newsletter at www.nigeriarealestatehub.com.
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