We had an interesting and enlightening interview with Barrister Tomi Vincent, a Real Estate Lawyer. He discussed on due diligence in land transactions and doing your proper homework to avoid being cheated on and duped. Read the interview below:
NREH: For how many years have you practised as a real estate lawyer?
Barr Vincent: 26 years now.
NREH: Have you always wanted to practise law in real estate?
Barr Vincent: Not exactly. It was just a matter of accident. It was not something I really enjoyed as a course while we were in school but as time went on, I developed interest in it, developed expertise in it as well.
NREH: Were you practising law before you switched to real estate law?
Barr Vincent: I just wanted to be a commercial lawyer. In the course of commercial law practice, I just found out that you had to buy properties for people. So, I heightened my interest to know more. This got me interested and so when I undertook further courses of study in this aspect, it helped me to become more astute and have an in-depth knowledge, deeper insight on real estate law.
NREH: Why do people still go to buy land from omoniles instead of a credible real estate company? Ignorance?
Barr Vincent: This is the point; it’s not as if buying from omonile is in itself a bad thing. It is just about buying from the right omonile, that is really the challenge because even the real estate practitioner will go and buy from omonile and will take from omonile. The bottom line is the ability to find the right omonile who has the estate or the proper authority, he title which can be passed to other people buying from them. Most times, there are people who position themselves, who are just rent collectors or probably because they have thuggery, they assume authority to be sell the land that does not belong to them.
NREH: What is Lagos state doing to scrap out fraudulent land transactions?
Barr Vincent: Ehm, number one, in recent times, a law to stop the trespassing of omonile. Then, number two is the instrument that will enable titles to pass when there is purchase and there is an ease of perfecting the papers as well to be sure that the milieu for proper transaction is done for land sales and purchases but you know ultimately, ehm, it is still a case of buyers beware because there is no amount of what the government can put in place to stop you if you are not mindful of the fact that your money can be lost if proper checks are not made and if people that are supposed to help you are not put in motion to help you, lawyers to go and do investigation for you and things like that. What government would do is to help based on the understanding and assumption that you have done your proper check as well and that is why probably it comes out with the issue of what you said earlier about real estate companies who have the time to go out and do all the necessary things and now they are selling at a premium to you. Some people ask why would I buy my land at that price when I can buy at a lesser price. This is one of the things that you also get because a good real estate company is assumed to have done all the necessary things you might not do due to negligence or carelessness .They have fought all the battles that you might not fight.
NREH: Should a real estate investor get a lawyer? Or do you need big ticket transactions to get a real estate lawyer? Does it make sense to ordinarily employ the services of a real estate lawyer?
Barr Vincent: Oh, it makes sense because you see, when we are talking about real estate transactions, it is not just about the purchase of land alone, it is an on-going thing, you know , purchase, perfection, the acquisition itself. It also doesn’t have to be a big ticket transaction also to get lawyers to help you do these things. It is very important. That’s why I always advice people that the lawyer should not always be the last point of call. The case of penny wise pounds foolish is what makes peoples wait. Expose your deals and dealings to your lawyers so that there is a regular stream of advice and it doesn’t come too late.
NREH: What would you advise a new person going into real estate investment especially because of the high rate of real estate fraudulent activity?
Barr Vincent: I will say you must be mindful of the fact that it is a risky terrain and you can do all to minimize your risk by ensuring that whenever you want to do any transactions, you get your lawyers, you are diligent, you are not in a haste and don’t let anybody pressurize you until you are satisfied with your homework results. If you don’t buy a land, you can buy another one. Don’t let anybody make you feel like you are missing on a big opportunity. You need to understand the cost attendant to whatever you want to do. Relationship also maters but while you are relying on people to help you, be careful and diligent.