Lagos State is the hub of real estate business in Nigeria, but it’s also the state where fear and tension are in the air especially when a land matter is the issue. Despite that many states in Nigeria boasts of crude oil deposits, as their natural resources, Lagos State still regards land as the most valuable resource and that’s why everybody wants to have a property in Lagos. But a common recurring theme that filters through the minds of people who want to buy property in Lagos is how to prevent being duped by fraudsters or lose their land to the government. Frightening are the terrifying stories of the smooth transfer of land by land scammers and dubious Real Estate companies that specialize in defrauding prospective land purchasers. According to a popular real estate player, who calls himself Omoonile Lawyer, there are basic things you must not do while buying land in Lagos.
Below are many steps to take when buying property in Lagos.
YOU MUST DO A PROPER LAND VERIFICATION SEARCH
Please do not buy any land without performing a land check on the owner, the land and the documents the sellers present. There are so many things to cross check at this stage. That is why you must take your time and be patient because it is your money that is at stake not the seller or agent’s money. If you fail to take these steps, then you would be left alone to wallow in self pity and misery.
Do not let the occasional grumblings from the seller or agent weigh you down or push you to do something rash. Ignore statement such as: “A lot of people are rushing to buy this land and if you don’t pay now, the land may be gone” etc. Don’t listen to them. The land was there before you decided to have interest in acquiring it and it would still be there after you might have done your search.
And finally, investigating all the documents the owner has and ought to have such as a survey plan, deed of assignment, contract of sale, C of O, Governors Consent, Gazette, Letter of Allocation, Receipts, Deed of Transfer, Power of Attorney etc. The checklist is long, but it must be done so that you are satisfied 100% on the title. This is the only thing that will give you peace of mind and you must contract a land verification expert to do it to give you that extra comfort or peace of mind.
YOU MUST NOT BUY A LAND WITHOUT VIEWING THE LAND PHYSICALLY
No matter how beautiful or attractive the land being advertised appears, please go there and take look at it. Many real estate developers and agents have scammed thousands of Nigerians using beautifully drawn flyers, promoting lands that are equivalent to Aso-Rock estate in choice locations only to find out later that they are nothing to write home about.
Always find time to visit the place in person or send a trusted representative to view it. Don’t rely on just pictures and sweet words because there are so many other important things the picture or advert won’t tell you such as the neighborhood, light and water issues. The road leading to that place, amenities such as schools or hospitals, transportation, market etc. Make sure you check all these facilities before you finally commit yourself to buy a piece land.
YOU MUST HAVE A BUDGET
The number one cardinal sin of most intending property buyers is not having a budget before they set out to buy a plot of land. No matter the amount you have saved in your bank account, always take time to research the other fees that are usually associated with buying a plot of land and they always come in these forms.
(1) Legal fees- 5% of the cost of the land. (2) Agency Fees- 5% of the cost of the land. (3). Survey Plan- (usually above N100,000-N300,000) Depending on the location of the land and state. (4) Cost of signing the documents- ( A very strange tradition in Lagos, but nonetheless something you cannot escape paying). (5) Cost of putting up a fence to secure your land immediately you purchase it. 6.Cost of perfecting your documents with the Government at the Land Registry such as a C of O, Governors Consent, Ratification fees, Survey Land information etc.
YOU MUST DEMAND DOCUMENTS THAT THE OWNER(S) POSSESS
People put themselves in trouble because they bought land without knowing the documents the seller possessed and because of this horrible mistake, they are afraid that Land Grabbers will attempt to take over their lands or they will get a notice from the Land Bureau Office that they are encroaching on government lands, which they must vacate.
Anybody trying to transfer land or property to you must show you the documents he signed with the previous owner, so as to show proof of ownership or else anything you are buying from him is a stolen property and it’s as simple as that.
YOU MUST INVOLVE PROFESSIONALS IN LAND MATTERS BEFORE YOU BUY A PLOT OF LAND
A lawyer, surveyor and architect are the 3 most important persons you must get in touch with before you buy a plot of land. The lawyer is the only one who can legally draw up your contract papers. Any other landed document drawn up by any other person is null and void and you would not be allowed to process your papers at the land registry.
Secondly, a registered surveyor is the only one who can draw up your survey plans. Without the survey plan, you have no description of the land you intend to buy. Use only a registered surveyor please. And finally, an architect is the one who would advise you on the type of house you are to build and the cost of putting up the structure, starting from the location of the lands down to the type of soil. Don’t do self-service. Engage these professionals to guide you properly.
YOU MUST NOT BUY A PLOT OF LAND THAT SMELLS TROUBLE
The moment you visit a plot of land for inspection, follow whatever your guts tell you. If your mind is shaky about the land, don’t push it. Walk away because that land isn’t meant for you.
If you see things that make you tremble or suspicious, please walk away. If you see things like fenced lands that cannot be justified by the owner or has no proof of ownership, no survey plan or its layout, you hear the land is a relocation land or there is a minor dispute that was just resolved, so many family owners or sellers etc, please kindly walk away and move on. You have just dodged a silver bullet. Don’t let anyone pressurize you to buy it. The signs that you see now might seem so small and irrelevant, but trust me, 5 years down the line they will begin to manifest into serious issues and the agent or seller who allayed your fears and deceived you into buying it would be long gone and you would be left on your own to deal with the resultant issues.
YOU MUST NOT PAY FOR ANY LANDED TRANSACTION IN CASH
Do not pay for lands in Lagos with cash directly. Document it. Don’t even dream of it. Everything must be properly documented from the cost of the land down to the receipt or survey fees. This is the only thing that can save you from problems tomorrow in case you want to track down a fraudulent seller of land. I hear people giving land sellers cash to make them feel comfortable, but it’s not right. Even if the signing fees is N50,000, try your personal best to document it through a recognized bank instrument.
Do not listen to a land seller’s opinions about the title of land they possess without you verifying it:
A lot of previous land purchasers are very guilty of this and they have become terrible victims in the aftermath of this issue. They listen to land sellers, who lie to them that the land has government-approved papers such a Gazette or C of O, etc but they do not have any shred of evidence to show. They lie that certain big shots have bought plots of lands there and they are all deriving title from that government document, legalising their ownership of the land, but there is none available that you can inspect physically. Because people are ignorant they believe them.
YOU MUST PUT ALL THE LANDED TRANSACTION DETAILS IN WRITING
This is another very common mistake most purchasers mostly make. They pay for lands, but there is no proof of the deed of assignment or contract of sale between the buyer and the seller. Absolute madness! Some will say they haven’t received the receipt, but they are waiting for the owner to come back, so he would take them to meet with the family he bought it from. Many I know don’t even have a survey plan. How do you prove ownership? How can you trace the owner?
What if another person lays claim on that same land, how do you prove ownership? The 3 basic things a buyer must have when they pay for a land is a receipt, Deed of Assignment and a Survey Plan. Without these 3 things, you have a very slim chance of proving ownership if anything goes wrong in future.
YOU MUST TAKE POSSESSION OF THE LAND YOU BOUGHT IMMEDIATELY
As soon as you buy it, try to take possession of it by constructing a small fence around it. You don’t have to do 9 coaches, just 2 or 3 is enough to demarcate your land so that any prospective buyer of the land knows that it has already been bought and should stay clear of it. Pour gravel or sand there, sink a well on the site and visit if frequently.
Don’t just leave it fallow and expect it to wait there for you till when you are ready. Somebody else would end up encroaching on your land and steal it.