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House-Hunting Memoirs: Overcoming stereotypes and other lessonsBy Dorcas Babalola on May 21, 2023

Feeling so refreshed sharing this experience with you and will be delving deeper into the challenges I encountered during my search. As I have previously mentioned, it was a rollercoaster experience as a first-time renter, dealing with agents chains and skyrocketing prices. Amidst the experience, I was able to navigate finding a reasonable 2-bedroom apartment.

The process is aptly called house-hunting because unlike developed countries where you can rely on the internet for your search here, you rely on agents and on your eyes to explore available apartment choices. They might not even be able to provide you with pictures reinforcing the adage, “Seeing is believing”.

Here are some valuable lessons I learned on the hunt.

Matching my budget to my taste was a major challenge

I found out that desirable apartments are really expensive for a single lady like me with a minimal budget. Indeed, Lagos is a high-cost place. Just imagine,the money I used for the rent payments in Lagos, a friend in Ibadan had her rent and furnishings taken care of while still having some balance left. Inside Life!

Budget and Plan

Establishing a spending limit and narrowing my search within that range came in handy: I believe this was crucial because agents tried to convince me to up my game. Also, shun hastiness and be informed that most new or renovated houses come with a caution payment. A very hard truth. I paid a caution fee of more than 10% of my rent! While they say it is refundable, I will believe it when I see it.

While on the search, hastiness is the last thing. Do not let the agent rush you into a decision you might regret.
Safety and a peaceful environment were top priorities on my checklist. I made sure the location was easily accessible by vehicle. Can I come and go as I please? It was crucial for me to feel secure. I also checked if the area is not prone to flooding during the rainy season.

The Dorcas Checklist
The Checklist

Involve family, friends, or a lawyer before making payment

I almost settled for a cramped apartment, but with the help of a lawyer and a few people involved in the journey, I was able to avoid that. The agents involved wielded pressure to get me to pay for the apartments, prioritizing their interest more than mine. A friend shared her ordeal with me and recounted how an agent had taken her to a house with no windows and no toilet. The agent assured her it wouldn’t cost much to fix after paying the house fee. Same experience I had with the cramped flat. Reasonably, why should I be fixing a house for a landlord? Lagos estate agents you can do better.

Renter beware: the single person stereotypes.

As a single lady, many landlords were hesitant to rent to me because they had wholly accepted the stereotype that “most singles couldn’t be trusted and maybe irresponsible”. One of them was only willing to rent out the house to me under certain stringent conditions: adhering to being home at a certain time and not accommodating too many visitors.

A particular landlord was open to renting their property to singles but only if they had specific professions; a lawyer or a doctor. While I could afford this lovely apartment, my job as a copywriter who works from home didn’t tickle the fancy of the caretaker and landlord. They had wrongly assumed I wouldn’t be able to renew the ₦500,000.00 rent.
If you encounter discrimination based on your tribe or other seemingly strange grounds, move on with your search. It is their loss.

Flee uncompleted buildings!

It is not wise to agree with an agent to pay rent in a building that is still under construction.
An agent showed a friend of mine an uncompleted building, promising that it would be ready soon after he made the payment. Unfortunately, once the payment was made, there was no further progress, and it turned out to be a scam. This served as a stark warning for me, and I feel compelled to pass it on.

Scrutinise the apartment and agree on repair responsibilities with the landlord

I didn’t do too well on this because while moving in, I started noticing a few things that still needed to be fixed. The bulbs required replacement, some window nets were not properly fixed, and there was an issue with the water flow in the bathroom. etc. Some of the artisans did a bad job in all honesty. Lol!

Fair enough, the caretaker did the needful. But while searching, I came across some affordable apartments that I didn’t proceed with because the owners were not ready to cooperate. They just wanted the money.
Before I made the payment, it had rained the previous day, so I was able to check if the house is not prone to leaking.

And now the lessons are done!

In conclusion, while making the leap to live independently in a bustling megacity like Lagos with its fast-paced lifestyle, I also learned to trust my instincts and make decisions based on what was best for me. In addition, there are additional expenses to take into account when renting a home and not just the rent and agency fee. The apartment set-up is inclusive so be wise while house-hunting. This process has taught me value, patience, preparation, persistence, and determination. House-hunting in Lagos can be a daunting task, especially for a single woman but I’ve learnt that with the right mindset and a little luck, it is possible to find the perfect home that meets all your needs. My journey was not easy, but it was worth it. It was a bold step.

Kindly comment if you are house-hunting or to share your own singles house-hunting experience.

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