Everyday thousands of Nigerians at home and abroad hope to buy lands in Nigeria, more especially in popular cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta, Ibadan, etc but the common reoccurring theme that filters through their minds is how to safeguard their money so that they won’t be duped or lose their lands coupled with the terrifying stories that normally accompany the smooth transfer of these lands because of the prevalent nature of Land Scam artists and dubious Real Estate companies that specialize in defrauding prospective land purchasers.
With this in mind, I have drawn up 10 Land Purchasing Commandments for any Prospective new Land Buyer that must be strictly followed by anyone who intends to purchase a property in Nigeria more especially in Lagos so as to prevent Land fraudsters from duping them off their hard earned money and losing their lands to Unscrupulous people.
- Have a Budget:
- No matter the amount you have saved in your bank account, always take the time to research the other fees that are usually associated with buying a land and they come in these form. a. Legal fees 5% of the cost of the land b. Agency Fees 5-10% of the cost of the land c. Survey Plan (usually about N100,000-N300,000) depending on the location of the land and state. d. Cost of signing the documents by land owners (A very strange tradition in Lagos but nonetheless something you cannot escape paying) e. Cost of putting up a fence to secure your land immediately you purchase it f. 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. Once you have done the maths to know all these hidden fees that are associated with buying a land, it will adequately guide you on the location and type of land that would suit your pocket.
2. Do not buy a Land without demanding for the Documents that the Owner(s) Possess: It amazes me when people call me to tell me that they are in one deep problem or the other because they bought lands without knowing the documents the Seller possessed and because of this horrible mistake, they are afraid that these 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 illegal government lands and they must vacate. To me it’s like attempting to buy a car from an auto dealer or independent seller without asking him to show you his driving licence and car papers? You know what will happen to you when you are caught driving without proof of ownership from the previous seller. The same rule applies to buying a land. Anybody trying to transfer land or property to you must show you the documents he executed 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. I hear daft stories like, “Oh, it’s my Aunty that is selling the land and I know her or it’s my Colleague at work selling the land so I just paid money into their account because I know them previously”. Really!!! Husband and Wives draw up wills, Parents document gifts they give to their children, why then would you just pay for a land to a non-blood relative because you know them previously. For those of you intending to do something like this soon, please stop it because you might be buying a problematic land that has no proof of ownership previously and when something goes wrong, there would be no evidence to back up your claims that you bought it legally without any issue.
3. Carry Out a Proper Land Verification Search: Ultimately Unequivocally. Do not buy any land without performing a Land Check on the Owner, the Land and the Documents the Seller possesses. There are so many things to cross reference 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 this step, then you would be left alone to wallow in your own self pity and misery because the seller would be long gone with your money. Do not let the occasional grumblings from sellers or agents weigh you down or push you to do something rash such as “A lot of people are rushing 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 pay interest in acquiring it and it would still be there after you do your search. Some sellers and agents are just eager to line up their pockets with your money so they throw you that line to you to scare you. The reasons you must do the search is because you must verify the owner, how he got the land previously, why he wants to sell, what is prompting him to sell whether there is any dispute or litigation and he wants to shift the burden to you or he has bought a very bad land and wants to dispose it quickly before the problem manifests into something bigger or he has wayward and unreliable documents that do not confer title or ownership to him, so he is looking for the nearest fool or unsuspecting buyer to pass that problem to. Also you will have to investigate the land to know whether it’s genuinely a good land, a land that isn’t under government acquisition or not, a land that is not subject to any communal or legal dispute, a land that doesn’t run afoul of government regulations, etc. 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 check list is too much but it must be done so that you are satisfied 100% of the title. This is the only thing that will give you piece of mind and you must contract a land verification expert to do it to give you that extra comfort or peace of mind.
4. Involve Professionals in Land Matters before you buy a land: A lawyer, Surveyor and Architect are the 3 most important people you must get in touch with before you buy a land. The lawyer is the only one that can draw up your contract papers legally. 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 that 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 that structure starting from the location of the land down to the type of soil. Don’t do self service. Engage professionals to guide you properly.
5. Do not buy a Land without Viewing the land physically: No matter how beautiful or attractive the land being advertised appears please go there and look at it. Too 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 realize that they are dump yards not fit for human habitation. Always find time to visit the place physically 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 schools or hospitals, transportation ease to and fro, market, etc. Make sure you check all these things before you finally commit yourself to buy a land.
6. Do not buy a land that smells of trouble: No matter what happens in life, you must always trust your own personal instinct and 95% of the time, your conscience would never lie. The moment you visit a 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 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 solved, so many family owners or sellers etc please kindly walk away and move on. You have just dodged a a silver bullet in your pocket. 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 it will begin to manifest seriously and the Agent or Seller who allayed your fears and coerced you to buy it would be long gone and you will be left on your own to deal with the resultant issues.
7. Do not pay for any Landed Transaction in Cash: 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 problem 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. If push comes to shove, that tiny piece of evidence can be used in court to show when, how and the time the person collected the money and he cannot deny it. Most fraudulent sellers try to avoid this route by accepting partial cash installment payments to cover up their tracks. Don’t do it.
8. Do not ever 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 commandment and have become terrible victims in the aftermath of this issue. They listen to these 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. They lie that certain big shots have bought lands there and they are all deriving title from that government document legalizing their ownership of the land but there is none available that you can inspect physically. Because people are ignorant they believe them. How would you take the word of an illiterate over an educated professional? It makes no sense. Their only business with you is to show you the land, prove ownership and show you their documents. Any other thing that comes out of their mouth to sway you to buy is just plain lies so don’t fall for their tricks.
9. All Landed Transaction Details in Writing: Another very common mistake most purchasers are culpable of. 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 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? Some people tell me that it’s not a problem because they know where the person lives so he cannot run. Ok, what if he dies? How do you prove to his family or community that you bought the land validly from him? What if another person lays claim to 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.
10. 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 being bought and should stay clear of it. Pour gravel or sand there, do a well on the site and visit it frequently. Hire a mai guard/ security guard to come on the land to watch over it till you have money to build something tangible. Don’t just leave it fallow and expect it to wait there for you when you are ready. Somebody else would end up encroaching on your land and steal it. I am talking from experience and that is how I threw away N2Million which was my total life savings back then when I bought my first land and left it there unattended to for 6 months hoping to come back there to do something when I have raised enough funds, only to see an uncompleted building on it fully fenced with gate man. The same land seller resold my land to another rich dude after he noticed I wasn’t doing anything there anytime soon and absconded. Let my pain and suffering be your own guide to wisdom so that it won’t happen to you too.
We at PENNEK NIGERIA LIMITED carry out proper due diligence on all properties before they are introduced to the market. We are not unmindful of all gimmicks involved in real estate transactions and hence, it is our utmost duty to safeguard our clients from the risks and hassle that property transaction is known for, especially in this part of the world.
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