Monday, 18 August 2014

What Nobody Tells You About House-hunting In Lagos

My rent was almost due and I didn't want to renew, so I knew I had to look for a house. I understood how tasking it was to find quality housing in these parts so I mentally prepared myself for the grueling task ahead. Poor me; no one told me how much things had changed since the last time I house-hunted. What should have taken me a couple of days took me over 3 weeks and revealed a part of Lagos I hope I will never see again.

First, rent was r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s. I was shocked at what landlords were asking for 2-3 bedroom apartments. After calculating rent for two years, maintenance fees, agency fees, legal fees, caution fees, refundable deposit and the longlist of fees they
usually present to house hunters, I was shocked and confused. Shocked at the brazennesss of it all and confused 'cos it didn't make sense. It didn't make sense 'cos I could see just how much work I needed to do to make the apartments liveable. Peeling paint, damp, soggy floors, crappy neighbourhoods, bathrooms and kitchens in need of renovation, missing/non existent fixtures. Goodness!

What started like a joke became an unfortunately desperate situation. After telling my landlord I was moving out, he wasted no time in finding a new tenant. I didn't think it was a big deal until time for the new tenant to move in came and I still hadn't found a place, never mind that I was working with over 10 agents at the same time. From the time I started house-hunting to when I found the first house I felt I could live in, I had checked over 30 apartments. 

Thankful that I had finally found a place, I went there the next day to pay, armed with cash 'cos I didn't want to hear any stories or take chances. The principal agent was not around so I had to wait. It was a long one. I thought my wait was over when he got back. It wasn't. The house was available quite alright but he couldn't rent it to me. Why. I wanted to know, the thought of starting all over was already making me sick in my stomach. Then he said I wasn't Yoruba and for some reason I found that funny. He didn't. Landlord's instructions he insisted. The landlord wanted only Yoruba tenants. I remember wondering if what was happening was for real or if it was all just a sick joke. Of course it was real. I went back to square one. 

More frantic than ever, I had more agents searching the nooks and crannies of Lagos for that elusive apartment. By this time I was practically living in my car - setting out at dawn, and working the streets until it was dark, with enough money to pay two years rent and associated fees in my bag. A most uncomfortable experience I tell you. Just when I thought I couldn't continue, I found a place. Though it was dark and I didn't get to see as much of it as I would have loved, I knew I wanted it.

First thing in the morning I went to see the landlady. She asked if I was Igbo, I said no, I wasn't. (Not entirely true but you know, wisdom is profitable to direct. I mean, Abraham said his wife was his sister at some point, no?) She seemed to relax after that. We got on quite well. She said I was favoured as the apartment had been available for over 6 months and she just didn't feel at ease with the prospective tenants who had come before me. We agreed I could move in that same day. Thankful, I went to her agent's office a short distance away to fill in some required paperwork. Back at my apartment, the movers were done packing and were waiting for my instructions. No big deal, I thought. I was wrong.

The agent said it would take a couple of hours to process all the paperwork and to come back. I insisted I was going to wait and finish up, she said not to worry, that she was on top of things. Since there was nothing left to do, I went out.

When I got back, the story had changed. The landlady wanted me to wait until the coming week. Why? I asked. The official spin was this - She called her daughter after I left, and this daughter who lived in the same house with her, suddenly knew of a family in dire need of a place to stay and wanted her mum to see them first before making a decision. 

It didn't make any sense. How did we move from the landlady telling me it was okay to move in immediately to all the cock and bull? I thanked the agent and left.

I'm sure you know that by this time I was frustrated and teary eyed and tired - physically, mentally and emotionally. Knowing I had done all I could do for a day, I checked into a guesthouse and went to sleep.

After checking over 40 apartments and working with a network of over 20 agents, I eventually found a place, by chance, when I decided to call a random agent whose number had been sent by a friend. I moved in the same day. It was so good all I had to do was sweep.

P. s - The next day was a Monday. Halfway to the office I had this sinking feeling. I checked my calendar. My fear was confirmed. With all the drama of the previous weeks, I totally forgot I had an international flight to catch that morning and  there I was facing the opposite direction two hours before departure. I hadn't packed and I was miles away from the airport.

Check-in had closed by the time I got there. I had a connecting flight to catch so I knew I was going to miss two flights if I didn't do something. I told the ticketing lady at the counter, as quietly as I could, "You don't understand, I cannot miss this flight." Three times. She freaked out and checked me in.

I have gone and come back in one piece, thankfully. But really, with all that had happened, who could blame me? :)

To Mo that offered me her guest room when it got really crazy and to Ese for driving me around every single day throughout my 'ordeal', I say thanks to you both from the bottom of my heart.

©Naomi Lucas


Jeffrey Wallace said...

House hunting is s very tough job. You won't realize that till you start searching for a house. We looked for around 2 years before we finally decided on a house to buy. And now my sister has started hunting for a house. She has been googling for tips on this and came up with this article
It has some really helpful tips, I hope others will also find it as helpful.

Anonymous said...

This can easily make a hollwoood comedy movie blockbuster! lol, very funny!

Keduba! said...

Love every letter and word in this story. In the end it all pans out.

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Keduba!