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Finding a home away from home could either be incredibly easy if taken care of by an employing company or rather frustrating when going it alone. The housing situation in Nigeria is a dire one with demand dwarfing supply, and better quality accommodation is limited. As a result, the cost of renting an 'acceptable' bungalow, duplex, apartment or house in the country can be high and well beyond the price range of the average professional’s salary.
Buying land in Nigeria also comes with its challenges for foreigners. Consent is required from the State Governor for titles and further rights related to the land, and there are heavy fees and complicated processes involved. Expats considering buying property in Nigeria should enlist the services of a real-estate agent and lawyer to navigate the finer details.
Due to the restrictions on buying land and property in Nigeria, most expats opt to rent accommodation – some of which can be exceptionally lavish.
Types of accommodation in Nigeria
Accommodation for expats is usually concentrated in specific areas or suburbs of a city, within company compounds, apartment blocks or pre-established private housing complexes.
Expat compounds and gated complexes in Nigeria usually include 24-hour security systems and guards, wireless internet, on-site amenities such as tennis courts and a pool, as well as domestic help.
Expats lucky enough to secure accommodation in Lagos’s luxurious Victoria Island and Ikoyi areas and Abuja’s Maitama, Asokoro or Wuse districts will find that safety threats are kept at bay by adequate precautionary measures. While some may feel that life in these gated areas is isolated, many residents take solace in the camaraderie that a tight-knit, insular expat community can provide.
Fully-furnished, semi-furnished and completely unfurnished housing is available. Expats working in Nigeria who are provided housing by their employing company are likely to be provided with a furnished property. So, while shipping goods to and from Nigeria is possible, it is not essential.
Nigerian housing can be incredibly spacious and equally beautiful for expats, though the wealth gap is evident in surrounding neighbourhoods. Low-income earners, who make up the majority of the Nigerian population, are the most affected by the inadequate supply of housing.
Finding accommodation in Nigeria
Thankfully for expats working in Nigeria, most hiring companies not only finance their employees' accommodation but also secure it and assume responsibility for any leasing logistics. In some cases, companies own properties specifically to accommodate their foreign staff. This is common in the large cities of Abuja and Lagos as well as the oil-rich areas of the Niger Delta, such as Port Harcourt.
Foreigners contemplating a move to Nigeria should ensure that a housing stipulation has been included in their employment contract; this is standard practice and expats should certainly demand that their company support them in some way.
It’s not unusual for expats who arrive to work in Nigeria to be put up in a hotel initially while the house-hunting process gets underway. There are many luxury and international hotels; this can be excessively expensive if expats must bear these costs.
Alternatively, expats can start their accommodation search online using property portals such as Private Property Nigeria and Nigeria Property Centre. It’s wise to contact a real-estate agent or find a relocation company that supports all mobility and relocation needs.
Renting accommodation in Nigeria
When expats have to organise their rentals themselves, without the help of an employing company, there are several things to consider.
Most rental contracts in Nigeria are for a two-year lease. It may be difficult for expats staying for a shorter period, and they may need to negotiate terms or find an alternative property. Long-term leases, lasting several years, should be registered at the State Land Registry, and it’s best to have the help of a legal professional.
One of the most intimidating aspects of renting property in Nigeria is the costs involved. Landlords frequently demand heavy deposits and an entire year’s worth of rent be paid upfront rather than in monthly instalments. This makes not just paying deposits, but affording rent altogether, close to impossible for many.
Rental agreements will state whether the tenant or landlord is responsible for paying utilities. Often, utility costs including electricity, internet and water, are paid by the tenants. Note that Nigeria struggles with temperamental power and water supplies. Boreholes and generators are a must, otherwise, residents can look forward to blackouts with little or no warning. Running a generator can be pricey and considerably adds to the cost of living.