Top renting tips for tenants
Do you have plans to relocate to a new apartment and you are wondering how to find a house to rent in Nigeria? It is said, finding the ideal house is like finding the perfect mate. You just don’t wake up, pick the first one you see and move in.
When you want to rent a home, there are steps that must be followed and to ensure you not only find the perfect home that suits your budget and lifestyle, but also give you memories that are fun to recall and share with friends with loved ones.
This article helps you put everything you need to know into fine perspective. Below are some questions that you should ask yourself:
- Are you looking for a house, apartment or studio?
- What is your budget?
- Who will be living with you?
- What are your priorities?
Are you looking for a house, apartment or studio?
This is the very first question you need to ask yourself and it is important to provide an honest and realistic answer. If you live in Lagos for instance, you should ask yourself if you want a self-contain, mini flat, a two-bedroom flat, a three-bedroom flat, a four-bedroom flat, a five-bedroom flat, a duplex or something even bigger.
You cannot embark on a search for a property if you do not know what you want. For instance, if you want a two bedroom apartment in the Ikeja axis of Lagos, you should focus your search on this area. In essence, be clear about what you want and then you can commence searching for the particular property you have in mind.
To make things easier, write out your criteria for what you consider your ideal apartment. What things do you want your apartment to have? Do you want a one-room space or a mini-flat? Do you want a small apartment or one with a very large space? Do you want a house that is close to a landmark or do you prefer a house in a gated neighbourhood? Do you want a serviced apartment or do you want it close to a shopping mall? Is it compulsory your place of residence is close to your office or are you indifferent to this? Are you concerned about the reputation of the neighbourhood you live or do you prefer quiet places like G.R.A Ikeja?
You can’t possibly write out everything you want in your apartment but you should write as much as you can. The idea is to narrow down the possibilities and expectations. It is very important that you prioritise your wants as it is a crucial stage in your search for a property.
What is your budget?
After deciding what kind of house you want to search for, the next thing on your agenda is your budget. Can you afford the house? Here, you need to be practical. If for instance, your budget for a three-bedroom flat is N350, you should naturally not be searching for a home in a place like Ikeja where a three-bedroom apartment goes for between N1 million and N3.2 million. You should also rule out a place like Ikoyi where a three-bedroom flat has its rent set between N3 million and N20.4 million.
Instead, you should concentrate on locations like Ikorodu, Agege, Iyana Ipaja, Abule Egba, Shasha, Ikotun, Epe, Agbado Ijaiye, Idimu, Mushin, Okota.
A budget helps you draw up a realistic picture of what you want whether you can afford it or not. Therefore, before you start searching for a house, decide what your budget is.
When searching for a home, you must be sure you will be able to pay your rent annually. Make a firm decision on what you can afford. It is recommended that you spend not more than 30% of your monthly income on your rent. For instance, if you earn N100,000 monthly as your net income, you should not save more than N30,000 monthly for your rent. At the end of the year, you would have saved N360,000, which would cover your rent.
Another thing you should put into consideration is the financial responsibility of utility cost of renting the apartment. Some apartments are serviced. As such, this fee is calculated along with your rent on an annual or monthly basis as the case may be.
When working to meet your ideal rent budget, there are a number of things you can do to lower the monthly spend on rent. Take a look at some of them below:
- Consider living on the outskirts of the city: We agree that living in the heart of the city often seems like the best thing to do, this should not always be the case especially when you cannot afford the rent. As an option, check out apartments listed within the suburbs that suit your style and is within a reasonable distance from where you work.
- Don’t take transportation for granted: It is important to take your monthly spend on transportation into consideration regardless of whether it is commercial bus fares, cabs or money on fuel if you drive.
- Consider having a roommate: Do you know that you can actually slash the rent you pay for an apartment in half if you decide to share it with someone? However, in most cases, you would need a landlord’s approval to do this. Having a roommate would save you as much as half of what you would have spent on rent. Meanwhile, don’t forget to have a written agreement with your roommate on how the obligations will play out.
- Negotiate: Some landlords are open to negotiation especially in certain districts. Carry out a research on apartments within the area you have chosen and get facts around amenities available. However, it doesn’t end here. Now take this information with you to strike a better deal with the landlord. Another thing you can do is to offer to pay your rent in bulk over an extended period of time. Some landlords lower their rates when this is done. Don’t be afraid to pay more as you stand to benefit from this.
Who will be living with you?
The fact that you are searching for a place to live does not mean that you intend to carry the financial responsibility alone. In some cases, you could find yourself having a friend, cousin, colleague or family friend suggesting or agreeing to split the financial burden of the apartment with you.
Picture a scenario where your rent is N600,000 but you have a friend who is willing to pay N200,000 to have a room in your three-bedroom flat situated in Ogba in Lagos. This saves you a lot of money and offers a form of flexibility. You should think about the potential growth of your family and how long you may want to be living there.
What are your priorities?
Of course, there are features you personally desire in an apartment, depending on your taste or lifestyle but below are some basic things you should look out for:
- Transportation: If you do not own a car, be sure to check the apartment’s proximity to the closest bus stop. No matter how amazing an apartment, if you are likely to spend a lot of time walking out to get transportation, you should give it a second thought. To get a true picture of how much apartments cost, you have to factor in transportation into the picture. Convenience is key when hunting for an apartment. It is bound to make your life much easier. Ensure the distance of your apartment to work, transportation, and shopping is one you should pay great attention to.
- Safety: An apartment just has to be safe. Unfortunately, there is no other way to say this. It is your landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the apartment is situated in a safe neighbourhood. Ensure you check the locks, doors, windows and general security.
- Lifestyle preference: You should be true to your lifestyle preferences when shopping for a house. Are you the kind of person who takes advantage of the slightest opportunity to exercise or do you hate using any kind of staircase? Would you prefer to live on the 4th floor of a house in Lagos as it presents an opportunity for you to exercise whenever you use the staircase or would you rather just stick with the ground floor?
- Separating needs from desires: Is it crucial that your apartment has three toilets and bathrooms or is this something you would overlook if the house has every other thing on your checklist? Is it compulsory for the apartment to have a large living room or would you ignore this if the house fulfils all other needs you have prioritised? In essence, draw a clear line between things you really need and those you can pass up.
- Your style: When renting an apartment, you should stay true to your style. Don’t go hunting for a home with a modern design when you genuinely feel more at peace in a classic bungalow.
- Pets: Do you have pets? This should be taken into consideration. If you have an aggressive Doberman as a pet and probably like to have him/her unleashed? Then you have to put your neighbours into consideration. The same would apply to you when you are not into pets but you have a neighbour who is.
Now that you are ready to begin searching…
Now that you are sure of what you want as far as your apartment is concerned, it is time to start searching. A good way to start is visiting a trusted property website and going through property listings that fit your criteria.Searching online makes the task of narrowing down your search much easier, it also gives you a number of added advantages:
- Access to more property options
- More information about the property
- Filters, which help you narrow down your search to meet your specific requirements
- Safer as compared to working with property agents offline.
Don’t limit your search to searching online. You should speak to friends and family and ask if they have direct access to a homeowner. The idea is to keep an open mind. In some cases, you could actually know one person who would contact the property owner and even negotiate on your behalf. You could also look through popular property magazines to see their listings.
Meeting and inspection with the manager or landlord
When you find that property or apartments that you are genuinely interested in, you should proceed to the next step of inspecting the property. You have to set aside a day or two to visit your potential home. It is very important to check out the condition of the house yourself. This is not a task you want to delegate.
To cover this stage of your search efficiently, we advise that you visit as many properties as you can possibly cover in the day you have set aside for this. Weekends are extremely busy for landlords and real estate agents. What you should do is to set out a working day within the week where possible to get this done. The real estate agent you are working with could help you set up a meeting with the landlord with this or you could call the property owner yourself if you have direct access to him/her.
Be a preferable tenant
During the inspection, you should strive to make a good first impression. Remember that the landlord will most likely be making observations and evaluating you just as you would be doing. As you check out the landlord to ensure he/she is someone who is easy to get along with, courteous and responsible. Ironically, the property owner will be doing the same thing to you. Right from the moment you call the landlord, make sure you communicate your thoughts politely and clearly. Also, ensure you are properly dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit, tuxedo or Agbada but you shouldn’t wear a scruffy sweatpant, rumpled T-shirt and flip flops either. Be decently dressed.
When going for an inspection, endeavour to respect the time of others. You might find this hard to believe but if you arrive late, the landlord could take this as a sign that you would have the habit of paying your rent late.
Remember to be courteous, smile and be thank him/her for making out time for the inspection.
You should also bear in mind that while the inspection is going on, try to make your comments positive and don’t complain about every single thing you are not comfortable with. Don’t be in a hurry. Wait till the landlord is willing to accept you as a tenant. At that point, you can then raise your concerns about the property. Raising complaints too early might tip you off as a nagging tenant. You don’t want to do that at such an early stage.
Things to look out for during inspection
As the search for your new apartment continues, this is the point where you draw up a checklist of things to look out for. Take a look at the list below:
- Check for insect infestation and mould
- If the house has carpets in the rooms, check to see if they are in good condition
- Flush the toilets
- Check to see if the house or apartment has a dedicated electricity meter
- Take some time to run the taps in the showers and sinks to check the water pressure
- Find out how trash from the house is disposed
- Take a look at the walls to see if there are holes
- Find out if the house is vacant or currently occupied
- Check for broken tiles
- Open and close all windows and doors
- Find out if the house has a borehole
- Test all the locks in the apartment
- Check the light bulbs
- Get an assurance from the property owner that the ceilings are not leaking
- Find out if the house has a dedicated security guard
- Check cupboards and storage spaces for chew marks and droppings
- Find out if the roof is in good condition or need to be changed
- Come along with a mobile phone charger and plug it into all sockets to ensure they all work
- Find out if the property owner is owing on utility bills
- Look around for fire safety equipment like a fire extinguisher in the kitchen
- Switch on all appliances in the apartment to make sure they are working
Time to ask questions
Once you are done with your personal inspection, it’s time to ask questions. In case you are not sure of what to ask, we have provided a list below to help.
- How much it the commission and agreement?
- If there are other tenants, are they are students, couples or aged people?
- Are you allowed to repaint walls?
- Are you allowed to redesign the interior?
- If there are maintenance issues or repairs to be made, who takes responsibility?
- If you rent the apartment, when is the rent due and what is the monthly rent?
- Has there been any incident of thieves breaking in?
- Has there been any incident of parked vehicles being vandalised?
Remember that when you ask these questions, you have to keep them limited to a reasonable amount. You don’t want to ask a homeowner 57 questions in a stretch and expect him/her to adore you. It’s also crucial to be polite and friendly when asking these question. It’s not an interrogation after all.
Talk to the current tenants
During the closing stages of searching for an apartment, you should try to talk to current tenants about their experience with the property, other tenants and the house owner.
You should speak to more than one tenant to get a more grounded impulse from those you speak to. Don’t do this during the inspection. Rather, make out some time on a weekend when you are likely to meet current tenants at home or within the neighbourhood.
Some of the questions you should ask should revolve around:
- Their experiences living in the house
- How easy is it to deal with the landlord?
- Do they consider the house safe to live in?
- Is the neighbourhood hostile or friendly?
- Is the landlord responsive to repair requests?
The landlord’s screening
As we mentioned earlier, landlords also ask questions and also want to be sure that you are the kind of tenant they want. As such, be prepared to answer series of questions as well as filling out the rental application form. The property owner uses the information provided to decide whether or not to accept your proposition to become a tenant.
The rental application form will request to know things like your current employment status, your monthly income, your rental history, referees and your next-of-kin. Depending on how thorough the landlord is, a background check might be carried out. We advise that you should be honest with your prospective landlord to avoid questions being raised as to your character.
In some situations, these questions could become upsettingly personal. We have had tenants who have been asked questions like:
- What tribe do you belong to
- Do you have a wife or girlfriend
- How much is your salary?
- Have you ever been arrested before?
- Why did you leave your former apartment?
- Do you go to church on Sundays?
- Do you like women?
- Do you go to nightclubs?
- How many children do you plan to have?
- Which university did you attend?
For some landlords, it does not stop at credit and background checks. Some require an excessive amount of information before they agree to take you in as a tenant.
Depending on how petty your prospective landlord is, you would be prepared to answer questions especially when you meet him/her for the first time.
In some cases, you would need to have the following documents ready as some landlords would request for them:
- Letter of employment
- Reference letter from your previous landlord
When you are satisfied and convinced that you want this apartment, then you can proceed to communicate this to the landlord as well as the agent if you are working with one.
All that is left is the paperwork.
What are your experiences from your search to find the best apartment? Let us know your best advice in the comments.