Although estate agency in Nigeria is full of sharp practices, it is a sector one cannot ignore in property transactions.
Thousands of homes are sold every year, and the vast majority of the sales are done through estate agents.
Estate agents act as intermediaries between the property owner and the tenants on the one hand, while, on the other hand, they bring together the home seller and potential buyer and facilitate the negotiations until a deal is finally worked out.
In Nigeria, the estate agency sector is highly proliferated with near-free and minimal regulation. Thus a lot of sharp practices are reported daily.
But, have you been wondering how you can get the best from your agent? The surest way of getting professional transactions is to patronize registered agents who are members of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
The institution, unlike hundreds of other pseudo agencies, is recognized by the government and has a regulatory body, the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria, which licenses members and sanctions them appropriately whenever they err.
Estate agents are the “arrangers” of the property world, carrying out three main functions: valuing, advertising and negotiating.
They decide how much a home is worth, based on an understanding of the fixtures and fittings.
They make sure that potential buyers know of the sale by advertising and providing details or “particulars”.
They act as the go-between the buyers and sellers, communicating offer and counter-offers between the two parties.
They may also offer optional services such as mortgage, surveys and conveyance. Although these can be useful, the client is under no obligation to use them.
The quality of services rendered by a professional agent will depend on such factors as his pedigree, educational background, exposure and experience of the market – factors which the quack agent lacks.
When looking for an estate agent, experts recommend that you ask friends for recommendations, and take a look at the boards in the area in which you are planning to buy or sell. Also, have a look at the local press to see who advertises. It will give an idea of how busy they are.
Although estate agents are usually working on behalf of the seller, they still have certain duties to all buyers.
They must not mislead buyers about the nature of the property in the particulars that they provide.
They must treat all buyers fairly, and should not hold back offers in cases where a buyer has refused to use their services.
When you make an offer, the agent must pass a written copy to the seller, unless they have specified otherwise (for example, that they will not consider offers below a certain amount).
As a word of caution, clients should not to base the choice of agents on charms alone, but on the quality of what he has to offer. People in this part of the world base real estate transaction on cultural and ethnic factors, but cautions against this because ownership and management of properties have a lot of financial and legal implication.
Estate agents’ particulars are the marketing tools for a property. If estate agents are doing their job properly, they should encourage buyers to arrange a viewing.
To this end, estate agents will aim to be as positive as possible in their descriptions. However, it is a criminal offence for estate agents to make false or misleading statements about a property – whether verbally, by pictures or in writing.
All descriptions must be accurate. And room measurements should be straightforward. An agent should not say that planning permission has been granted for an extension, for example, if such permission is not in fact available.
That said, the particulars will not necessarily give you the full picture. Estate agents are not obliged to tell you about unattractive features of the property. So, when reading particulars, it is worth trying to identify what may have been left out.
Estate agents practice in the country has not got to the stage where agents specialize in either commercial, residential or industrial property as it is practiced in Europe, but that local practitioners are combining everything together.