If you, like me, have ever attempted the daunting task of house-hunting in Lagos, then you'd be familiar with the amorphous concept of total package. The magic words that balloon the cost of your rent from N700,000 to over N1,000,000.

And the worst part isn't even the outrageous financial implications of this total package thing. It's how aware you are that this guy with the shifty eyes and sweaty palms is taking you for a ride. But you're desperate for a key to the apartment of your dreams.

Before you hurriedly pay that inflated fee, ask yourself how well you understand what you’re paying for. If your answer is “not very much”. Then this article -- a result of some in-depth research and fact-finding -- is for you. When you’re done, you’ll understand what your total package covers, and then some.

Rent

This is the fee that you’re familiar with, budget for, and pay to the owner of the apartment that you want. Factors affecting the cost of your rent include the location, the state of the apartment, and the amenities installed. Depending on the wishes of the landlord/lady, you can pay your rent monthly, every six months, annually, or biennially.

But, multi-year rental payments are illegal*. Keep that in mind when house-hunting in Lagos, and an agent or property owner asks for more than a year's rent at once.

Agency Fee

The agency fee goes to the estate agent, i.e. the person that connects you and the property owner. In a perfect world, every estate agent would be a member of the Nigerian Institution for Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). But the way Lagos is set up, the real estate industry is largely unregulated. So, any Tom, Dick, and Haruna who know a vacant property and its owner, can collect a good percentage of the rental fee.

Depending on the whims of your agent, this fraction of your rent ranges from 5 - 20%. So, if your rent costs N700,000, you’ll have to pay between N35,000 and N140,000. An interesting fact is that in most places around the country, whoever contracts the estate agent pays their fee. But don’t get excited, in Lagos, you pay an agency fee regardless.

Renting an apartment is a legal process that needs a contract, so this fee pays for the lawyer's services. The job of the property lawyer is to draft a tenancy agreement and ensure that each party’s interests are well protected. We'll cover the details of this tenancy agreement in another post. But, till then, keep in mind that this contract is crucial to your happily-ever-after in that apartment.

Like the agency fee, the legal fee is a fraction of your actual rent. While the standard is 10%, it sometimes ranges from 5 - 20%. So, for a rent of N700,000, expect to pay between N35,000 and N140,000.

Caution Fee

This fee goes to the property owner and covers the cost of any damages done to their property while you’re in residence. A third party is placed in charge of the money till your lease expires and you decide to move out. If they need to make repairs after you move out, the cost will be deducted from this fee. If not, you'll get your money back.

In reality, a lot of people don't get a refund after paying this fee. Which is why you'd need the services of a property lawyer. With one, you increase your chances of loosening some purse strings and getting the caution money for your next apartment. 😉

Service Charge

Some apartments come with a compulsory fee that covers the maintenance of common facilities and extra services. Those extra services include sewage disposal, generator repairs, general sanitation, and much more. As impressive as all that sounds, this fee does not cover internal repairs or the maintenance of your appliances. Those are exclusively for your pocket.

Registration Fee

A few people see this fee as the equal of a consultation fee at the doctor’s. I disagree. All it gets you is an empty form that, when filled, registers you with the agent. It is fixed and non-refundable.

If your jazz is strong enough, you could get away with not paying for this. But, the next one is an unavoidable ritual if you're house-hunting in Lagos.

Inspection Fee

This is the fee that you pay to show the estate agent that your intentions are pure and noble. It's also a fixed fee and pays for the estate agent’s transport fare from one prospective apartment to another. If you think dates are expensive, you haven’t met an agent who doesn't read client briefs.

Now for the total charge. Let's assume that the rent for an apartment is N700,000 and fixed costs are N30,000 (Caution fee), N30,000 (Service charges), N5,000 (Registration fee) and N3,000 (Inspection fee). The total cost of that apartment would range from N840,000 - N1,150,000.

With this knowledge you can design your budget better for the marathon exercise of house-hunting in Lagos. So, drop a comment, and share (don't be stingy).

If you unwittingly paid and moved in already, you can still rebel against the simulation. Get an Eden Life subscription, it'll handle your home cleaning, food deliveries and laundry services even better than you would.

*"It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a new or would-be tenant rent in excess of one (1) year in respect of any premises." (Lagos Tenancy Law, 2011).

This law doesn't apply to apartments in Ikoyi, Ikeja GRA, Apapa, or Victoria Island.

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