DECODING THE MYSTERY OF REAL ESTATE DOCUMENTATION – PART ONE

DECODING THE MYSTERY OF REAL ESTATE DOCUMENTATION – PART ONE

Last week, we explored Ogun State being the manufacturing hub of Nigeria, it’s status as the primary gateway to Lagos, and our affirmation that it would rival the center of excellence in the coming years in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). As we initially planned to travel east to explore the investment potentials and possibilities for Real Estate investment in Nigeria, we would be abandoning such plans which is as a result of the ongoing crisis and the slaughter of innocent lives. We hope and pray for an end to this and for a better Nigeria.

For this week we shall focus on decoding the mystery of Real Estate Documentation.

A proven fact is that Real Estate is the surest and best guarantee for preserving wealth, especially real estate that is purchased for investment or commercial purposes. However, while Real Estate is a proven tool for securing wealth and protecting capital against losses and depreciation, any poor choices made exert a harsh and unforgiving toll.

Many would-be investors have been burnt in a bid to acquire real estate on the cheap or relying on honor codes rather than documentation to secure their assets. The true value of a REAL ESTATE ASSET is tied to the completeness of the documentation and its ability to serve as secure collateral.

For prospective investors and homeowners, it is vital to understand the typical terms that govern real estate transactions, especially in Nigeria.

For the purpose of this article, our primary focus would be property titling in Nigeria. As a starting point, please note that in Nigerian law there are three key elements – (1) POSSESSION is nine-tenths proof of ownership, and (2) He who owns the land, owns whatever is built on it, lastly by virtue of the Land Use Act of 1979, the Government owns all land and we are all mere leaseholders.

LEASEHOLD OR FREEHOLD: 

All land in Nigeria is technically leasehold. When you buy from the community or family-owned untitled land, what you are buying is a Customary Right of Occupancy and you are expected to apply and obtain a certificate of occupancy to convert it into a secured leasehold for ninety-nine (99) years.

All lands are measured and marked out with boundary beacons and represented by a drawing or map called a SURVEY.

LAND SIZES:

In Nigeria, land is measured in plots using square meters; an acre consists of six (6) plots, and a hectare consists of two and a half acres or fifteen (15) plots. The typical Government standard plot in Nigeria is 18meters x 36 meters meaning 648 square meters which can generously accommodate a standard family unit with all setbacks and an equally generous compound.

In summary, a Hectare is 10,000 square meters; an acre is 4,046 square meters and a standard plot is 648 square meters.

In the last twenty (20) years with the advent of private developers, we now have smaller sized and larger sized plots. The MOST IMPORTANT THING to note in your plot sizing is the setback requirements.

Under the planning laws of most States in Nigeria, you are obligated to develop a maximum of 30-40% of your plot area and you must allow three (3) meters setback on the sides and six to nine (6-9) meters from the access roads to the plot.

SURVEY

The process by which boundaries are measured and land areas are determined; the on-site measurement of the plot, dimensions, and positions of buildings on the plot, including the determination of any existing encroachments or easements. Surveyors are responsible for handling survey-related issues and they are regulated by the office of the Surveyor-General of each State.  A valid survey plan must contain the name of the owner, the exact address or description of the land, the size/area, the drawn-out portion of the land surveyed – mapped out on the survey plan document, the beacon numbers, and its coordinates. A valid survey MUST be signed and sealed by the Registered Surveyor, who drew or was responsible for drawing it with the date of when it was done.

A valid survey will have something called a “reg” copy and this is the copy filed in the office of the Surveyor-General of the State, where the land is located.

TITLING / NIGERIAN LAND USE ACT EFFECT:

As earlier stated, all titles to land are derived from customary rights of ownership. However, with the Land Use Act of 1979, you must obtain a CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY which is the official document issued by the Government for Ninety-nine (99) years vesting initial ownership on the first applicant.

Typically, the first applicant acquires from a community or customary right owner. Before paying any customary owner for land, it is advisable to do a land search at the State Land Registry.

This is because the Land Use Act of 1979 vested all lands in every state of the Federation under the control of the State Governors. State Governments in turn typically recognize customary rights by granting what is called an Excision.

Next week, we shall conclude the mystery of Real Estate documentation and delve further into the information prospective home buyers need to have. Have a productive week ahead.

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