Berkeley Legal | Guidelines to Real Estate Purchase in Nigeria
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30 Apr Guidelines to Real Estate Purchase in Nigeria

Real Estate is one of the fast-growing sectors of the economy in Nigeria and has proved to be very lucrative. This article is a simple guide to property purchase in Nigeria.

Property purchase, that is, land and/or building requires proper due diligence and adequate resources to ensure that the right title is passed to the buyer.

Below are some of the matters to note before completing a real estate transaction: –

  • Verification of Title: – This is very vital to successful acquisition of property. The valid authority of the seller to carry out the transaction, that is the sale of the property, should be inquired into at the appropriate land registry. There are a number of ways that this may be achieved such as the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), Gazette, Proof of Excision, Survey Plan and Receipt of Purchase by the Vendor

C of O

This is the most important document in a real estate transaction. It is a land document issued by the state government to land owners and buyers as proof of legitimate ownership. It spells out the purpose of the land, that is, residential, commercial or both. This should be demanded from the buyer for citing and further investigation at the appropriate land registry for confirmation as fake certificates may be provided by deceitful sellers.

Gazette

This document is crucial where plots of land owned by a family or community have been partitioned for the purpose of acquisition of part of the land by the Government. It is typically an area, community or village that has been marked or designated as an “Urban Area”. The rest of the land being the unacquired part may be returned to the owners and tagged as an Excision.

The untouched land is recorded and documented in the official gazette of the state. This document is also a genuine proof of title and can be used for the acquisition of a C of O on the land. It is important to note that the property may still be acquired by the government, however, adequate compensation will be awarded to the title holder.

The gazette is a periodical publication that records the business and proceedings of a government for the purpose of giving legal notices to the public. It should be verified at the Surveyor General’s office for authenticity before the completion of ay transaction.

Survey Plan

This measures the boundaries and provides accurate measurement and description of the property in question. It displays the exact borders of the land. The survey helps to prevent illegal or unwanted encroachment and trespassing by other property owners.

The document alone is not sufficient to prove title to real estate. The red copy of the document must have been lodged at the Land Registry and further steps taken towards attaining the C of O (if not available) must be shown.

Due diligence must be exercised in confirming all of the above title, and the services of a lawyer and registered surveyor are advisable for same. Investigations must be carried out to ensure the authenticity of the transaction that is about to be executed.

It is advisable to visit and inspect the property before conducting any transaction. In addition, it is important that searches are carried out at the relevant Land Registry. This is to ensure that there is no encumbrance or pending litigation with respect to the land. It also shows whether or not the real estate is the subject of any government acquisition or overriding interest which may prevent the peaceful enjoyment of the property by the new owner. The role of a lawyer cannot be overemphasized here as he will conduct the searches diligently and provide a detailed search report which will guide the decision of the buyer.

  • Documentation

Negotiation may begin subsequently.  This means that the parties involved have agreed to proceed with the transaction, having being satisfied with any or all of the available information above. Where it involves a private property, an independent valuation may be carried out to guide the buyer on the fair market value of the property. A competent lawyer would also advise on any future liabilities such as stamp duties and other government fees that may be incurred in completing the transaction. This helps the bargaining power of the buyer.

Upon the acceptance of the purchaser’s offer by the vendor, the main documents to be executed and exchanged between the parties; are Contract of Sale and a Deed of Assignment. These documents are prepared by the lawyers of both parties in a way such that their interests are protected adequately.

Once all necessary documents have been signed and exchanged by the purchaser and vendor, the buyer should be in possession of all the original title documents and transfer documents. Payment would also have been made at this stage thereby enabling physical possession of the property itself as well.

  • Registration

The is usually the penultimate stage in a real estate purchase.  The buyer must ensure that all the necessary documents are filed with the appropriate government authority, to register the buyer as the new owner of the property. A new survey plan would be required and  the Governor’s consent must be obtained to complete the process. The grant of the consent facilitates the issuance of a new Certificate of Occupancy, being proof of ownership of the property.

It is relevant to note that by virtue of the Land Use Act, the ownership of all property in a state in Nigeria is vested in the Governor and a right of occupancy is granted for a maximum of 99 years.

Berkeley Legal is conversant with real estate purchase and is capable of representing and advising either parties to the transaction.

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require specific legal advice on any of the matters covered in this article please contact info@berkeleylegal.com.ng