I recently moved house and the journey here wasn’t easy. Yes, I knew I was going to have to move but I didn’t envisage it would be so hard. I mean, if I had the needed money, required contacts and heavenly backing, what could be left? Boy, was I wrong? Lagos showed me again why it is so spectacular and the search taught me many lessons I’ll not only run with but also teach to my kids.
Suppose we walk through my house-finding journey together, I’ll let you peep into my mind and see through my eyes. The first people you’ll notice are estate agents. Oh my God…those people!
Agents are your biggest help and your worse threat in this house finding quest. You don’t want them to think you are poor; they’ll neglect you and at best show you crappy houses. You don’t want them to see you as rich, either. It would tempt them to inflate the already insanely expensive house rates in the bid to see if they can make a little extra off you.
They can be interesting, yet annoying. Often, they are knowledgeable illiterates. They are schooled in certain things and ignorant in others. I still laugh at the mispronunciations I was constantly subjected to while ‘rolling’ with agents. There was this elderly man who wouldn’t stop calling ‘client’ ‘clement’; and another who always screamed at fellow motorists: ‘didn’t you see my trafigation? I trafigated’! Whatever agents seem to not know though, they know enough to find you your dream home. You better stifle that laughter and co-operate. And if I learnt one thing from agents, it’s the value of networking. They always know the individual who has what you need. Walk with an agent for five minutes and he would have greeted about fifty people already. Let’s say I’ve been more inclined to socialise since my house hunt began.
I am yet to understand landlords too. I mean, what goes on in their minds when they put together such shoddy structures and place such exorbitant fees on it. Some of those houses are in the middle of nowhere or located right at the centre of a branch of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s probably falling apart and the walls decaying. Or so new it’s still empty, you would have to fit in all the things that should normally be ‘amenities’. Lagos landlords also have masters’ degrees in space management. They cramp as many rooms and as many flats into the smallest space possible, they really can’t be bothered if your bedroom window opens into your neighbour’s kitchen. When you finally find the house, and pay through your nose to fix this and that, your landlord still expects advance payment of the ‘service charge’. What service again? In summary, Lagos landlords have never heard the term ‘human rights’. They think only in Naira – thousands and millions.
Perhaps you’ll have a care taker, depends on your luck, he could be an angel or demon. Start praying right now, your luck can still change. One other important factor you have almost no control over is the neighbour factor. You could choose to rent a house where there would not be too many neighbours; that could increase your chances of peace. But then again, better to have ten peaceful neighbours than just one nose poking, noise making disturbing neighbour. Experience has taught me though, prayer answers to things such as terrible neighbours. As a matter of fact, when you decide to look for a new house in Lagos, it’s more than enough reason to move closer to God.
At this juncture, let me make this paragraph an ode to the house from which I’m moving. It was where I dreamed new dreams, made life decisions and grew some more. Within its walls, I felt the exhilaration of falling in love and planning the future, I also knew the abject disappointment of being disappointed and falling out of love. Those walls saw me happy, not so happy and just there. They heard my shouts and sighs of joy, they also saw my tears. I wonder how those walls felt when I decided I was done with them and moving elsewhere. Maybe they were sad too, or excited or maybe they could care less, truth remains no one on earth can tell the story of my life that year better than they can. I solemnly promise to remember that house when I reflect on my past and beginnings.
Did I say I learnt many life lessons while house hunting? I sure did. First, not every lead is worth pursuing, weigh it in your spirit before you invest your time and money on that agent’s promise. Next, I learnt afresh, I can never know too many people; people always hold the answers.
Before I start searching for anything, I need a good mental picture of what I want and regardless of how tough the search gets, I must never stop or settle till I’m close enough. I learned how not to settle. Following the advice my friend gave which became my saving grace; exhaust all your options before you decide. The next option might be the exact thing you’ve been looking for. Sometimes though, if you are fortunate, you could find it at the second check.
At last, the first thing to do when you are house hunting is say that Olajumoke kind of prayer: God change my fortune, make me more fortunate!
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