Real estate fraud especially in Lagos deeply hurt and affected over 500,000 victims last year and resulted in over N5 Billion Naira in losses traced to dubious real estate developers, unscrupulous agents, shady land or home sellers and deceitful Omo-onile customary landowners. Personally I have prevented over N300 Million Naira fraudulent land transactions this year alone and the numbers keep on increasing. Along the way, I have met smart buyers who claim to be very savvy in real estate matters but still ended up as victims to these property scammers because they refused to seek professional help from more experienced people or ask the right questions.
With this in mind, I have decided to freely give out 25 important questions out of my repertoire of questionnaires to ask a property seller when conducting due diligence to avoid falling for a real estate scam and dodge being another victim of the property scammers. I hope we all learn from it. The questions include and are not limited to the following:
- Is the property or land you intend to buy a subject of litigation and presently a court dispute?
- Has the property or Land been sold to more than one person?
- Is the property or land a subject of inter-family or communal ownership tussle?
- Is the property or land the subject of government interference, under acquisition or a government-owned land?
- Have you visited the land in question?
- Do you know whether the land is dry or swampy?
- Have you seen the surrounding location of where the property is?
- Is the property accessible to you now? (Are there bushy trees everywhere or is the land bare?)
- Do you have to wait until the owner calls you that it's convenient to visit it?
- Have you seen the promoters of the Estate or Sellers physically?
- Does the land have the requisite title documents proving ownership? E.g. C of O, Governors Consent, Village Excision, Deed of Assignment from the Original Owners, Proof of Purchase Receipt that can be verified and a host of many other documents to confirm?
- Is the property fully excised or the excision is under processing (Side Note: It's Very dangerous to buy a property under excision without proper confirmation at the land registry that it would be readily approved)
- Have you been to the seller’s office or home address to confirm he, she or they exist?
- Have they shown you their own original copies of the title document freely to investigate?
- Have they told you how soon you would be getting your own title documents in case you make the full payment?
- Are they encouraging you to pay via instalments so that they would come up with hidden fees as time goes on to increase the initial payment? (Real Estate Companies are fond of this Nonsense.)
- Have you seen a copy of the contract of Sale they intend to give you in advance to give to your lawyer to peruse and vet so that you don’t sign your future away?
- Have you discussed Agency and Legal fees in advance so that it doesn’t hunt you in future?
- Is there any hidden signing fee you are to pay after the purchase of the land? Also any hidden development fee, Omonile fees for the community, building fees, fencing fees and any other kind of fee associated with the property that you must know?
- Have the Owners or Seller (s) adequately identified themselves with official Identifications?
- Is the Seller or real estate company irritated that you intend to involve your lawyer in the transaction to help you investigate the validity of the documents, the property and contracts?
- Are the sellers insisting you must pay first in advance before you inspect the land, house or title documents? It’s wrong for a seller to demand payments before you view the original documents.
- If it is a family land, can you meet the other members of the family to verify if the land belongs to their family? If it is land being sold by a previous owner, can he show you how he came about the property and who sold it to him? Can he show you those who signed his documents?
- In case there is an issue after you have purchased the land, would the Sellers or Owners still be available to help you sort any issue that might arise from the dispute as regards the history of the Ownership of the land?
- What if there is an issue on the land after payment, how soon would you be indemnified? (Would your money be refunded immediately or you have to wait for months or years before the matter has been settled?) *****Very important question*****
The list of verification questions to ask are not-exhaustive and they are tough questions you must mull over before you decide to buy a property with no head or tail. But as real estate scams become more and more dubious, taking the extra time to review, evaluate, examine and assess who or those asking for your money and why they are asking for your money can save you Millions in lost Naira. Please be wise and venture to conduct due diligence with an independent real estate safety expert like Omonilelawyer before you buy your next land or property.
Like I always say, “If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Proceed with caution or walk away.”
The choice is yours!
See you in the comments section.