Setting up a Bachelor’s Quarters? Make a List.

I decided to follow up on “Renting a Lagos Apartment” story for two reasons: the page-view is encouraging and my experience stretches on.

At the first thought of setting off to start a life of [on] my own, I didn’t set out for a life of luxury neither was I entertaining a stoic life.

However, I had the basic rule of life running through my mind: start small, dream big. Problem sets in for a bachelor in my shoes in deciding what is small.

Small in my case means the provision of the basic necessities of life. Well, the philosophers who traded in spotting fallacies, encouraged us to define a word without the word; but in my case using ‘basic’ in the stead of ‘small’ only elaborates the problem of setting up an apartment.

All I thought I would need for a survival in a new apartment were the mundane things as follow: a rug, a mattress, a couch, standing mirror [pardon me, I can’t leave home without seeing one], reading desk, a reading lamp, wall hanger, shoe rack and a book shelve.

Poor me! a discerning eyes would no doubt see the bare life I was going to expose myself to. And, thankfully, a simple listing of items I might need for survival reveals my suicidal bent. The act of listing alone has kept the list growing into some fearsome thread of requests.

The Cooking Department

From where do you start?
From where do you start?

Depending on who is reading, a sister may notice the absence of cooking utensils—while that was deliberate, the absence of storage containers was an innocent omission. I have placed a ban on cooking in my apartment until further notice [good news to all Buka around]. I never liked the after ceremony rituals of doing the dish after every meal. Finally, I can call the shot here!

So, for a setting-up bachelor you have to decide what you want to include in this department cutlery, few plates and serving trays are not out of place. Nevertheless, a storage container for your nightly grubs—cornflakes, cooker oats, biscuits, milk and sugar etc is necessary to avoid open invitation to rodents and roaches.

The Viewing Centreman-watching-tv-650x0

The other obviously missing item in my to-be apartment is the Television. This is very deliberate. While I hope to entertain some select group of individuals, I don’t hope to turn my bunk to a viewing centre of any sort. Truth is TV is never my thing. I get all my news on the internet and a simple Laptop computer will serve me right for my select-viewing pleasure. A setting-up bachelor has to decide what suits his lifestyle in this regard. Do you need it, or do you need to show you can afford it?

Even a child can't bear the heat!
Even a child can’t bear the heat!

The Power Shift

I am very trusting. Another error of omission is my trust in the PHCN [my current employers] to supply power when I need it. It is a known fact in Nigeria that every man is a local government unto himself. You generate your power and water and complement it with government sources. There seems to be no better case for the inclusion of a generating set in that list. Gaskia!

Aestheticpoor-homes

One of the most expensive things in Nigeria is new technologies because our maintenance culture is very poor. Yet, the novice that I am, I am hoping the last occupant of the house would be responsible enough to leave the apartment better that he met it. Error! Some money should be set aside for the re-habitation of the apartment, the painting, netting and the doors. So, on your list and budget provisions should be made for these.

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So, what was your experience like while setting up your first apartment? Did you get all you would need? Do you think my list exhaustive? Share with me, I wanna know.

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Renting a Lagos Apartment: Radical Lessons and Other Whatnots

Since the beginning of this year, I have been on a hunt for an apartment. The last time I had any dealing with characters in such business was around 1995 when the family newly moved to Lagos –long story short, Father was swindled of some money by some agents.

We finally moved to Lagos and lived in an apartment at Ketu for some 8 years before moving out of the state to Benue state. The experience at Benue was quite different. The two accommodations we got, in the space of six years, were without strings attached or any middle man that goes by the name ‘agent’.

The aforesaid experiences—one happened during my formative years the other in my early 20’s— juxtaposed with my current experience, makes me marvel at the state of our society. I decided to share some of my observations with you. Enjoy.

Rent-A-House
Rent-A-House

The Contact:

First lesson in looking for an apartment in Lagos is the sudden realisation that all those makeshift boards and notices become relevant. Those signs you chose to ignore become prominent in your life. And, they spring up surprises too. My experience threw up every [un]imaginable character as an estate agent: the barber, the hair dressing saloon, the mechanic, the police officer and even a deaf! You have to brace yourself for these surprises and carry on as though it matters not if you want to make a success of your search. In hunting for an accommodation you would need to look for more of those signs than an actual vacant apartment.

The Deal:

In every makeshift shop that goes with the name of estate rent and commission agent’s office, no deal is deal until the payment of the initial money for registration form. Here you have to look out for the ridiculous to the pathetic. Even without you seeing any apartment they ensure you part with this sum. No fixed cost is charged but they measure you up according to your dressing. The psychology of this game is they make you believe that there is an available apartment ready for inspection upon your registration. Alas! After you drop your pay, stories prop up, the agent with the key to the house is on some sites, the landlord does not like people coming around in the afternoon etc. You save the stress for your head by making them believe the money is ready and you shall pay all due to them as soon as you see and like the place.

The Requirements:

The pitiable state of our nation reeks to the heavens. I didn’t know how fallen we were until the recent weeks. You call an agent on phone and you wish to go inspect an apartment but suddenly, from the blues, your state of origin matters than the amount you which to pay. Never in my life has the state of origin become so played out. Now, my first name Charles confuses the old landlords and ladies.

“Which Yoruba man goes by such a name?” they frequently asked

In fact, some doubted the surname that comes after until they can establish I speak Yoruba fluently.

Having been privileged to experience other communities with their open hospitality, I question the sincerity of the Yoruba people in this nation. They are the least travelled [dispersed within the country] and the most myopic [prejudiced] set of people I have known. They form stereotypes and biases on ill-conceived notions of others.

Others wanted to know my kind of job which is a sensible request until they start to probe into what kind of Sales I am into. Is it commission sales and why? They stopped short of asking for my actual salary and account balance. I laughed most of the time, not knowing how to explain that the marketing they have come to know in Nigeria Is far from what I practise and that we are not necessarily poor as marketers and that I don’t wish to stay beyond my first instalment in such apartment anyway.

The Marketing:

If you want to under study a case in desperation go to an estate agent. They are always in haste and have so many people of any vacant apartment per time. They sale you the apartment with all your possible objections with readily available solution upon your payment; what is funny, most of them sold me out with such errors that I didn’t even notice.

Negotiation:

I guess in real estate silence is a negotiation skill. After inspecting some houses and weighing on my options. Some agents called soon after to make another offer mostly to reduce initial asking price with tempered terms. Here, you can’t be too careful, even if the money is ready a tad delay may mean you getting a cheaper bargain but if you like it, go for it—with these agents, first come…

New Calculation of 10%:

What is the justice of collecting a quarter of your rent in the name of Agreement and Commission? Agreement with who, In the presence of whom?

10% only becomes 10% when you are renting apartments in the region of 500,000 to 1,000,000. For anything lesser they charge random rates and still ask you to sign to paying 10%.

My stubborn mind would not let me allow it to pass until I was re-schooled on the art of estate agents’ commissioning.

Those are my observations so far.

No, I haven’t got an apartment yet; we are still searching [in the neighbourhood of Ogudu] with the corporation of my new ‘friends’. 🙂

Wish me luck!

Tafawa Balewa Square

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0700hours

Men in laundered suits and cassava stained-shirts

Hopped out of the BRT in apocalypse haste

Crispy ties bouncing off in sync with springy steps

My hazy mind pans from the triumphant stallions

To flying eagles, clean wide roads.

Names of places, I heard from TV jingles

Pop up like corns in a pan

Would any entertain my novice pleas?

I fell in line like an indentured worker to the nearest bus-stop

Somnambulists canvassed for passengers in the stead of conductors

It was another day, in learning about Lagos and its blissful Island life

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Early February 2011, I returned from national service and to Lagos for the first time in 5 years. The day described above was in March, an interview day at IGI.

While I was lost in admiration of the structures and streets, workers flipped past in a hurry like a fast-forwarded movie. I hopped in but wondered what the haste was about.

Well, I did a three month stint with IGI and now work in Ikeja but I long for that morning hopping, even when in no haste— I later learnt, it meant purpose driven lifestyle.

Here is wishing and confessing a new job for me in Lagos Island.

PS: Oh, It’s a new year or is it the first post of the year? Compliments to all those who shared this space with me last year. God bless you all!

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BRT = Bus Rapid Transit

IGI = Industrial and General Insurance