No, but we almost did. My husband and I were planning to take a mortgage to finance the house. So, the bank went with us to take a look at the house before purchase. The owner of the house happened to be driving past and he saw us with the bank officials. In ten minutes, he called me, saying “Ah, madam. Don’t take a loan to buy my house o. It is too expensive. If I let you have it, all the money you will be using to service the loan…if you pay me directly, you will finish the payment. Please don’t take a loan.” You can imagine someone telling you not to take a loan to buy his house.
What type of house is it?
It is a semi-detached duplex in Omole Phase 2.
How much did you pay for it?
We paid a total of N65 million for it in 2015.
What is the house worth now?
N85 to N90 million.
What is your total household income?
In total, about N60 million when we bought the house. Now? Let us just say it is a lot more.
What do you do?
I studied Physics at the University of Lagos, but I have worked in marketing for 31 years. I had worked with multinational companies. My husband works in advertising, but he is self-employed.
Did you buy from a developer?
No, we didn’t buy a new house. It is a very long story. Both of us had inspected the house separately four months before we started negotiating to buy it. I was very angry with the estate agent who took me to the house. It is a very large duplex and very well built. But the owner was asking for N70 million. The agent knew my budget was around N35 million. My husband had the same experience. He also screamed at the agent who took him to see the house for wasting his time. We both went to look at another house in the estate. But none of us liked it. So, leaving the estate, we drove past the house. My husband pointed it the house to me saying “that was the house the stupid estate agent took me to.” I also said that was the unaffordable house I told him about. We noticed that it had a new To Let banner on the gate. We pondered calling the number on the banner, and later decided to just do it for the fun of it. We ended up dialing the number. We fixed another appointment to see the house, but I was the only person who could make it.
So, how did you find N65 million?
We really didn’t. When I got to the house, I realised that the new agent is actually the owner’s friend. The owner too was there. We hit it off instantly. He was very excited when I told him I worked in marketing. He had just opened a factory to make beverages. He almost immediately drove me to his factory. We settled in his office after the tour of the factory. Then we started talking about his family, showing me their pictures: This girl, I sent her to Harvard to study law. The boy is 26 years old now. He studied engineering. This one, I want him to take over my business. We went on and on and we couldn’t even discuss the property I left my house to buy. We fixed another meeting to discuss the house.
So, how did the negotiation go?
I went with my husband. He agreed to sell for N65 million, but we told him we had only N33 million. He said it was too low: Can you afford more? We told him, No, sir. That is all we have. As the Yoruba say, we swept our house and swept the street to get the N33 million. He asked when we could finish the payment. We said that we could pay over two years. He sighed and said, Look, I will take your money. I will let you move in but on one condition. Promise me you will never lie to me about not being able to pay me. As long as you can promise me, we will be fine. It was unbelievable. It shows you that you get your own house when God says it is time to get it. He accepted our offer.
What did you say to persuade him?
Nothing. He was just convinced that we were sincere. He is a very rich man. So, he wasn’t under pressure for the money. He could afford to be magnanimous. He shared his own experience with us. He told us he bought a house from someone in Ojodu and had outstanding payment. The man he was owing would come and see him saying Islamic prayer in congregation. But he had, unknown to the man, opened up another exit at the back of the house. So, immediately he finished the prayer, he would sneak and escape through this exit. He kept doing this till the man discovered the trick and caught him. I can’t remember how he settled the payment. But I believe that experience influenced his dealing with us.
Did you take a loan to finance the house?
No, but we almost did. My husband and I were planning to take a mortgage to finance the house. So, the bank went with us to take a look at the house before purchase. The owner of the house happened to be driving past and he saw us with the bank officials. In ten minutes, he called me, saying Ah, madam. Don’t take a loan to buy my house o. It is too expensive. If I let you have it, all the money you will be using to service the loan…if you pay me directly, you will finish the payment. Please don’t take a loan. You can imagine someone telling you not to take a loan to buy his house.
How long did it take you to complete payment?
We were able to pay up within two years and a few months. The owner called only once to remind us, to ask us nicely: Do you have some money? We told him we did not, and he did not take it badly at all. He waited patiently till we could pay him.
So, what were your funding sources?
Savings. And we had some money from friends and also from the cooperative in my office.
While saving up to buy the house, did you give anything up?
Nothing, really. My husband always paid the children’s school fees. But I had to pay for a term because he had poured all his savings to pay the first installment.
How would you rate your house on a scale of 1 to 10?
9. The Residents Association is very strong. Sanitation is great. You can’t open shops and noise pollution is controlled. The executive committee is doing a great work.
How would you rate the infrastructure of your current accommodation on a scale of 1-10?
Again, 9. The roads are well maintained. The drainage is perfect. I am horrified when I go to places like Lekki and Oniru and see completely blocked gutters filled to the brim with rubbish.
How would you rate your first accommodation in Lagos on a scale of 1-10?
3. We were living in Egbeda. Too far, too chaotic. But we had really, really great landlords. The wife has passed away, but we are still in touch with the husband. He attended our housewarming with his children who are like younger brothers and sisters to us.
What do you think about investing in real estate?
After completing the payment for the house, the owner decided to sell the other duplex and he offered it to us saying we could pay on the same terms i.e. pay half of the cost and complete the payment over two years. He kept asking us for six months before he took it to the market. We could have afforded it, but we did not want to strain ourselves. In hindsight, though, we should have bought it. We could have bought it for N65 million. It is now worth between N85 million and N90million. It would have been a great investment.