Building a house in Nigeria is a social status. We all want a permanent home address and the desire doesn’t end when we travel. Infact, a sizeable portion of the $25billion sent by diasporans to Nigeria last year must have gone into residential housing projects. If you are in the Diaspora and you are building in Nigeria, you must be familiar with these scenarios and you can learn from the solutions proffered.
Junior was one of your favourite brothers and you never hesitated about giving him the task of handling your home project. He kept sending you pictures of ‘your house’ in Ajah. The pictures always looked so great and were constantly updated. Though you noticed the picture hardly depicted the surrounding houses, but it didn’t matter to you. Eventually you had to be in Nigeria for an unscheduled visit and that was where problem started. First Junior claimed labourers were on strike, later he claimed the state government banned access to the site’s neighbourhood. You went ahead anyway to realise the site was as empty as the pot we keep in the kitchen cabinet. That was how your hard earned money turned into Junior’s allowee.
‘Calamity ‘ supervision
It is not hard to know a staircase made by “proudly naija artisans”. For some part of the steps you don’t even need to lift your leg high enough to move to the next step, while some steps are so high you wonder if it was still a step and not a fence.
You need a professional to handle your project. You don’t want to sit down jeje in UK and you hear a building has collapsed in Lagos only to realise it is your site. Most times, the older brothers, uncles and aunts who are handling our home construction have acquired building practices that are unsafe overtime, and in a culture where respect for elders is paramount, you need someone with guts who would insist on the right thing.
Being Too Secretive
When you were running your project you did not want to make so much noise in the family. Your dad knew, some of your brothers didn’t know. Later you started having issues of management on site and you had to inform some more family members, eventually everyone you didn’t tell got to know and it became an issue. To avoid stories that touch, ensure your close family members are aware if you have a supportive one, an extra pair of eyes on your project would do no harm.
Slowly But Surely Projects
They started digging for the foundation in Nigeria when you were in winter in Canada, by spring -they were still digging; during autumn and summer the digging continued; and by the next winter they were still doing digging reloaded. You begin to wonder if they are digging for your foundation or they are trying to discover oil. Maybe it has been long since you left Naija, and it may sound cliché, but things still work extremely slowly in Nigeria. Most of our efforts in the building industry are manual. It doesn’t mean it should get as bad as digging for months though.
Quality of Structure
So you just arrived Naija and entered your new house. You tried the first switch and it instantly got broken, the door doesn’t close properly, the water heater is leaking, the wall looks like it was moulded rather than plastered, and you still wonder why the “state-of-art window burglary” your interior decorator promised you looks like the painted version of the iron bars protruding from the balcony decking. You wonder even if the building is safe to live in, yet everyone is complementing you on how big your house is and how it is worth 45 million Naira. I don’t know how much mediocrity paid, but he seems to be well accepted and popular in the housing industry. Quality is a big issue and because detailed artisans are few, the good ones are overpriced.
Location! Location!! Location!!!
You lived in New York; we know, at least we have heard your accent. We also know you don’t want GRA Ikeja because they only have initial gra-gra, Ikorodu sounds like a noodle, Mowe is too small, let us not even mention Alakuko or Alagbado. You have been exposed to a good quality of life out there, but thanks to money laundering politicians who spend the money on real estates the price has gone high like a kite in the wind. Now, you can only admire the buildings as you realise getting a lush green neighbourhood with side walks is a luxury only few can afford. But to say the truth, if you are waiting to have the money to build in these high-brow areas, you may end up not building.
To Build or Invest
You are living in a studio apartment in Canada, but you have built a mansion in that part of your village where there is no light, no road and no other storey building. You only use the house during Christmas and New Year. Sometimes you wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if you spent the bulk of the money on your business, than on the house that now looks more like a social investment. Now your mansion is the biggest in your village, but even the smallest house in the city is more valuable than yours.
Take Away Tips To Consider when building from Diaspora
• Involve people you trust most and who have demonstrated financial discipline, and not necessarily people you love most.
• Do not send huge sums of money at once. Instead, send the money gradually.
• Ensure project updates include pictures, video, budget and other site activities
• Don’t walk alone. Join a housing group where you can share information about your project and ask questions.
• Buy land from estate developers who do a proper layout. Because most people buying the land are middle class like you, there is a better chance of having a posh neighbourhood.
• Dont hesitate to hire a professional. Registered professionals have a reputation, but sure they are more expensive. Your trusted persons can do oversight functions and manage the project.
• If you feel your project is moving way too slow, it may be a time to take caution. Stop the project temporarily and send another friend or family who has not been involved in the project to give an independent assessment.
• Don’t spend all your resources on your housing project if you have a thriving business at the moment which also needs more investment. You can design your house in a way that allows you to build in phases, so you have extra money to invest in your business.
• Please feel free to share your opinions on the above tips shared or add any more tips from your personal experiences on construction sites. Thanks.