Canadian Allie Morse is the founder and CEO of the online real estate marketplace Lamudi in West and Central Africa. Launched in October last year in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East, the company already has over 250,000 properties listed and operates in 25 countries globally, the majority of which are in Africa. In Nigeria, Lamudi hit 10,000 listings at the end of March.
Morse moved to Lagos about a year ago to set up Lamudi’s regional division and How we made it in Africa asked her about living in Lagos, the opportunities in the real estate market, and what foreigners should know about renting property in Nigeria.
What made you decide to move to Lagos and go into business?
I came to Lagos in the summer of 2013, excited to pursue opportunities in the e-commerce and online real estate space. I really enjoy West Africa, and already in the past year have seen the city change immensely.
I was excited to come to Nigeria, to become a part of an economy that is booming and changing at an incredible pace. There are many opportunities to build viable businesses that serve real gaps in the marketplace, and there is no question that Lagos is a great place to do it.
How does living in Lagos compare to other places in the world that you have lived in?
Lagos is certainly the most dynamic of all the cities I’ve ever called home. A Canadian who has also lived in Singapore, Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, I can confidently say that there is no place on earth like Lagos. There are, of course, the expected frustrations of poor infrastructure – the traffic, unreliable power and intermittent networks. However, there is also an undeniable and irresistible pulse of the city that any Lagosian understands. You find the most entrepreneurial people on the planet here, and day to day living requires a certain flexibility and sense of humour that draws and retains only the most interesting of people.
Describe the real estate sector in Lagos today. Where do opportunities exist?
The real estate sector in Nigeria is booming, and ripe with opportunities for more transparency. As more people look to real estate as a sector for investment, from both within Nigeria and internationally, there is huge room for growth, particularly in the rental market. We see a lot of supply in the residential sale market, and yet the overwhelming demand comes from prospective tenants for rentals.
How does renting property in Nigeria differ to other places in the world? What should expats or foreigners be aware of when it comes to renting in Nigeria?
Renting a property in Nigeria is very different than elsewhere. Landlords usually require tenants to pay one, if not two, years up front in rent, and the price is often divided out between a ‘base’ rent and additional ‘service’ charges – for generator power, security and/or other amenities. Agent and legal fees range depending on the property, and you should be very clear about whether these will be charged on the base, or total including the service.
Working with an agent and/or landlord who is trusted is of particular importance in Nigeria, where there is a risk of ‘fraud’ or 419 in the property market. You want to ensure that the agent you are working with does, in fact, have direct permission from the landlord to market the property.
What makes Lamudi different to the other online real estate marketplaces in Nigeria today?
Lamudi is a premier and premium portal that works with the very best agents in the industry. We offer customers a range of choices, and most importantly, options of quality. Anyone can list a property for sale or rent on Lamudi. However, all of our ‘trusted sellers’ have been verified with in person, and our team photograph the majority of these properties. All of our listings have images – so customers can get a sense of the property before contacting an agent to visit it.