Real Estate Brokerage 101
About two years ago, I wrote an article on why it was profitable to own a land or property (building).
Among others, I spoke about how a genuinely acquired land was the best and safest investment one could have; all things being equal.
It became clear that, a good land appreciates in value, hence makes it profitable over time, and less stressful to manage. It also gives one peace of mind and has a potential of making one wealthy in the medium to long term, if the owner resells them or builds on it to rent out or lease to others.
Frankin D. Roosevelt, a former President of the United States of America puts it better, “Real Estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid in full, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.”
As much as this may be true, it is also important to ensure you have the right land for your taste, purpose and management. In other words, not everyone can manage or keep every kind of land. Not all can afford a land or property in East Legon, Cantonments, Ridge, Adabraka, Airport Residential and many other prime locations in Accra. Yet, based on one’s income and resources, there are other locations in the country where one can also become a land owner and go one to become wealthy.
Be that as it may, whether a prime land, a new development area or a virgin area, it is important to consider some key factors to secure what is perfect for you as the purchaser.
Best Development Opportunity:
Although some buy lands to resell later, a good number buy with the intention to develop either into homes or commercial properties. Those who even buy to resell know that they can earn more when the land presents a good building opportunity.
Development or Building opportunity simply refers to how suitable a land is for development; thus building a home, shops, churches, mosques, school etc. Apart from location which is key when considering the best development opportunity, the nature of the land and type of soil; flat, wetland, forest land, sloppy, rocky, sandy, clayey etc is also very important. As that will also affect the cost and type of building to put up, depending on one’s vision and available resources.
Land and Soil Type:
Although Eugene O’neill says that “But land is land. It is safer than the stocks and bonds of Wall Street swindlers,”; do not forget that all lands are not the same. Lands; based on their natural formation are best classified as farmlands, wetlands, desert lands, forest lands, conservations among others.
There are others that are rocky, full of stones or mixture of gravels and sand, particularly lands around mountainous areas. Then there are the sandy, silt, loamy and clayey types of soil too.
Irrespective of the location, a rocky land will require some excavation which comes at huge cost even before starting to construct the building itself. If the land is in a wetland or has very soft soil, costs will be incurred to excavate, fill, and drill the foundations deep down to stable ground. Some of these costs could sometimes be equal to land cost or more.
The land and soil type in short can attract a lot of cost regarding land preparation, earthworks, foundation and land stability and retention (for soft and wetlands). They also go a long way to even affect the design of the building. For instance, it will be good to have a building design that fits a slopping land to reduce the foundation and excavation cost and maximize view of the low land. Those who love gardening or lawns can also take advantage of the good soil type of their land.
Location and Zoning Limitations
It is always said that the first rule of real estate or buying a land is Location. Whether you want to develop immediately, or later. If you want to sell or keep. Whether you want to build a home or a commercial structure on the land. Think of the location.
The location alone can make two properties have different values. For instance, two pieces of land sharing the same boundary but facing different directions; thus a busy road and a quiet inner road may not have the same value or purpose.
In well laid out areas in Ghana or many parts of the developed world, lands or properties are zoned. The zoning is usually done by the local council or assembly to determine which part is residential, commercial, industrial, water ways, buffer zones, schools, markets conservation area among others.
So, always do well to do a background check of the zoning restrictions of your desired land or property. Else, you will wake up one morning to learn that your building is sitting right in the middle of a proposed road or next to an area demarcated for a noisy factory. There are many who have lost in court over noise and air pollution because the court ruled that their homes were situated in the wrong zone. Commercial and Industrial properties have also suffered more loses for similar rulings. Some have lost access to their homes or properties because they took the issue of location and zoning for granted.
Fair Market Value
Every land has a value, thus a generally acceptable cost depending on factors like purpose, documentation, ownership, location and even the buyer. Finding a fair value is not easy if you are not well versed in real estate deals. Some of the things to get fair value is to compare with similar properties or get an expert like the staff at CBC Properties Limited to guide you.
In a case of the land that is not flat, you can also make a simple analysis of what it will cost to prepare the land before building and make some subtraction from the proposed cost to guide your bargain.
If the land is well documented, zoned and fenced, the value will not be cheap as the one next to it that have not been given same packaging. Fair value may also mean paying more for a similar land, because of the value additions.
Access to Water and other Utilities
It is good to have a good location of the land. But a land that is not accessible to utilities like water, electricity, mobile network coverage and drainage system can be expensive to manage or develop. It gets worse if it is not accessible to other amenities like, access roads, street lights, markets, schools, police stations etc.
Unless you are rich enough to dig your own well to supply water to your home, develop a solar panel to supply power to your home and get bulldozers to clear an access road for you. I hope you have heard several stories of how new settlers pay for the lumber and in some cases, cables, before the power company connects their property to the national grid?
These experiences and more are the cause of poor assessment of the land with regards to access to utilities and amenities. Living or owning properties in some locations are a security risk too. As it is difficult for the Police or Fire Service to respond swiftly to emergencies.
Effect of Climate on the Land
Unlike other parts of the world, Ghana has two seasons. Dry and Rainy season. Whereas the dry season is one, thus from November to February, the Rainy season is two. The major rainy season usually starts from April to July followed by the minor season from August to October.
Aside that too, we have different weather condition for those along the coast (Southern Belt), forest zone (Middle Belt) and savannah zone (Northern Belt). All these climatic conditions affect the nature of the land one wants to buy.
Properties along the coast corrode easily due to the high salinity of the atmosphere in the area. To this end, when you acquire a beach front land or property be sure to properly insulate your building from corrosion, wear and tear. This comes at extra cost despite the refreshing and priceless atmosphere you will be experiencing. It all depends on your priority.
There is a lot of rain in the middle belt. If you are one who is located on a clayey land in the middle belt, you have to invest in improving the soil quality of your property. The Middle belt is also noted for having rocky lands due to the mountains, which also increases cost of development.
Then you have the Savannah zone which is dry and has less rain. Hence, has more heat. Which calls for more cooling equipment and high energy cost. The location of the land, the seasons, temperature variations (high or low) and the weather conditions at any given time affects the land and property as well as property owner one way or the other. These include how you insulate your property, plants or vegetation to grow, energy consumption (Air-condition to reduce heat), health conditions (Asthmatic patients must avoid dusty locations) and other natural disasters.
A property on a clayey land is likely to flood when it rains often; particularly when the drainage system is not the best. Similarly, one may be at risk of fire disaster in a dry area, where there is less rainfall. Another risk is land that is along earthquake prone areas. When you take the climate of the area you intend to purchase seriously, you will make a more informed choice and spend less to manage.
Orientation refers to the positioning of a property in the path of the sun with regards to changes in seasons and weather conditions all year round. This is very useful in lighting up your room and saving a lot on energy. It also makes the property comfortable to live in as there is natural room temperature regulation and less need for heaters and coolers. Hence, reducing greenhouse emissions. Understanding the orientation also helps to design the property to maximize use of the sun for either heat or cooling purposes. Whereas some buildings want to attract cool air, others are already in cold areas and want to attract more heat. Either way, use orientation to achieve what you want in a building. It also helps to reduce greenhouse emission as one may not need to acquire cooling or heating appliances. As you check the orientation, do not forget to check where your property may be facing in the near future. Thus, all things being equal, make sure your building’s view will not end up facing the sewage reservoir of your neighbour.
A lot more can be said about the key things to consider when acquiring a land or property. There is the issue of either removing existing trees or panting some to improve the land and the property. There are some tree species that are rare or important to the country and hence attract huge fines to remove. Yes, it could get to some very interesting and complex twist.
No matter the purpose of the land or property you want to acquire, make sure it fits the purpose and fits your expenses. Think of the medium to long term, because it is an investment and not a liability you are acquiring. Do not take any of these points for granted no matter how trivial they may sound to you. Should you need any assistance in acquiring a land or property or a building project reach out to CBC Properties Limited.
The writer is the CEO of CBC Properties Limited, a member of Ghana Association of Real Estate Brokers (GAR) and Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA); Email: [email protected] Cell: +233-20-422-5002