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What Homeowners Want You To Know About Buying Property in Ghana

By Zaina Adamu

Purchasing a new home is an intense, complicated process, but buying property in a foreign country can be downright terrifying. Rising home prices in many of the world’s most popular cities are pricing out young adults looking to invest, leaving some to think outside of New York, London, L.A. and San Francisco for their first home. In Ghana, a new wave of people are seeking property throughout the country, with affordable prices attracting African Americans who want to reconnect to their African heritage by placing roots in Ghana. Many have already begun to take advantage of Ghana’s affordable housing market, and the country’s “Year of the Return” campaign has made Ghana more popular than ever before. If you’re thinking of cashing in on that dream, be sure you understand the dos and donts of buying property in Ghana from people who have done it themselves.

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DO spend time living in Ghana before buying a home.

Melissa Mensah, a New York-born and raised entrepreneur and commercial transactions lawyer, thinks that it’s a good idea to live in Ghana for “at least five years” to truly get a feel for whether you can sustain living in the country long-term. Mensah purchased property in the prestigious Airport Hills area in the early 2000s and said she felt comfortable with the decision after an extended stay in the country with her family. It is also important to ensure that the people you plan to move with will enjoy living in Ghana, too, she says.

“We all are happy with the life we have here,” said Mensah, who commutes back and forth from New York to Ghana. “Every chance we get, we come back.”

couple home keys

DON’T buy property until you have seen and inspected it.

One of the worst mistakes new homeowners make is buying land they haven’t seen. That can lead to a world of trouble, says London-based nurse Janet Appiah, who has purchased more than five plots of Ghanaian land over a 20-year span.

In Ghana, selling land is not as straightforward as it is in the West, so if you buy, be 100% sure you will keep it for a fairly long time, she said.

DO hire legal counsel.

The best way to find and buy a home in Ghana that will best suit your financial, residential, and business needs is to partner with someone who understands the legalities of buying property. Avoid jumping on impulse and buying because the offer seems “too good to pass.” It’s not uncommon for unsuspecting prospects to buy land from someone who doesn’t own the land, which could be a costly and discouraging experience.

“Make sure the sight plans have been crosschecked to ensure you’re not encroaching on other people’s property,” said Mensah.

DON’T forget to negotiate.

Far too often, the excitement of owning something new makes buyers clumsy when dealing with the art of negotiation. Never buy land on the first offer, says Appiah. Also, if you’re going through a real estate agent, never assume that they will get you the best offer. Everything from closing costs, to warranties, to cosmetic updates can be negotiated.

“You can ask for a lower price based on factors like comparable properties, appraisal results, neighborhood status, home condition and overall market,” realtor Chantay Bridges told Forbes in 2018.

DO buy-to-let, but have someone watch the land in your absence.  

If you plan to buy land to rent to tenants, conduct market research and understand the benefits and risks, advises Appiah. Once you’re ready to dive in, it is imperative to have someone trustworthy to look after your property should you not be available to help tenants with their needs. It is absolutely critical to have a liaison (preferably a local) who can navigate both sides of the fence: both the space itself, and the people who will reside in it.

In regards to maintenance, she compares homeownership to clothing: “If you have a dress and you don’t take care of it, it will rip,” adding that “maintenance can be expensive” but if you plan on renting or allowing visitors to use the space via an online lodging marketplace like Airbnb, the return on investment can be useful.

DON’T overlook the endless opportunities owning property in Ghana can have.

Whether you’re looking to use the home as a tropical escape from work, or whether you want to buy property for a new business venture, owning a piece of land here can have advantageous effects. The return on investment is likely to happen, says Mensah, who mentioned that when she first moved to Ghana, posh neighborhoods like East Legon were only beginning to take shape. She predicts other areas where new properties are sprouting will increase in value in the long run.

When things don’t go according to plan, “remain ingenious and whether the storm,” she says, adding that the property she bought at the time has almost quadrupled in value.

*Appiah’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

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