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Can Commercial Property be Changed to Residential

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Converting commercial to residential property is not a popular thing in Nigeria but it is happening. There are several reasons for this and It’s not just about making use of empty buildings. It’s also about breathing new life into urban areas. These conversions can transform towns and cities. 

This shift reflects evolving market demands, urban revitalization efforts, and the adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure. But can commercial property truly be transformed into residential spaces? Let’s delve into the possibility.

Financially, they can be a smart move too. Developers can reap benefits like increased property value and new rental income opportunities but may need development finance funding to do the required work. In short, turning a commercial property into a home can be good for both the community and the pocket.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Surging urban populations and a tight housing market are creating demand for innovative solutions. Converting commercial spaces offers a way to increase housing stock quickly, particularly in city centers.
  • This strategy isn’t just about creating new homes – it’s about sustainability. Repurposing existing structures reduces construction waste and the environmental impact of new development.
  • Not all commercial spaces are created equal. Prime locations near amenities and transportation hubs are ideal for residential conversions.
  • Converting commercial spaces isn’t a walk in the park. Building codes may need adjustments, and amenities like common areas and parking may need to be created.
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Commercial and Residential Properties

Commercial properties are buildings or spaces designed and intended for business activities and operations. These include:

  • Office Buildings: Structures that house offices, workspaces, and facilities for various businesses, corporations, or organizations.
  • Retail Spaces: Properties like shopping malls, stores, markets, and other establishments that facilitate the sale of goods and services to consumers.
  • Industrial Warehouses: Large facilities used for storing, distributing, or manufacturing goods and products.
  • Hotels and Hospitality Establishments: Properties that provide accommodation, dining, and other services for travelers and guests.

Commercial properties are typically located in designated commercial or mixed-use zones within a city or town. They are constructed with specific features and amenities to support business operations, such as ample parking, loading docks, and accessibility for customers or clients.

Residential Properties

Residential properties, on the other hand, are buildings or structures designed and intended for human habitation and dwelling purposes. These include:

  • Single-Family Homes: Freestanding houses or buildings designed for occupation by a single household or family.
  • Multi-Family Dwellings: Properties like apartments, condominiums, or flats that contain multiple individual housing units within a single building or complex.
  • Townhouses or Row Houses: Attached or semi-detached houses that share common walls with neighboring units.
  • Duplexes or Triplexes: Buildings divided into two or three separate housing units, with individual entrances and living spaces.

Residential properties are typically located in areas zoned for residential use, such as neighborhoods, suburbs, or mixed-use developments. They are designed with various features and amenities to support comfortable living, such as private outdoor spaces, parking facilities, and access to community resources or recreational areas.

Can You Convert a Commercial Property to a Residential Property?

Commercial property can be converted into a residential property if zoning and housing laws allow. Local governments have regulations dictating property distinctions and, in most cases, will distinguish specific areas for residential versus commercial land use. If you are looking to make the transition, start by checking out your local laws online. Then schedule a meeting with a county clerk if you have further questions.

In addition to zoning laws, investors must also ensure that the commercial property is up to code before switching. Remember: commercial and residential properties are not built for the same purpose. Accordingly, there will be differing structural requirements. This may include laws around electrical and water lines, entry and exit points, and more. Whether or not you can convert the commercial property to residential will depend not only on local laws but also on your ability to renovate the property to meet residential standards.

Understanding Zoning Regulations

Zoning laws and regulations play a pivotal role in determining how land and buildings can be used within a given jurisdiction. Zoning ordinances designate specific areas for commercial, and residential, Understanding Zoning Regulations in Nigeria

Zoning regulations in Nigeria are essential in ensuring orderly and sustainable development, as well as the efficient utilization of land resources. These regulations govern the permitted uses of land and buildings within designated areas, aiming to create harmonious and functional communities.

In Nigeria, zoning laws and regulations are guided by various legal frameworks, including the Urban and Regional Planning Act, the Land Use Act, and state-specific planning laws and regulations. These laws establish planning authorities at the federal, state, and local government levels, responsible for developing and enforcing zoning ordinances.

Zoning regulations in Nigeria typically classify land into several categories, such as:

Residential Zones

These areas are designated for various types of residential developments, including single-family homes, multi-family dwellings, and high-density residential complexes. Zoning regulations within these zones may specify permissible building heights, setbacks, and density requirements.

Commercial Zones

These zones are reserved for businesses, offices, retail establishments, and other commercial activities. Regulations may differentiate between different types of commercial uses, such as neighborhood shopping centers, central business districts, and specialized commercial areas.

Industrial Zones

These areas are designated for manufacturing, warehousing, and other industrial operations. Zoning regulations often separate heavy and light industrial zones to minimize potential conflicts with residential or commercial areas.

Mixed-Use Zones

These zones allow for a combination of residential, commercial, and sometimes light industrial uses within the same area, promoting walkability and urban vibrancy.

Special Purpose Zones

These zones are designated for specific uses such as educational institutions, healthcare facilities, recreational areas, or transportation hubs.

Zoning regulations also address various aspects of development, including building setbacks, height restrictions, parking requirements, and environmental considerations. Additionally, they may incorporate provisions for obtaining variances or exceptions in specific situations, subject to approval by the relevant planning authorities. 

How To Change Zoning From Commercial To Residential

The most important step in converting a commercial property into a residential property is understanding zoning. Investors should be researching local laws before they ever start searching for properties. This will prevent you from wasting time on an unavailable area. If this rental strategy interests you, get online and start researching. The best way to cover all of your bases is to start at the city level and then go up to county laws. These will outline property distinctions and point you in the right direction to start the rezoning process.

Examine Local Area

Changes to the land around your property, such as new roads or buildings, can be used to your advantage if you are looking to rezone your commercial building. Some neighbors may oppose your plan to rezone, but with the right examination of your local area, you may notice changes that will benefit your cause and appeal to others as well.

Learn About Zoning Laws

Be sure to research the local laws and regulations regarding zoning restrictions and uses. You can find out the zoning laws in your area with some online research and at your local planning department.

In Nigeria, zoning laws and regulations are primarily guided by the following laws and authorities:

  • Urban and Regional Planning Act (Decree No. 88 of 1992): This is the principal law that governs urban and regional planning in Nigeria. It provides the legal framework for the establishment of planning authorities, the preparation and implementation of development plans, and the regulation of land use and development.
  • Land Use Act (1978): This Act vests all land in each state of the federation in the Governor of the state, who holds it in trust for the people. It regulates the use and allocation of land and provides guidelines for land acquisition and compensation.
  • State Planning Laws: Each state in Nigeria has its planning laws and regulations that supplement federal laws. In Lagos State, for example, the relevant laws include:
  • Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law (2010) establishes the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Authority (LASPPDA), which regulates and controls physical development in the state. 
  • Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Regulations (2019): These regulations provide detailed guidelines for land use, zoning, building codes, and development control in Lagos State.
  • Local Government Planning Authorities: Local government areas (LGAs) in Nigeria also have planning authorities that are responsible for enforcing zoning laws and development control within their jurisdictions, in line with state and federal laws.
  • Master Plans and Model City Plans: Many states and local governments in Nigeria have developed master plans or model city plans that outline the desired land use patterns, zoning regulations, and development guidelines for specific areas or cities.

Talk to Neighbors

You may find some opposition from your neighbors when it comes to your rezoning plans. Because of this, it can be beneficial to talk to your neighbors and make a good impression. Any pushback from your neighbors will weigh on your planning department’s decision to approve or deny your request.

Apply for Rezoning

Once you have done your research and are prepared, it is time to apply for rezoning. You will be required to fill out paperwork provided by your local planning department. The fees for doing so can range from hundreds to thousands depending on your area.


After you apply for rezoning, an analysis of your plan will be conducted. You may need to adjust your plans accordingly if any arguments against them arise.

Commission Meeting

Your rezoning petition will be made public so that local citizens have the opportunity to be made aware of any intentions for local rezoning. Then, a commission meeting will be held. This is an opportunity for any member of the public to raise their concerns and an opportunity for you to justify and explain your plans.

Legislative Body Meeting

The planning commission’s recommendation then goes to a legislative body who will make the final decision. If they choose to reject your plans, you will need to wait a time depending on your local jurisdiction before applying again.

Legal Considerations for Conversion

Converting commercial property to residential use entails navigating a complex web of legal considerations and regulatory requirements:

Permits and Approvals Required for Property Conversion

Property conversion projects typically require obtaining permits and approvals from local government authorities. These permits may include zoning changes, building permits, environmental clearances, and other regulatory authorizations necessary to commence construction or renovation activities.

Compliance with Building Codes and Regulations

Residential properties must adhere to specific building codes and regulations governing structural integrity, safety standards, accessibility requirements, and energy efficiency measures. Compliance with building codes ensures that residential units meet minimum standards for habitability and occupant well-being.

Potential Challenges and Restrictions

Property conversion projects may encounter challenges and restrictions related to zoning restrictions, historical preservation regulations, environmental considerations, and neighborhood compatibility concerns. Overcoming these hurdles requires careful planning, stakeholder engagement, and adherence to legal requirements.

Factors Influencing Conversion Feasibility

Several key factors influence the feasibility of converting commercial property to residential use:

Location and Surrounding Land Use

The location of the commercial property within the urban or suburban landscape, as well as the surrounding land use patterns, can significantly impact conversion feasibility. Properties located in areas with strong residential demand, access to amenities, and supportive infrastructure may be more conducive to successful conversion projects.

Market Demand for Residential Properties

Understanding market demand for residential properties is essential when assessing conversion feasibility. Factors such as population growth, demographic trends, housing affordability, and local market dynamics influence demand for residential units and ultimately determine the viability of conversion projects.

Economic Viability and Return on Investment

Conversion projects must demonstrate economic viability and potential return on investment to attract financing and secure stakeholder support. Factors such as construction costs, property valuation, rental or sale prices, and projected cash flows play a critical role in assessing the financial feasibility of conversion endeavors.

Steps Involved in Property Conversion

Converting commercial property to residential use requires a systematic approach and careful execution of the following steps:

Assessing Property Suitability for Residential Use

Conduct a comprehensive commercial property assessment to evaluate its suitability for residential conversion. Consider building layout, structural integrity, zoning constraints, utility connections, and compliance with building codes and regulations.

Obtaining Necessary Permits and Approvals

Initiate the process of obtaining permits and approvals required for property conversion. Work closely with local government agencies, planning departments, and regulatory authorities to secure necessary clearances, variances, and permits for zoning changes, building modifications, and occupancy permits.

Executing Property Renovations and Modifications

Engage qualified architects, engineers, contractors, and design professionals to execute property renovations and modifications following approved plans and specifications. Coordinate construction activities, inspections, and quality control measures to ensure compliance with building codes and project timelines.

Advantages of Property Conversion

Diversification of Real Estate Portfolio

Property conversion allows investors to diversify their real estate holdings and explore new opportunities in the residential market.

Adaptive Reuse and Urban Revitalization

Converting underutilized commercial properties into residential units contributes to urban revitalization efforts, repurposes vacant buildings, and enhances neighborhood vitality.

Meeting Housing Demand

Residential conversion projects address the growing demand for housing in urban centers, providing additional housing options and supporting community development initiatives.

Potential Drawbacks and Risks to Consider

Regulatory Compliance Challenges

Property conversion projects may encounter regulatory hurdles, zoning restrictions, and permitting delays that increase project costs and timelines.

Economic Uncertainty

Market fluctuations, construction costs, and financing challenges pose risks to the economic viability of conversion projects, impacting investor returns and project feasibility.

Neighborhood Impacts

Residential conversion projects can influence neighborhood character, property values, and community dynamics, potentially eliciting concerns from existing residents and stakeholders.


The trend of converting office spaces into residential units represents a dynamic shift in real estate development, driven by the evolving needs of urban living. As cities adapt to new ways of working and living, the adaptive reuse of commercial spaces emerges as a sustainable and economically viable solution, shaping the future of urban landscapes. With careful planning, collaboration with local authorities, and a keen eye for design, developers can unlock the potential of office-to-residential conversions, creating spaces that seamlessly blend functionality, aesthetics, and community engagement.

By understanding zoning regulations, obtaining necessary permits, and navigating regulatory requirements, stakeholders can lay the groundwork for successful conversion endeavors. Assessing property suitability, executing renovations, and obtaining community support are critical steps in the conversion process.


Why would developers consider converting commercial real estate into residential spaces in Nigeria?

Developers may opt to convert commercial real estate into residential spaces in Nigeria to meet the increasing demand for housing in urban areas. This conversion allows them to repurpose underutilized or vacant commercial properties to address the pressing need for residential accommodation. 

What are the regulatory challenges associated with transforming commercial properties into residential spaces in Nigeria?

Converting commercial properties into residential spaces in Nigeria entails navigating various regulatory challenges, including zoning restrictions, building code compliance, and planning approvals. Developers must work closely with local authorities and adhere to regulatory requirements to ensure the successful transformation of the property. 

How can the transformation of commercial real estate into residential spaces contribute to urban revitalization in Nigeria?

Transforming commercial real estate into residential spaces can play a significant role in urban revitalization efforts in Nigeria. By repurposing vacant or underutilized commercial properties, developers can breathe new life into urban areas, attract residents, businesses, and investment, and stimulate economic growth. 

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