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Things You Need to Consider Before Investing in Rental Properties

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Every rental property investor’s journey is going to be unique. And it means there are certainly going to be some corners you can’t see around that may lead to a few mistakes. 

Buying an investment property to rent can be a solid and lucrative investment. However, it also comes with some risks. You don’t just buy any property, sit and wait for the money to roll in. It’s important that you understand what makes a good rental property and how to find it. If you aren’t careful, you can easily fall victim to some of the common rental property pitfalls which can dispel your returns.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rental properties aren’t income fountains if no one’s renting. Vacancy periods mean lost income and can strain your cash flow.
  • Nightmares come in all shapes and sizes, Dealing with late payments, property damage, or disruptive behavior can be a major headache.
  • Unexpected Expenses like Roofs leak, pipes burst, and tenants misuse appliances. Be prepared for maintenance costs that can devour your profits.
  • Real estate isn’t immune to economic downturns. A housing market slump could mean difficulty finding tenants or even a decline in property value.
  • Unlike stocks, you can’t sell your property overnight. Selling a rental property takes time and can be disruptive to your investment strategy.
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Importance of Exploring Potential Drawbacks

While the potential rewards of rental property investment are enticing, it’s equally important to acknowledge and understand the potential drawbacks. 

By exploring the reasons why rental properties can be a bad investment, investors can make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and safeguard their financial futures against unforeseen challenges.

Zoning Laws and Their Impact on Property Investment in Lagos

Zoning regulations are like ground rules for land use and development in Lagos.  Understanding these rules is essential for investors because they directly affect the value, potential uses, and development possibilities of a property. 

An example are drainage clearance zones. These zones exist to manage flood control.  If you’re considering a property in a drainage clearance zone, there might be restrictions on where you can build or the type of development allowed.  This could limit your options or require additional investment in drainage solutions to comply with the regulations.  Consulting with a local engineer or surveyor can help you understand the specific limitations and potential extra costs associated with a property in such a zone.

Underestimating Property Expenses

One of the most common mistakes is underestimating the total expenses associated with a rental property. This includes maintenance, property taxes, insurance, and unexpected repairs. If these costs are miscalculated, they can severely impact your cash flow and profitability.

David Chukwu, an aspiring real estate investor, purchased a rental property without factoring in maintenance and vacancy costs. A few months into ownership, a major plumbing issue arose, leaving the property vacant for weeks. The unexpected expense drained his finances and hampered his rental income. This is quite common with new investors and may even result in them becoming insolvent.

Be sure to research extensively and consult with experienced property owners to get a realistic estimate of all potential expenses. It’s prudent to budget for unforeseen repairs and vacancies. Additionally, leverage property management software or apps to accurately calculate all expenses and predict future costs.

Ignoring Market Research

Entering the real estate market without thorough market research can lead to investing in areas with declining property values, limited rental demand, or unfavorable economic conditions. Ignoring these factors can result in a poor investment and potential financial loss.

Sarah Ojo was excited about her first rental property purchase in a seemingly up-and-coming neighborhood. She had gotten what she felt was a good deal, the price was below comparable properties. However, she failed to research thoroughly and overlooked the increasing crime rate in that area. This led to difficulty finding reliable tenants, resulting in financial strain as she had to continue making mortgage payments out of pocket plus associated costs (taxes, maintenance, insurance, and so on..)

As an aspiring real estate investor, it is critical you conduct extensive market research to understand the local property market trends, rental demand, economic growth, and neighborhood developments. Leverage online tools and resources to analyze market data and assess the potential returns of a specific area.

Neglecting Due Diligence

Skipping or rushing through due diligence can have disastrous consequences. It involves thoroughly investigating the property’s condition, title, legal issues, and rental history. Neglecting due diligence can expose you to unexpected problems and financial liabilities.

The saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’’ couldn’t be truer for Abdullaih. He had hastily closed a deal on a property without a proper inspection. A few months later, he discovered extensive water damage that required costly repairs. This oversight significantly diminished his expected return on investment.

It always pays long-term to engage professionals like home inspectors, real estate attorneys, and property managers to conduct a comprehensive due diligence process. It may cost you a couple hundred or thousand dollars but the peace of mind it gives is invaluable. It definitely saves you a lot of heartache down the road.

Overleveraging and Underestimating Financing Costs

Overleveraging by taking on too much debt or underestimating financing costs can lead to a cash flow crunch and potential foreclosure. It’s essential to accurately evaluate the financial implications of your loan terms and interest rates.

It is often common to see new investors acquire a rental property with a high-interest loan, assuming rental income would cover the mortgage. However, unforeseen vacancies and maintenance costs can leave them struggling to make mortgage payments, putting their investment at risk.

Work closely with a financial advisor to assess your financing options and understand the impact of interest rates and loan terms on your cash flow. Utilize financial calculators to simulate various financing scenarios and make informed decisions.

Poor Tenant Selection

Choosing the wrong tenants can result in late payments, property damage, and costly legal disputes. Failing to conduct thorough background checks can have a significant impact on your property’s profitability and your peace of mind.

The importance of Implementing a rigorous tenant screening process, including credit checks, rental history verification, and criminal background checks cannot be overemphasized. There is nothing wrong in setting rules or standards on whom you give access to your property through a lease, as long as it doesn’t violate any bylaws. Read the tenancy laws in your area and understand them properly. Get legal help if you need to, and spare no expense, believe me, you will be grateful you did. It is your property and you have invested your hard-earned money in it, it is up to you to protect it!

High Initial Costs

One of the primary reasons why rental properties can be a bad investment lies in the high initial costs associated with property acquisition and ownership.

Down Payments and Closing Costs

In Nigeria, the typical down payment requirement for investment properties, particularly single-family homes, is actually lower compared to some other countries.  While lenders might offer mortgages, they often come with high-interest rates, making them a less common option for many investors.  This is why the down payment typically falls in the range of 15% rather than the 20-30% in other countries. This lower down payment allows investors to enter the market with a smaller upfront investment, but it’s important to remember that a larger down payment can still be beneficial by reducing the overall loan amount and interest costs.

Property Maintenance and Repairs

Owning a rental property entails ongoing maintenance and repair expenses, which can quickly eat into rental income and erode profitability. From routine maintenance tasks such as landscaping and cleaning to major repairs like plumbing and roofing, the cost of upkeep can be significant and unpredictable.

Vacancy Risks and Loss of Income

Vacancies pose a significant risk for rental property investors, as periods of vacancy result in a loss of rental income and cash flow. Finding reliable tenants and minimizing vacancy periods requires time, effort, and resources, making it challenging for investors to maintain consistent cash flow and profitability.

Market Volatility and Economic Factors

Rental property investments are susceptible to market volatility and economic factors, posing risks to investors’ returns and stability.

Fluctuating Rental Demand and Market Conditions

Rental demand can be subject to fluctuations influenced by various market dynamics, including changes in employment rates, population growth, and shifts in consumer preferences. 

Economic downturns or changes in local market conditions can lead to decreased rental demand, increased vacancies, and downward pressure on rental rates, impacting the profitability of rental properties.

Economic Downturns and Job Instability

Economic downturns and periods of job instability can significantly impact rental property investments. In times of recession or economic uncertainty, tenants may experience financial hardship, leading to late rent payments, defaults, and increased eviction rates. 

Such challenges can strain landlords’ cash flow and exacerbate financial losses, especially if rental properties are heavily leveraged or operating on thin profit margins.

Impact of Interest Rates and Financing Costs

Changes in interest rates and financing costs can have a profound impact on the affordability of rental properties and investors’ bottom line. Rising interest rates can increase borrowing costs, reducing investors’ purchasing power and profitability. 

Additionally, fluctuations in financing costs can affect cash flow projections and investment returns, making it challenging for investors to predict and manage financial risks effectively.


Unexpected Expenses and Repairs

Rental property investors often encounter unexpected expenses and repairs that can strain financial resources and impact profitability.

Major Repairs and Renovations

Rental properties are subject to wear and tear over time, necessitating periodic repairs and renovations. Major repairs such as roof replacements, Air conditions, and structural repairs can incur significant costs that may not have been budgeted for. 

Failure to address maintenance issues promptly can lead to further deterioration of the property and higher repair costs down the line.

Unforeseen Maintenance Costs

In addition to major repairs, rental properties may require ongoing maintenance to ensure they remain in optimal condition. Routine maintenance tasks such as painting, landscaping, plumbing repairs, and pest control can add up over time and impact the overall profitability of rental properties. 

Investors must budget accordingly for maintenance expenses and set aside funds for unforeseen repairs to avoid financial strain.

Budgeting for Emergencies and Contingencies

Budgeting for emergencies and contingencies is essential for rental property investors to mitigate financial risks and ensure financial stability. 

Establishing an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, vacancies, and income disruptions can provide investors with peace of mind and financial security during challenging times. By proactively planning for contingencies, investors can minimize the impact of unforeseen events on their investment portfolios.

Regulatory and Legal Risks

Rental property investments are subject to various regulatory and legal risks that can pose challenges for investors and landlords.

Compliance with Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

Landlords must comply with local regulations and zoning laws governing rental properties, including property maintenance standards, occupancy limits, health and safety requirements, and rental licensing regulations. 

Failure to adhere to regulatory requirements can result in fines, penalties, and legal consequences, jeopardizing the financial viability of rental properties and tarnishing landlords’ reputations.

Liability Issues and Potential Lawsuits

Landlords may face liability issues and potential lawsuits related to tenant injuries, property damage, discrimination claims, and lease disputes. 

Landlords have a duty to maintain safe and habitable living conditions for tenants and address any hazardous conditions promptly. Failing to address safety concerns or neglecting maintenance issues can expose landlords to legal liability and financial losses.

Eviction Procedures and Tenant Rights

Navigating eviction procedures and tenant rights can be challenging for landlords, especially in jurisdictions with tenant-friendly regulations. Landlords must follow proper legal procedures and documentation requirements when evicting tenants for non-payment of rent, lease violations, or other breaches of the lease agreement. 

Failure to comply with eviction laws can result in delays, legal disputes, and additional expenses for landlords.

Long-Term Investment Considerations

Rental property investments require careful consideration of long-term sustainability factors to ensure continued profitability and success.

Capital Tied Up in Illiquid Assets

Investing in rental properties ties up capital in illiquid assets, limiting investors’ ability to access funds for other investment opportunities or financial needs. The lack of liquidity can pose challenges during periods of financial hardship or when capital is needed for unexpected expenses or investment diversification.

Potential for Depreciation and Loss of Property Value

Rental properties are subject to depreciation over time, which can erode property values and impact investment returns. Factors such as aging infrastructure, changes in market conditions, and shifts in neighborhood demographics can contribute to property depreciation and loss of value, reducing investors’ equity and overall profitability.

Alternative Investment Opportunities and Diversification Strategies

Diversification is essential for building a resilient investment portfolio and mitigating risk. While rental properties can offer attractive returns, investors should consider alternative investment opportunities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs) to diversify their portfolios and minimize concentration risk. 

Diversification enables investors to spread risk across different asset classes and market sectors, providing greater stability and resilience against market fluctuations.

Rental Property Investment Challenges in Nigeria

While some challenges are common across Nigeria, rental property investors face distinct obstacles depending on the region:

Urban Areas

  • High Competition: Densely populated cities like Lagos and Abuja have a saturated rental market. Investors compete for tenants, potentially leading to lower rental yields.
  • Stringent Regulations: Urban areas often have stricter building codes and tenant protection laws, increasing compliance costs and potentially limiting rent increases.
  • Security Concerns: Urban areas can have higher crime rates, requiring investment in security measures for properties and potentially impacting tenant willingness to pay high rents.
  • Rapid Property Value Fluctuations: Property values in urban areas can be volatile, making it riskier for investors seeking long-term, stable returns.

Rural Areas

  • Limited Demand: Finding tenants can be difficult due to lower population densities. Rental vacancy rates might be higher, leading to income gaps.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Rural areas often have underdeveloped infrastructure like water, sanitation, and reliable electricity. Investors might need to invest in these amenities to attract tenants, adding to initial costs.
  • Property Management Challenges: Finding reliable property managers can be harder in remote areas, increasing the burden on absentee investors.
  • Limited Exit Strategies: Selling a rental property in a rural area might be more challenging due to the smaller market pool, potentially impacting investment liquidity.


Investing in rental properties offers the potential for ongoing financial growth. However, unlike when you invest in stocks, you must put in far more work over a more extended period to reap the rewards.

Property investment is a long game, requiring careful planning and execution to avoid common pitfalls. Thorough market research, accurate financial calculations, property selection, legal compliance, and hiring skilled help are all integral to successful rental property investment. 


Are rental properties always a bad investment choice in Nigeria?

No, rental properties are not inherently bad investments in Nigeria, but they do come with potential pitfalls that investors should be aware of. While rental properties can offer opportunities for passive income and wealth accumulation, investors must carefully consider factors such as maintenance costs, vacancy risk, and tenant management issues to ensure the investment aligns with their financial goals and risk tolerance.

How can I mitigate the risks associatedth rental property investments in Nigeria?

To mitigate the risks associated with rental property investments in Nigeria, investors should conduct thorough due diligence, including property inspections, market analysis, and financial projections. It’s essential to budget for maintenance expenses, maintain adequate cash reserves for vacancies, and screen tenants rigorously to minimize tenant-related issues. 

What alternative investment options should I consider if I’m concerned about the pitfalls of rental properties in Nigeria?

If you’re concerned about the potential pitfalls of rental properties in Nigeria, consider exploring alternative investment options such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), mutual funds, or stocks in real estate-related companies. These investment vehicles offer opportunities to access real estate markets with lower capital requirements, reduced management responsibilities, and greater liquidity compared to direct property ownership.

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