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Real estate in Freetown, Sierra Leone – Should you buy, rent or build a home?

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Real estate in Freetown, Sierra Leone – Should you buy, rent or build a home?

You’ve taken up a role that requires you to move to Sierra Leone or you just miss the local cuisine and our happy-go-lucky attitudes and want to move back. Or you’re in Sierra Leone and planning your future. Whatever the case, one key decision you may have to make is whether to rent a home, buy one or build your own.

Buying or building a home is an expensive venture. Even a modest home can easily run into hundreds of thousand dollars when factoring in the cost of acquiring the property, conveyancing fees, agents fees, taxes, construction and refurbishment. When buying, that money is usually disbursed in bulk, whereas if you decide to build, the project can be phased out and the cost spread out over a period of time as required. However, renting costs may rise to significant amounts over time, with detached houses in attractive locations carrying price tags of up twenty or thirty thousand dollars a year. Affordable rental spaces (costing less than five thousand dollars a year) are generally semi-detached  and the houses themselves may sometimes leave a lot to be desired. There is also the instability of rental prices. With rising inflation, it is not uncommon for landlords to increase the rent every year or two.

Building a home does come with additional significant challenges. Land disputes are not uncommon in Sierra Leone, even with a rigorous due diligence process, and construction work faces a risk of being substandard due to dearth of artisanal workers in the country. Both of these challenges can be overcome by engaging quality legal representation and construction consultants.

Acquiring your own home can be a great investment. Although housing prices in Freetown have declined in very recent times, over the long term it is likely that your house will be worth a lot more than you spent to acquire it. Selling a house does come with its own challenges, but the possibility is non-existent with rental accommodation. Owning your own home also means that you can pass it on it to your children, solving their next generation housing dilemmas before they arise.

If you have young children, it can be burdensome to have to go through the hassle of finding rental accommodation when the landlord’s regular rent increase reaches a level you can no longer stomach, or they decide to sell out from under you. Buying or building a home offers greater stability and allows for emotional attachment to your property. There is also the reality that there is a limit to how much your landlord will allow you to personalize their house. Even if it is allowed, there is always the risk that it might be a wasted investment if you’re given a notice to quit after investing a significant amount into upgrading the property.

So… Buy, Rent or Build?

Essentially, it depends on how liquid you are. Renting is suitable if you just haven’t saved up enough yet or if you don’t plan to stay in the country in the long-term. Over the long haul however, it is advisable to either buy or build a home, particularly if you have or are planning to have children. Building a home does allow you to personalize everything about your home to your satisfaction and stretch construction costs over time as funds become available. The cost of construction can also be reduced significantly by using modern construction techniques and eco-friendly building material and design. Buying a home requires a significant amount of funds to be readily available, but is quicker and comes with a lot less hassle than constructing a house from scratch. Finally, note that only Sierra Leoneans can buy real property in Freetown. If you’re a foreigner, you may have little choice but to rent out property.

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