Fibre: Making Living in Nigeria Simple

In most parts of Nigeria today if you don’t have enough cash to pay your rent one or two years in advance, you can’t find a place to live. Let’s think about that — we are paid salaries monthly in arrears, but are asked to pay our rent yearly (sometimes two years) in advance.

This means that young people need to stay in their parents homes longer even after starting out in life, because they don’t have access to 24 months salary upfront. It means that there is a huge cashflow strain on young families who have to worry about how they will find lump sums of money to pay rent, in addition to nursery school fees or hospital bills. It means that even if you are lucky to secure a good paying job, you still have to live farther away from work and endure the dreaded Lagos traffic because although your monthly salary can afford you the comfort of living a bit closer to work, you don’t have all the Nairas required for you to pay for your home upfront.

Our rental market makes life incredibly tough, in a country that needs no assistance in this regard. And makes it so that there is a very high barrier to accessing one of the most basic of needs — shelter.

This is why we started Fibre in mid 2016. We set out to lower this barrier by allowing people to “Live in Lagos and Pay Monthly” for their homes. We partnered with landlords in the city providing them with guaranteed income on their property, and made it possible for working professionals to pay monthly for these homes. This meant that young families didn’t need to take loans to pay rent and that young people could live a more convenient life closer to work, finally move out of their parents houses, and not need to empty their bank accounts in the process.

So far we’ve found homes for over a hundred people across Lagos and have an occupancy of 99.4%. We also have an ever growing waitlist of about 4,000 people (a number that gives us sleepless nights).

Here’s a one minute clip of three of our members — Bankole, Tope and Abiola — who live in Lekki:

The journey so far and what we’ve learned

Our team is passionate about making it easier for young people to live in Nigeria. And that’s why we started out by addressing this rent payment problem. But over the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to our customers and asking questions and we are now at the point where we understand that it’s about more than just monthly payments.

For example the members in the video above had each been individually searching for their homes for months before approaching Fibre. They went from one real estate agent to the next (with each asking for the token 1,000 Naira for ‘transport’) and from one apartment to another (each one worse than the last) looking for a home. And despite this gruesome process, they had no luck. Everything they saw was either overpriced or far away from where they wanted to live. And of course they were being asked to come up with up to two years rent upfront.

They came to us and within weeks they’d found and moved into their new home in Lekki. Why was there such a difference? Three reasons:

  1. We made their search significantly easier. They each reached out weeks before they needed to move in. We ran a quick verification on them, took down their living preferences and when we were sure we had suitable options, they picked the one that they are living in now.
  2. We offered them flexibility. They had the option to pay monthly for their home — something they could only get through Fibre. They also had the option to stay for a flexible period of time i.e. anywhere between 3–12 months — again something that they could only get through Fibre. Because we believe that in 2017 people should not be forced to sign mandatory 12 month leases and part with 12 months worth of rent when they are not sure if they will actually like living in their home, and when they don’t even know what their life will look like 3–6 months from now.
  3. They were able to share. These three members share a 4 bedroom house in Agungi. Individually, they wouldn’t be able to take up the entire house on their own, nor would they want to. But being able to share the home with verified people, who are all trying to start off life in this crazy city of Lagos, not only makes living in Lekki more affordable, but provides them with people to share their journeys with.

Bankole, Tope and Abiola are not alone. There are 120+ other people (living in both shared homes and in entire apartments) all trying to make life happen, and their collective experiences represent our learnings over the last year and have helped chart our journey going forward.

Where we are headed

At our core, we exist to eliminate the barriers that make it difficult for young people to find homes and live in major cities in Nigeria. And in the immediate future we will be focused on making it easier for you to find a home, giving you flexibility around how you pay for your home, and will continue to provide you with the option to make living in Nigeria more affordable by sharing your home with verified, like minded individuals.

This is what we are focussed on now. We will evolve in the coming years both in our offering and in the markets we operate in but our goal will remain the same — to make living in Nigeria simpler. Because our country is full of young people who are working tirelessly to build the future we all want to see. The least we can do is to make sure they can conveniently find a place to rest their heads at night.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our journey, please feel free to email me at obinna@fibre.com.

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