13 Mar 2019 - Liberia (Monrovia)

James Whitmee

I am in Monrovia in Liberia looking at the land market.

It is complicated because only Liberians can own real estate, and to be Liberian you have to be of African descent, but almost of the major developers are foreign.

Therefore, all ownership by foreigners, which includes embassies, is based on a lease from Government or a Liberian company or person, normally for 30 years+ with rent reviews, sometimes with an upfront premium, compensation for buildings, profit share etc.

All of this makes the land market very difficult to analyse, with concerns that the ownership laws might encourage foreigners to withdraw their investments from the country.

The real estate market generally is down, following civil war and Ebola and a deteriorating economy. The UN closed its peacekeeping mission last year, and many companies have pulled out including ExxonMobil who were drilling offshore but found too little oil to extract. Total is also rumoured to be potentially considering a withdrawal.

It is also a very challenging real estate market because of the climate, being humid and tropical, with high salt content in the air and more than 4.5 metres of rainfall per year. Most properties have significant damp and mould problems.

These climatic conditions also mean that air-conditioning and electrical generators require regular servicing and have an optimal life of perhaps only two years.

Rents are expensive at around USD 35,000-45,000 /year for a good 2-3 bed apartment. Grid power and fuel for generators is very expensive, and water is brought in by truck (with issues relating to having to filter both water and fuel to ensure there is no contamination). If you use power and water to levels that might be expected in the West the rent cost can be +50% or more.

All in all, it is a very challenging market for both landlords and tenants.

Monrovia Temple of Justice

Temple of Justice in Monrovia with the ominous sign saying “Let justice be done to all”

Monrovia Total HQ

Total HQ in Monrovia


Tags: Liberia