I started my search a couple of months ago. My criteria included: short lease (less than 6 months), security, and generator on premises. I was hoping to find a place in East Legon but I was open to other neighborhoods that would be safe to obruni. After a couple of months of searching, I found a few alternatives:
Ausbuild Apartments: monthly serviced apartment with three price points: $700/month for studio, $900 for 1 bedroom, $1,500 for 2 bedroom. Located near former president Rawlings’ house, the property is even more out of the way than East Legon is. Furthermore, the only studio they had was on the 4th floor (or 3rd floor in Ghana). No elevator! I don’t have a car so I’m a bit sensitive to being the only obruni (white man) walking on the street. We are good targets for night robbery. There’s a restaurant in the building but not much else. One good thing is that I wouldn’t have to pay a broker’s fee (8-10 percent of total rent).
Again, going back to this obruni vs. Ghanaian thing, I don’t trust many Ghanaians to give me a fair deal. Ghanaians also seem to believe foreigners deserve a higher price and openly talk about it — in the local language. Thus, the only real estate agents I considered were those from accraexpat.com. Accraexpat.com is a website started by a Frenchman, Claude Charronneau, some time ago to provide advice to expats. Some time along the line, Claude decided to branch into real estate. (I’m not friends with Claude — he’s quite French — and I’m a proud American.) For me, it’s just easier trusting another foreigner than a Ghanaian. I ended up working with his colleague, Oluyomi, who also turns out to be my company’s customer. Double bonus for her!
Alternative 1: accraexpat had a listing of 1 bedroom in Ridge. The owner was willing to go down as low as 6 months payable 3 months at a time. The property was located in the quiet neighborhood of Ridge across the street from DHL and a 10 minute ride to bustling Osu. I was pretty close to signing up with the landlord until she made it clear that she didn’t want me to have any visitors — guests, staff — and I wouldn’t be able to bring any of my old furniture and television. In other words, I would have the privilege of paying to live in a model home. The other downside was I’d have to pay accraexpat a broker’s fee so the rent would be 10 percent more. (Yomi showed me a few other properties but none were too appealing.)
New Place: In December, I met with the staff from a local property developer and management company. They run a professional operation and seemed to eschew normal Ghanaian business practices of vague promises.
When Alternative 1 fell through, I immediately called my contact there. He agreed to offer a 2 months lease on a furnished 1 bedroom in Osu! Initially, I wasn’t too excited about living in Osu because it’s a bit like living in Herald Square in New York (which I did for 2 years) or Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. For Accra, there’s just too many people.
But now, having done my search, I’m quite pleased. And I found the place on my own so I don’t have to pay a broker’s fee.
For the nearly three years, I’ve lived in East Legon and within walking distance of the A&C Shopping Center. I know many of the merchants and restaurant staff there as well as several of the area taxi drivers. Several of my customers are also in the area. Many of the people I really like work at A&C.
East Legon is an affluent neighborhood for footballers, MPs, and drug dealers. On the Accra scale, it’s relatively far from the main parts of town (40 min in the day, 15 min at night). If I ask for a ride to East Legon, I frequently can make out a pause/sigh from the person I’m asking the favor from. But that isolation makes it an attractive place to live and work because you’re not in the middle of all the traffic and hawkers/peddlers seem intimidated by the distance.
Thus, moving to Osu is a bit daunting. Osu is the main developed retail district in Accra. (For locals, the main area is Makola Market near Tema bus station and High Street.) The area commands the highest retail rents in Accra. Many expats seem to like living there because it’s close to their work and offers a variety restaurants and bars. A couple of years ago, KFC opened their first branch in Osu.
Unfortunately, the downside of having so many obruni live and visit one place is that it attracts many peddlers/hawkers. There are many “young boys” walking up and down the street selling their wares — sunglasses, beads, DVDs, T-shirts. “Chaotic” comes to mind.
I’m looking forward to living there because I’ll get a chance to visit many of the places I shy away from because of the traffic from East Legon. For instance, except to visit the US Embassy, I rarely visit Cantonments and Labone. (East Legon is on the flight path as airplanes land while Cantonments/Labone is on the path as they take off.) I also look forward to eating in Osu rather than the three restaurants I rotate among here in East Legon. Unfortunately, there is no gym and swimming pool in Osu.
I moved most of my stuff this evening. I will probably be fully set up in the next few days. I’m looking forward to living in Accra from the other end.