High Rise: The Current State of Technology For Apartment Shopping In Accra

When I was a college student, I was living in the US with my brother who was just finishing up with his degree. When he graduated, I moved to another apartment with a friend. We split rent at the end of the month.

The monthly rent for the first apartment was about $550. The second apartment was $1200 but because the bill was split, it was about $600 in rent. If you throw in electricity and water, it evens out to $700, which is not bad.

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Standard kitchen in the apartment where I lived

Finding an apartment wasn’t hard. It was pretty simple to look online, filter by prices AND reviews to find out which one was the best.

In Ghana, a lot of young and working people sometimes live in their parents’ home. It’s somewhat feels like it’s part of our culture. In the American culture, living in your parents’ home after you’ve graduated from college doesn’t look right because college graduates are expected to live on their own.

It wouldn’t be surprising if you asked Ghanaians whether they would rather live by themselves or at home with their parents and the answer would probably be the former.

Actually, Hacking Adulthood did a recent survey and their results are interesting. I have a problem with their survey because it was done online and so it might not be a true reflection on the state of renting in Ghana. But the results are interesting nonetheless.

Tools Of The Trade

But how can an average Ghanaian go out and find a space to call their own? Well, there’s some technology solutions out there which you could use right now.

MeQasa is an app where you can basically search for apartments to rent out. Best thing of all, they can filter by location and price.

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You get a lot of areas put up for rent. One of the things I couldn’t help but notice was that most of the places put up for rent were more houses. Another thing I noticed was that some of the prices were quoted in dollars.

If you’re going to pay $500 in rent (Which is considered affordable if you live in the US), it’s going to leave a hole in your pocket. Actually it’s pretty expensive back in the homeland. $500 when changed to cedis is close to GHC 2000. The average young person working isn’t making close to that amount. I don’t have the exact number but I would guess it would be close to GHC 1000 a month.

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Jumia House is another app which kind of does the same thing as MeQasa. It has the same search functionalities such as filtering by location and price.

In trying out both of these apps, I couldn’t help but notice the lack or user reviews. One thing that you notice in Ghana especially when it comes to online shopping is the lack of user reviews. When I was shopping for apartments in the US, the reviews made a big different. If majority of reviews say that the apartment has a cockroach problem, it makes sense to avoid.

Jumia House and MeQasa represent the old search and browse tradition which is a good thing. But I found another interesting option: Airbnb

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Airbnb: The New Wave?

If you’re familiar with Uber and Taxify, then you’ll be familiar with the new concept of the sharing economy. What Airbnb does is apply the sharing economy concept to your personal living space. Airbnb defines itself as a peer-to-peer online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties, with the cost of such accommodation set by the property owner.

People are basically opening up places in their residential areas to people who want a short stay. So is that something that can work in Ghana?

Airbnb is already operational in Ghana. If you use the Airbnb website or the mobile app, you can search for Ghana and get listings. Airbnb seems perfect for people who travel to other countries and want to get affordable accommodation and not expensive hotels.

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Airbnb Listing In Accra

Airbnb has reviews which people gladly share, amenities, price listings (usually per night), and some house rules. It’s a really nice concept.

Of course, the pricing is in dollars which could turn off average Ghanaians.

Airbnb seems to be perfect for people looking for short stays and not long term renting. But that doesn’t mean people using the service can’t work something out for long term….

The Reality On The Ground

The state of technology for looking for apartments to rent is great. But it’s the actually marketplace for apartments which is bad. There are too many high rise apartments and not enough reasonable prices ones for young graduates and working people.

The pricing of apartment listings in dollars doesn’t help especially when you consider than the dollar vs cedis is 1 to 4 (Meaning, if you have $1 and you change it to cedi, you’ll get 4 cedis)

Also, landlords don’t help matters especially when they try to take more than three (3) months in rent. With all these roadblocks with high prices and aggressive landlords, it makes sense for lots of people to stay in their parental home.

The apartment market doesn’t seem to be developed well enough. App solutions like MeQasa and Jumia House and even OLX Ghana help to filter out apartments and places to rent in Ghana.

High rise buildings are popping up everywhere in the city and the prices continue to be beyond reach for the average Ghanaian. Technology can do so much to help people have an affordable place to live. But until then, staying with your parents isn’t all that bad.

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