You probably know one or two people who are squatting with friends because they are still on the lookout for houses they can rent affordably. In some cases, people actually have the money to get the places they want, they just do not need it for as long as 1 year and Nigerian house owners prefer renting spaces out for at least 12 months.
Shola Taire came to Ikeja to work on a 6-month gig that could pay off well if she was able to cut down costs. Of course, one of the top things on anyone’s expense list is accommodation and Shola’s case is no different. But getting a place to stay for 6 months has been tricky. Most of the houses in Lagos are not well-constructed, expensive and landlords want her to pay for 12 months at least.
She found close solutions like Kwaba, which promised to help her pay the rent upfront and get it back over some months with an interest but that still was not a right fit. Until she stumbled across Muster.
Ibraheem Babalola and Ugochukwu Okoro launched Muster as a startup in 2017 in Lagos. What they do with the startup is to help Shola and others like her to find a place they can rent for less than a year and split the rent with other people.
Rent with people that won’t scam or harm you
There are two categories of people that will find Muster useful. If you have a living space that can be rented out, whether you are the landlord or a tenant, you can list the space on Muster and find someone to split the rent with you. You will also find the startup useful if you are looking for someone to share a space and the cost of renting it with.
I found out how much money I can make if I list a room on Muster by typing in the location, the amount I pay yearly and the number of rooms I want to list in a form on the web app. For a 2-bedroom apartment in Ikeja that I pay N500,000 yearly, if I list 1 room on Muster, I can make N295,000 yearly. Once you see how much you can make on the space, you can go ahead and list the space.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a space to rent for a period of time, you can filter the available homes on the web app using location, price and type of space. Once you find a space that works for you, you can select and schedule a time to inspect it.
How Muster works
Muster has a web app that serves as the medium for delivery of its services. To reduce the spread of the covid-19, the startup made all of its processes, including house inspection, digital in April 2020. Once you are satisfied with the details of a house as presented on the website, you can request for an inspection. The inspection will happen through Zoom calls or pre-recorded video tours of the space.
You can ask questions like which room will be yours, which spaces will be the shared spaces and you can request to see the entire apartment. Assuming you like what you see, you then pay for the space using Muster’s payment system on the web app and move in anytime you like.
Muster only on receives payment from the host
One of the crazy things about renting a house or any space in Nigeria is the sheer number of fees you pay when you rent through an agent. The agent will charge agency fee and legal fee, (s)he may then add a cautionary fee, viewing fee and legal fee. All these fees mount up and make the house rent expensive.
Muster, however, charges only 4% on the rent that is paid through its platform. The 4% charge is only removed when the money passes to the person who listed the house. This reduced fee increases how much anyone can make on the space they list and reduces how much another person has to pay to get that space.
Muster is significantly different from its competitors
There are startups that offer services similar to what Muster offers in Nigeria. Three of these alternatives are Rentsmallsmall, Kwaba and Quartered. However, they have significant differences in what they offer essentially.
Rentsmallsmall provides a way for people to rent and share furnished apartments with other tenants. The rent can be paid monthly or through a plan that suits the tenant. The houses are majorly located in Lagos Island for now.
Kwaba, on the other hand, provides a way for people to rent houses even if they do not have the full money to pay upfront. If you are creditworthy, the startup pays for the rent and then collects the money plus interest from you over a couple of months. Quartered allows people to book hotel rooms on an hourly basis for just the length of time that is needed. This reduces the amount of money that will be spent compared to if you pay for the whole day as traditional hotels require.
But Muster is essentially a rent-sharing platform designed to help users find flatmates to share apartments with while splitting the cost.
User reviews – Muster is for boxed-up people with a steady cash flow
For most people, the cost of renting a house per month is not on the high side while some others think it definitely is. As @iamvoldermortt’s comment, “Is this for real 100k for a month in a good apartment with light”, on Twitter suggests, having a room in an apartment with amenities and good power supply is worth spending that amount monthly.
Another potential user, however, feels the price is on the high side and he cannot afford it. He, @TaakBlank said, “It’s almost that easy until I checked the rental fee”. The cost of each of the ensuites is a little over N200,000 every quarter which is less than the N100,000 a month that @Iamvoldemortt says is just right.
Another Nigerian, @KassandraUgoch1 feels that the price is too much for the regular person to afford. She said, “What? How can a homeless person be expected to afford your rent?”, indicating that the renting prices of the houses are too high.
However, considering that the spaces to let are usually in the commercial centres of the city and are either located in the choice parts of Lagos or Abuja for now, the pricing clearly indicates that Muster rooms and spaces are for people who earn significantly higher than N200,000 monthly.
Muster takes away the stress and time that looking for a house brings, and gives you the flexibility of renting only for the time you need. However because of the pricing, it is not suitable for long term renting purpose if the intending tenant does not have a well-paying job and job-security.
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