New arrivals to Ghana should make finding suitable accommodation their first priority, as it will be play a significant role in deciding the quality of life in their new country. For those employed by a national embassy, a large multinational corporation or an international development agency, accommodation is often provided by the employer as part of their employment package.
However, the country is welcoming more and more independent workers, entrepreneurs, university researchers and volunteers who, without the help of a company, are often faced with the daunting task of finding safe, affordable housing for themselves in an unfamiliar country where suitable accommodation is in short supply.
Types of accommodation in Ghana
Accommodation in Ghana might not be overly abundant, but those moving to Ghana will find that there are a variety of housing options available to them, from large family homes with gardens to luxury apartments in modern complexes.
Many foreigners moving to Ghana only work on short-term contracts, so fully-furnished accommodation tends to be the most popular. Many apartments come furnished in Ghana, but houses may be semi-furnished or unfurnished – fortunately, furniture can be sourced easily and cheaply through local suppliers. As most expats do not remain in Ghana for more than a few years, it may be pointless to have goods shipped into the country from home.
While the standard of housing is decent, the cost of utilities to meet western standards can be high, pushing up the cost of living. Due to electricity cuts and water shortages, one should invest in a generator, power inverters and a water tank or find a property with an existing borehole. Air-conditioning is another important factor to consider for Ghana's climate.
Finding accommodation in Ghana
There are several ways to find rental properties in Ghana. Some expats can simply take over their predecessor’s accommodation or have their employer assist them in finding a home.
Those searching for homes on their own should consider using the services of a real estate agent – these professionals will have a better understanding of the property market in Ghana and can help foreigners find properties that may not be listed publicly. Relocation companies can also aid in searching for accommodation while offering additional assistance with other aspects of the move such as obtaining a visa and shipping goods.
Otherwise, new arrivals may also find homes through property listings in local newspapers as well as through online property portals such as meQasa.
Renting accommodation in Ghana
Once suitable accommodation has been found, potential tenants should ensure they fully understand the lease agreement and the complexities of deposits and utilities.
Rental law in Ghana does little to protect tenants so foreigners should take care not to be exploited. Landlords have been known to inflate rent and adjust the lease agreement in their favour when renting to expats. It is advised to sign a detailed inventory of furniture and equipment, and record the general condition of rooms and features.
Expats living in Ghana’s major cities, such as Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, should expect to pay more than those living in rural areas. Rents are often asked for in US dollars, as a more stable currency, which must then be converted to Ghana's currency of the cedi.
What may shock foreign tenants are the unusual lease agreements. Often, six months' rent is expected in advance to secure a lease. This is likely to be impossible for many people, especially given the high rental costs in the first place. Those who can afford it may prefer this option, giving the rent upfront to ensure the payment is secure.
In fact, some Ghanaian landlords may expect a whole year or even up to three years' advance despite contradictory legislation, but the law on lease agreements is changing to be aligned with international standards of ensuring rent payments on a monthly basis as opposed to excessive advancements.
Lease duration is often dependent on the advance payment and tends to be two to five years, allowing for negotiable renewal. Despite the trend requiring upfront annual rent payments, many furnished apartments and short-term leases, especially those aimed at foreigners, require monthly payments.
For tenants who wish to terminate the lease early, three months' notice is normally required as well as finding another tenant to take over the lease.
Due to large rent advancements, many Ghanaian landlords might not expect a security deposit, although some may require an amount equal to half a month's rent. Landlords are known to delay repaying deposit money, especially in the event of terminating leases early, so expats should be aware of this possibility before signing the lease and do research on the legal routes to follow if it does happen.
In addition to the often high cost of rent, expats also need to consider the cost of utilities, hiring security staff and gardeners, and take responsibility for the maintenance of generators and water tanks.
For those living in apartment complexes, most utilities will be taken care of by the building management, and for this reason most new arrivals opt to live in such complexes instead of renting a standalone house.
While water is often included in the rent, most buildings have separate electricity meters and so electricity, mainly prepaid, is an additional cost. Where parking is available, it is normally free or inclusive in the rent.