Why Are There So Many Abandoned Houses
There are numerous and complicated reasons why Japanese homes became vacant. The most obvious is the declining birthrate and an aging population, but another reason is location.
Most akiya are located far away from major cities where a good portion of jobs are found. Millions of vacant homes are spread throughout Japan, but the rural prefectures of Kagoshima, Kochi, Tokushima and Wakayama have the most.
Buyers must be willing to live in the house despite the towns low population and little financial potential since the point of this program is to repopulate dying towns.
Even if the abandoned house was in good shape, younger families often dont want to relocate to a town that may not exist shortly after moving in or have no sustainable development. You might have to drive hours to your job in the nearest city, work from home or start your own business in your new little neighborhood.
Why Are There So Many Empty Houses For Sale In Japan
Image credit: Sanga Park via Canva Pro
Due to the steep decline of Japans population and the trend of younger residents leaving their hometowns to work in major cities, Japans countryside is filled with abandoned or empty houses known as akiya. These vacant homes are often left to deteriorate as senior residents move into elderly care facilities or pass away, while their younger relatives are unable to occupy their old houses or maintain them.
According to Japans most recent Housing and Land Survey in 2018, there are about 8.49 million akiya without occupants. The report found that these empty houses were largely concentrated in the rural areas of Japan, notably the prefectures of Kochi, Kagoshima, Tokushima, and Wakayama, where the home vacancy rates exceeded 18%.
Image credit: Evgeny Tchebotarev
To restore these properties and bring life back into Japans small towns, the Japanese government encourages people to buy the empty houses left behind by the countrys aging population. Local authorities have set up online databases known as akiya banks, which collect and list the empty houses available in a certain area. Some are currently up for grabs for as low as ¥50,000 , while others will even let you move into the house for free.
Furthermore, Japanese authorities are offering financial incentives to sweeten the deal for potential buyers and homeowners. These include renovation grants and childcare subsidies for young families who are planning to live in rural Japan.
What Can You Buy For $250000 In The Japanese Countryside
This article is for people who are interested in a getting a feel for what you can buy outside of Tokyo for about $250,000 .
As detailed in this post , in 2014, the average price of a re-sale house in greater Tokyo was about ¥29.5 million yen the average land area purchased was about 148.73 square meters , and the average floor area was about 105.81 square meters.
Outside Tokyo, in Japans regional cities and the countryside, you can buy much more house with much more space around you.
Here are some examples of active listings in the $250,000 price range, around the country.
6-Bedroom house for sale in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. Spacious 180-sqm . Listing price ¥25,000,000 . Please click on the photo for the full listing, many more photos, and to contact the agent.
Where: Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Size and Layout: 181-sqm, 6-Bedroom House
View of Asahikawa City below and wildlife visiting the backyard.
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Hidden Complexities Of Akiya
These abandoned or neglected houses are not only a financial drain on the local economy, they are also dangerous and unsanitary. Municipalities with an akiya problem lose tax revenue that an occupied property would otherwise generate. As houses deteriorate, they can be overrun by wild animals and vermin, collapse, or catch fire.
To counter the akiya challenge, many local governments have set up akiya banks or listings of houses which currently have no occupants and often no owners. Governments are anxious to unload these properties by selling them off to buyers, sometimes at listed prices in the equivalent of just a few hundred US dollars. Zero-yen that is, free houses are also not uncommon.
The akiya banks list akiya, its true, says Parker Allen. And, yes, the prices can be very cheap. On paper. But when people try purchasing akiya, for example, for remote work or to start a new business in the countryside, they find that things are considerably more complicated on the ground.
The Japanese real estate market is a reflection of much deeper social issues in Japan, Allen continues. Moving to the countryside, the inaka, or buying an akiya, is not just a move or a purchase, but a transition to a side of Japan that people living in big cities Japanese citizens and foreign residents alike often need help navigating. Thats where we come in.
Akiya in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture.
Want To Live In An Abandoned House In Japan Heres Why Its Not Really Free
What you need to know about akiya homes in Japan.
You may have seen some viral headlines over the years about free or cheap abandoned properties available in Japan.
Everyone from CNBC to CNN has talked about it. While Japans government is trying to entice new residents with cheap or even free property, its not as simple as walking up to an abandoned home and claiming it for yourself.
Realistically speaking, these homes arent 100% free. They require renovation, investment and come with strict terms and conditions to make the home livablethe kinds of T& Cs that should make any potential buyer reconsider before affixing their seal or signature.
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What Are The Conditions
First of all, the house is not really free. Rented out at a very low rate with the option to become the owner after a certain amount of time describes the free-housing schemes more accurately. For example, in Shichikashuku, the rent for one of the detached houses provided by the municipality is JPY 35,000 per month. Should you stay faithful to the town and continuously live there, the ownership of the property, home and land, will be handed over to you after 20 years. This would equal paying a JPY 8.4 million mortgage to make the home yours, which is still a very good price. For the current Okutama scheme, the rules are similar: JPY 50,000 per month and the home will be in your name after 22 years.
Japanese Gems: About Akiya & Inaka
Akiya & Inaka is a resource and service for global citizens looking to stake their claim to a piece of rural Japan.
The Japanese countryside has become a global myth of sorts. Frequently, news articles and blogs tell tales of free houses in Japan. Occasionally, a headline comes along detailing fantastic makeovers of old houses. Recently, topics like #urbex, #haikyo, and #cottagecore are trending across social media, capturing the worlds attention.
However, the reality is less sensational. Rural Japanese real estate is often cheap rather than free. Furthermore, buying property in Japan by yourself can be a major bureaucratic headache. Finally, the ambience of the region the property exists in should also be considered prior to purchase.
In short, its a nuanced process. Luckily, were here to help out. If youre interested in exploring Japans outstanding rural reaches, youve come to the right place.
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Japan is riddled with millions of vacant homes, called akiya, that local governments hope will sell for next to nothing.
At last count, Japans Housing and Land survey found 8.49 million uninhabited dwellings in 2018 a 3.2% increase in akiya since the previous survey interval in 2013.
All told, more than 13% of the countrys 62 million homes are unoccupied, especially in rural prefectures such as Wakayama, Tokushima, Kagoshima and Kochi. In these regions, the average rate of vacant homes is up to 18%.
Now, a new program led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga means to stimulate Japans rural economy by encouraging tourism, business and a wave of new residents.
The program not only helps the old owners, who were struggling to utilize the properties and pay taxes, but also for the town by reducing the number of abandoned buildings that could collapse or otherwise pose risks in the future, a spokesman for the Okutama government office told Nikkei, according to an Insider report.
In September, local governments offered to pay 1 million yen to any Tokyo-based workers who agree to work remote from the countryside.
Akiya And Inaka: The Complexities Of Buying Empty Houses In Japans Countryside
The image is romantic and the possibilities boundless, but there are challenges. In an interview, two entrepreneurs specializing in these empty houses share insights on finding a spot in Japans countryside.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Japan nearly two years ago, Zoom meetings quickly took the place of in-person work at central office buildings in Tokyo and other big cities.
As the pandemic wore on and Japan adjusted to the new normal of remote work, many employees and companies began to think beyond the coronavirus restrictions. What was at first a quick fix for an unprecedented modern challenge gradually felt liberating for many. Japans millions of office workers started to imagine a different working lifestyle not dependent on commuting in and out of congested metropolitan areas five or six days a week.
With Zoom, one didnt need to live in relatively small apartments near big cities anymore, getting crushed twice a day in overpacked trains. Zoom made it possible to work from anywhere.
Two building akiya in Togane, Chiba Prefecture.
So why not light out for the Japanese countryside, where the air is fresh, the people are friendly, locally-grown rice and vegetables are abundant, and land and houses can be had for a song?
This dream of wide-open spaces led to interest in cheap properties in the country. For several years now, the internet has been awash in articles about so-called akiya or abandoned houses.
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Homes In The Japanese Countryside Are Selling For As Little As $500
Japan is hoping to tackle its vacant home problem by listing its rural properties for sale at rock bottom prices.
There are an estimated eight million unoccupied houses in the country known as akiya and the figure has only grown in recent years. Its a particular problem for Japans rural prefectures, which are seeing the biggest rise in empty properties.
A new government-led programme is aiming to get new owners inside these abandoned homes, by offering them at hugely reduced prices and with renovation subsidies for their revival and adaptive reuse. In Okutama, which is located west of Tokyo, the price tag drops to zero for its dilapidated homes.
Interested buyers can browse akiya banks which list available abandoned houses for sale. And for anyone headquartered in Tokyo, a separate programme is offering a cash grant to workers to encourage remote working in the countryside.
A Vision A Business A Mission For Social Change
Allen is one half of the start-up consulting firm Akiya & Inaka. His business partner is Matt Ketchum. Between these two Americans Allen from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Ketchum from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania they have nearly 25 years experience living and working in Japan.
Much of that time has been spent in the Japanese countryside.
There are not many Japanese people in Tennessee, where I grew up, Allen says in an interview with JAPAN Forward. But there are a lot of Japanese companies. One of those is Komatsu, a heavy machinery firm with an office in Chattanooga.
Thanks in part to the Komatsu connection, I had studied Japanese in junior high school and high school, and ended up doing an exchange program through the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences that sent us to Tono in Iwate Prefecture in the northeast, he adds.
Allen ended up returning to Japan to attend university, at Sophia University in downtown Tokyo. He built a career in communications consulting, eventually founding his own public relations company, Parthenon Japan.
2011 tsunami hits Northeast Japanfollowing powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake.
He spent the next several months in Iwate, helping with the rescue and relief work, before relocating to the Azabu-Juban district of Tokyo to work at an art gallery devoted to raising awareness about Japans northeast.
Yugawara, the southernmost town in Kanagawa Prefecture.
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Are There Any Alternatives
If you arent married, dont have children, are not young enough anymore or are not sure if you want to continue living in your new rural home for several decades, buying an akiya might be a better alternative. There are an estimated 10 million abandoned homes in Japan, many in the countryside. Not all of them are up for sale, but amongst those that are, there are properties that can be turned into something beautiful with renovation efforts. Akiya often sell for as little as a few million yen and are a hassle-free alternative to the free-housing schemes popularized by the media. Furthermore, some akiya are actually free and sold at the cost of JPY 0. This is usually because the owners cannot take care of the property anymore or do not want to pay the property tax that applies in Japan for a home that they do not use. This website has a list of free abandoned homes that are up for grabs.
Did You Know You Can Buy A House In Japan
Yes, even if youre not Japanese. Yes, even if youre not a resident. You can even buy a house on a tourist visa and have full property ownership rights. Its a well-kept secret.
Japan is one of the best, underrated places in the world to own a vacation home for a few reasons: its incredibly cheap to buy a house property taxes are low and maybe most important: its such a lovely place to spend your vacation time!
See the FAQ for more information.
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Regulatory Hitches And Skewed Market Dynamics
Theres another way in which Akiya & Inaka helps clients get past the initial stage of browsing through akiya banks.
Most properties in Japan are sold through real estate agents, Allen says, and not by the owner or a representative like an attorney. Per Japans Real Estate Brokerage Act, a maximum limit is established on the commission a real estate agent is allowed to charge on a real estate transaction.
This fixed commission and tendency to sell properties through real estate agents can lead to market inefficiency. While the low prices listed in akiya banks are what initially attract many potential buyers, those low prices are also part of what is keeping akiya from being sold off.
Many akiya are remote, maybe a two- or three-hour drive from a real estate agents office, Allen continues.
Thats nearly a whole days work each time a prospective buyer wants to see the property. But if the akiya is listed for, say, the equivalent of one thousand US dollars, or even ten thousand US dollars, then the real estate agent is virtually guaranteed to lose money on the deal. Three percent of such a low listing price may not cover the time and expenses of showing the property even once, let alone multiple times.
Check Out Listings On Akiya Banks
Abandoned houses are listed on akiya bank websites, which list properties for sale at a low rate. However, please note that there are still conditions that must be met that require effort and money put into the house before it is even livable.
The listings are in Japanese. Most property details arent available online. Youd have to see the akiya in person to see the actual condition of the property:
Free Houses In Japan: Where They Are And How To Get One
Rural Japanese towns are so desperate for younger residents that they are giving houses away for free.
Very important information to read:This article is intended as a preliminary guide only and refers to some but not all elements required to consider in detail prior to starting any property dealings or due diligence. Property dealings are often complex, especially in foreign countries and we highly recommend you seek independent professional advice… read more…
Chances are that you have read the story before in international media: Japans population is declining and faced with a rapidly aging society, especially in the countryside. By now, rural Japanese towns are so desperate for younger residents that they are giving houses away for free. While this is technically true for a handful of towns across Japan, this is certainly not commonplace yet and the schemes to get a house are not 100% free, with applicants needing to fulfill certain conditions.
Why Koryoya Houses
The traditional Japanese houses listed on KORYOYA for sale are all built before 1950 with the traditional construction method which is the result of more than a thousand years of past carpenters passing down their efforts and wisdoms. As no new houses can be built with the traditional construction method under current law, the high craftsmanship is in danger of becoming a dying art.