'Accident properties' are cheaper, but are the savings worth it?


Are you on a tight budget and looking for a break on the monthly rent? Shukan Post (Oct 9) may have a solution -- if you're not too squeamish. It seems that more than 50,000 houses and apartments around Japan are listed as jiko bukken (properties where "accidents" have occurred). 

Post's article was inspired by the August release of the horror movie "Jiko bukken kowai madori 2," (The scary room layout of accident property 2), starring Kazuya Kamenashi and "Nao." The film, based on a bestselling book by Tanishi Matsubara, is said to have already racked up sales of 1.9 billion yen. 

If you're not troubled by a vague sense of discomfort from residing in such a place, Shukan Post says that bargains await. Story creator Matsubara himself shares one such property -- a 2DK apartment (equivalent to 12 tatami mats) located inside Osaka's Kanjo loop line, with a friend. They pay only 60,000 yen a month -- a good deal considering the property location. 

Matsubara says the rent at his place was lowered because the former tenant died while in the toilet, although the cause of death was not determined. (Autopsies are typically not performed in Japan unless foul play is suspected.)  

"One can definitely say that it's not a particularly good feeling to live where someone has recently died," Matsubara is quoted as saying. "Maybe it's not as scary as in our movies, but you still feel a vague discomfort. But there are also advantages. In some cases, rents are as low as half the going rate. Quite a few people looking for bargains, or young people on tight budgets, are on the hunt for these kinds of places. And if they're  the type who aren't bothered by what might have happened to a previous tenant, it can well become a case of "home, sweet home." 

Some jiko bukken are actually quite famous. Last August, the 2DK condominium owned by the late Nobel Prize for Literature winner Yasunari Kawabata, located in Zushi City, Kanagawa Prefecture, went on sale. Kawabata died there, of gas inhalation (possibly by suicide) in April 1972. 

The property, which is said to boast an expansive view of Enoshima and Mt Fuji, was quickly sold. 

"Jiko bukken is a general term in our business for places that are difficult to rent or sell," explains realtor Yuken Kon. "They cover two categories: one is because of some defect in the environment, such as a nearby source of noise, bad smell or proximity to a waste processing facility, etc. The other is a property with a problematic past that can impact psychologically on a tenant, such as a murder or suicide of a previous occupant.

"The problem," Kon continues, "is that such 'defects' are not clearly defined under civil law. Recently problem properties have been increasing because an elderly occupant died there alone." 

To keep the public informed, Teru Oshima started a website 15 years ago. 

The site identifies such properties, including their location and specifics of what unfortunate incident occurred therein, along with providing space for visitors to post their own remarks. The site  currently lists some 50,000 problem properties, although Oshima admits "It is not all-inclusive. There are still places where incidents occurred, of  which the people living there may be unaware." 

There's even a Tokyo-based realtor, Jobutsu Fudosan, that specializes in these "accident properties." And it appears to welcome patronage by elderly people and (hopefully open-minded) foreigners. 

According to the aforementioned Kon, the selling price of houses and condos in which a murder occurred can be as low as half the normal rate; for suicides, 20 to 30% off the going rate; and for places where the previous occupant expired alone or from sickness, 5 to 10% less. 

"If it's a place where blood was spattered on the wall, it can be even cheaper," he adds. 

A staff of Jobutsu Fudosan admits that while "stringent efforts" are made to clean up such properties before listing them, "In rare cases, if special measures not carefully performed, the next tenant may complain, perhaps of a lingering odor. That's why we caution potential customers to understand what happened there, and ask questions before deciding."

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Just call is what it is: silly superstition.

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Doranku: exactly.

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The list changes through time since if there is any previous tenants borrowing the space and nothing had happen during that time then the room is no longer considered as a jiko-bukken.

On the other side there are flats that always remain on the list no matter how many previous tenants had rented the place. Those are the real deal haunted flat that no one remains no matter how cheap it is.

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There was a murder a few years ago near my place that was quite well known in the area. Anyway, the place where it happened was torn down and a new apartment building was put up a few months ago. This building is just a couple of minutes' walk from the station in an area that normally never has trouble selling new places, but there are still a few units unsold, most likely because of this "event."

Thing is, the original building where it happened no longer even exists, but evidently some people are still wary of whatever might still be lurking there.

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How about the place where the nutcase strangled, sexually assaulted, murdered and dismembered the 8 women, and killed a man who came looking for one of them? [See current JT article on the trial in Tachikawa.] It's in Zama City in Kanagawa Prefecture, right by the Odakyu Line tracks. Google Maps shows it hasn't been torn down yet. I wonder how much rent is discounted in THAT building?

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