Where we live is shaped to a large extent by how we live. The coronavirus pandemic represents the biggest change in living memory to how we live. “Home,” says Shukan Post (Oct 2), no longer means what it used to.
Telework is what springs immediately to mind. Pre-corona, home was where we lived, not where we worked. Now, increasingly, it is both. A home must be a workspace as well as a living space.
The first casualty of this shift in thinking is the urban “tower mansion” – high-rise, high-priced, hyper-convenient, centrally-located domiciles close enough to the downtown business core to spare you a long commute and, in other respects, comfortable enough as far as the old way of living went.
You probably never noticed before, when you were out all day, how thin the walls of a typical tower mansion can be, how easily the sounds from neighboring apartments penetrate – kids playing, grownups talking, TV droning and so on. Now, home from morning to night, you do notice. What can you do about it? Nothing.
If you had it to do over again, you’d think more favorably about an option that you never took seriously in the days before telework: buying a single-family home out in the remote suburbs, or even beyond them in the country, where quiet reigns and walls don’t hem you in. What difference does it make how far it is from the office? Other advantages aside, suburban or rural real estate is so much more economical.
Actually, Shukan Post notes, tower mansion rates are falling dramatically as consumer interest shifts outward. Presumably rural rates are rising. If you’re in the market – act now; bargains are still to be had.
It’s not just corona. Natural disasters are another factor. Japan’s nature has always had a destructive streak, but never as pronounced as in the past few years, goaded by global warming. A turning point, the magazine says, was Typhoon 19 last October. As it ravaged a broad swath of the nation with winds and flooding, one of the worst places to be, it turned out, was a tower mansion. Imagine being on an upper floor, with the elevator not working because the power is down and the toilet not flushing because the plumbing is overwhelmed. If this goes on for a week or more – as in fact it did – you might well wish you had invested in different real estate.
Coronavirus is having its impact on elevators too. They work but how safe are they? A key defense against the disease is avoiding close contact. Contact gets pretty close in an elevator.
For most people, a home is the major investment of a lifetime. You make it because it represents comfort, security and possibly, as you edge into the latter stage of life, an asset whose value has increased over the years and which will help finance your retirement.
But what if in fact it turns into a source of anxiety and financial loss?
“I purchased my (tower mansion condominium) thinking of it as my final nest after retirement,” a rueful man in his 60s tells Shukan Post. Now he finds himself in a bind. “I’m at an age where moving isn’t easy; nor can I sell. I sit here waiting for the next typhoon, wondering what I’ll do when it comes.”© Japan Today