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How to make money from an unwanted inheritance

16 Comments

As is regularly reported in the media, Japan has a large and growing problem with unoccupied houses, the total number of which are said to be in excess of 9 million.

Many of these residences are bequeathed to heirs who have no use for them, as they have moved to major cities and purchased homes of their own. The heirs, moreover, have no desire to pay the property taxes and cost of upkeep. A law was passed in 2015 to smooth the way for local governments to work out solutions with heirs, but many such homes are in poor condition from long disuse and have practically no market value.

But for some at least, a solution -- and a fairly lucrative one -- may be at hand. Flash (March 16) reports that some owners have started to rent them out on a short-term basis.

Rieko Aoyama, who inherited her grandparents' 50-year-old one-story house in Nishi Tokyo City, tells the magazine, "I hadn't thought to take out a loan and build an apartment on the land, and new regulations controlling minpaku (vacation homes) seemed too strict, so I gave up on the idea."

But then Aoyama found out about a service company called Space Market, which operates a website enabling people to reserve spaces for short-term usage. "We receive 30% of the charges as a service fee," says a spokesperson for Space Market. "So if the charge is 10,000 yen, the owner receives 7,000 and our take is 3,000 yen."

Only a portion of the entire house is used -- two tatami rooms and a small kitchen. A naga-hibachi (large charcoal brazier), a rarity today, conveys the sensation of the bygone Showa era.

"What seems so obvious to me is different for young people," says Aoyama. "A girl who stayed over said to me, 'I really love the sight of a tatami room with a kotatsu (low table with a foot heater). It's like going back in time."

Aoyama's house can be rented at an hourly rate of 3,000 yen. Customer options include grilling rice crackers over the hibachi, making kakigori (a shaved ice confection) and kimono rentals.

"Quite a few YouTubers have come here to shoot videos," Aoyama smiles.

In a good month, she clears 300,000 yen. "That easily covers the property tax and repairs, although I like fixing up things on my own. The rest is mine to keep."

Eight minutes by car from Sakado Station on the Tobu Tojo Line is Shunkoen, a farm owned by Yasuhiro Machida. The farmhouse alone spans 1,000 tsubo (3,305 square meters), and behind it are another 3,000 tsubo of rice fields.

"It's a bit far from central Tokyo, so you'd best come by car," Machida advises.

Shunkoen was initially set up as a minpaku appealing to visitors from overseas who wanted to experience staying in a real Japanese farmhouse.

"The first floor has sleeping facilities, and upstairs is a family living space," Machida explains. "At first there seemed to be some reluctance, so about two and a half years ago we switched to space rentals."

The spacious 50-mat room on the first floor can also be partitioned into smaller sections rented separately. Machida requires that space be booked for a minimum of three hours, at the rate of 2,000 yen per hour.

"Recently we've been getting a lot of cosplay customers who come to act out scenes from the 'Demon Slayer' comic," he says. "And we've had repeat customers coming from all over the country. Females, mainly in their 20s and 30s, make up about 70% of the business.

"Some local people have also rented out the space to hold various events," Machida adds. "Sometimes they come with their own mobile kitchen or barbecue equipment."

Machida works at a salaried job and only makes his property available on weekends, but even then it's been generating over 300,000 yen a month. Financial planner Akiko Izumi has some advice for those who might be considering opening up their properties in a similar manner.

"With smartphone applications and so on, it's become easier to match up these places with customers," she says. "Before people get into this kind of business, though, they need to be aware of the potential pitfalls, such as disputes with users and possibility of operating at a deficit."

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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We own a family house in Nagano where we lived for ten years. But since have abandoned it. Cost more than ¥1 million to knock it down and then we would have to pay local taxes on the land. While the house remains empty we pay no taxes. We would willingly give it away to someone to build a new house.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Japan's property and inheritance tax laws are the most retarded that I have EVER seen

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Was this originally written by the producer of the Space Market application? Because that's how it reads. It only mentions one app, and even has a sly dig at the much bigger market of minpaku to suggest this is somehow better. This is way more hands on, much more dealing with customers and much more cleaning. I'm sure your late granny's neighbours will love you if you bring lots of strangers into the neighbourhood and turn her old house into a love hotel/party zone/BBQ pit.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

itsonlyrockandroll

Sit on it

If I did that, with my weight, demolition is done. I think the land value would be no more than a couple of hundred grand.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How to make money from an unwanted inheritance?

Cashing the check comes to mind.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I know people who have been given property because the owner didn't want anymore to do with it. If the roof is sound, no white ants/termites, basic utilities. Spend a couple of million yen and you can have a good place to live.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

We own a family house in Nagano where we lived for ten years. But since have abandoned it. Cost more than ¥1 million to knock it down and then we would have to pay local taxes on the land. While the house remains empty we pay no taxes. We would willingly give it away to someone to build a new house.

I wish we could speak directly because I know two people that’d be interested in this property.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I know people who have been given property because the owner didn't want anymore to do with it. If the roof is sound, no white ants/termites, basic utilities. Spend a couple of million yen and you can have a good place to live.

That is GREAT, but sadly not many deal with property issues in a timely manner. While most old folks are still alive the neglect of property & buildings is already happening for years & years. Once they pass then more time passes, by this point damage is often very substantial(especially if they are more ""modern"" homes).

Then there is the PENALTY of having to pay taxes if you PROPERLY take care & demolish very old buildings, but no the govt puts in laws that make ""sense"" to leave up old buildings, which become dangerous for kids, blown apart in typhoons, knocked full or partially down in earthquakes.......and turn the country into a garbage dump basically, its such a waste.

Just imagine what REAL cheap housing could do for so so many communities around Japan........

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yeah the way Japan handles these homes no longer in use for whatever reason is a TOTAL diasater nationwide & a huge reason Japan is not so slowly turning into a giant JUNK YARD!!!

And even if zichi can give his Nagano property away for free, I am pretty sure there will be a LOT of other costs involved even though the property value is likely negative due the cost for demolishing etc

Bottom line is its all seriously messed up with NOBODY or govt gaining anything & the rot just continues LITERALLY.......so stupid

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just what are Japanese politicians taking our tax money doing?

They should be making laws to address this problem...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi,, your property in Nagano, has been vacated, as you quite righty state to demolish the property would be a financial no-no.

I have brought all my elderly family’s properties in Kochi, one by one; I have been able to demolish and build, then sell, and return the profit to the family.

Don’t give it away, I don't think you mean that.

I don’t know anything about Nagano real estate, other that the city is a tad chilly in the winter.

If the property is not a finaical drain

Sit on it

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All the best, zichi

I know it takes months, years even, plus, I had to go and weed the gardens trim the hedges.

However the gardens, I was able to make full use of.

The profits are not something you can wave a stick at though.

But having said that, two did show surprising returns.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi

I would rebuild it

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm keen to buy a place in Japan for our semi-retirement but at the same time worried about liquidity should we want to sell at any point. In terms of my in-laws place, we are happy for her brother to take over the land and house when they eventually go. My wife and I would never live there, whereas my brother in law and his family will.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I consider buying a place in Japan from time to time. The countryside is nice, safe and cheap. Recent immigration restrictions on permanent residents has certainly given me pause. There seem to be many permanent residents who left Japan last year on the 1 year automatic re-entry and then did not or could not make it back and lost their visa and businesses, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi

"Cost more than ¥1 million to knock it down and then we would have to pay local taxes on the land. While the house remains empty we pay no taxes. We would willingly give it away to someone to build a new house."

I think the J-gov't could really step in and help out with this. Create a program where people in these situations can turn to the government, give up their unwanted property and be duly compensated and relieved of any tax burden. The stress is off the shoulders owners and the government gets to reclaim land to use/sell as they see fit.

There are eyesores all over the Tohoku region that could benefit from this.

(This is all off the cuff, I'm not a public administrator)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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