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Want to live in an abandoned house in Japan? Here’s why it’s not really free

6 Comments
By Sara Fox

“Japan is giving away their abandoned homes for free!”

Sound familiar? You may have seen these headlines going viral recently. That’s largely thanks to coverage by CNBC and CNN and other popular news sites that reported on how you can now get one of these abandoned houses in Japan for free. You could hardly scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed without someone announcing they’d found their one-way ticket toward home ownership in Japan.

That’s right. You could now buy a house in Japan for ¥0! Why?

Because there are so many of them, thanks in part to Japan’s aging population and preference for new houses over old ones. A Tokyo-based real estate media company, Real Estate Japan, even reported that they received a few inquiries from foreigners about how to nab one of these abandoned homes in the past few months.

Well, here’s some news for you.

These homes aren’t 100 percent free. In fact, they require renovation, investment, and come with strict terms and conditions to make the home livable — the kind of terms and conditions that would make any potential buyer think again because of the price tags that go along with them.

What are ‘akiya’, and why are there so many in Japan?

So how did this abandoned houses thing, become a thing, anyway?

Houses that have become abandoned are referred to as akiya or 空き家 in Japanese. In 2013, just over 8 million out of 60.6 million homes in Japan were considered to be akiya, or vacant, making that one in seven houses that are abandoned. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. That’s a lot, but currently, the estimate of akiya in Japan has risen to exceed 10 million.

By 2033, it’s estimated that 30 percent of all homes will be vacant or abandoned.

In addition, it’s thought that 900 small towns will no longer exist by 2040, so the government hopes that the akiya scheme (or the Special Measures Act on Promotion of Measures on Vacant Houses — more on that later) will act as a last-ditch attempt to revive these threatened areas.

Why are there so many abandoned houses?

There are numerous and complicated reasons why these once memory-filled homes became vacant. The most obvious is the declining birthrate and an aging population, but other reasons aren’t discussed so often.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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6 Comments
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These homes aren’t 100 percent free. In fact, they require renovation, investment, and come with strict terms and conditions to make the home livable — the kind of terms and conditions that would make any potential buyer think again because of the price tags that go along with them.

Also property taxes. You don't ever really own anything, if you don't pay the property taxes you have to move.

Heck, assuming these houses have enough space behind them for a barbeque grill, I'd much rather live there than in an apartment.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Here in Karuizawa is not much of empty houses and even if, the town office would never start an Akiya-bank bc it goes against the image of a resort town. But next to it in Miyota, Saku and Komoro there are listings 20-30min by car to the station, than 70 (Karuizawa) or 80 (Sakudaira) Shinkansen ride with reclining seats and plugs for your laptop. But you still would want to have a company that is willing to pay most of your train fare of 120.000 or more per month...!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Location, Location, Location... abandoned or not, what matters is the Location to you, or to your prospective future buyer. Otherwise, no one, will wish to buy, and the property/land is of little worth, other than from what you can make from it yourself.... so good luck!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Expecting to receive a free house without any cost to yourself is unrealistic in the first place. Any house, anywhere in the world needs constant investing in maintainance and if that house is in a town or city, you are going to pay taxes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are numerous and complicated reasons why these once memory-filled homes became vacant. The most obvious is the declining birthrate and an aging population, but other reasons aren’t discussed so often.

As others have noted, the real issue with most of these houses is location. They are either far from jobs or where they are in cities in unattractive locations. Yokosuka, easy commuting distance to Tokyo, has many vacant houses but when you see where they are, you instantly understand why they are vacant.

The claim about the birthrate is completely bogus. The Japanese birthrate bottomed in 2005 and has been trending upward since then. It has little or nothing to do with the plethora of vacant houses. The "other reasons" (migration, taxation. land use regulations, missing documentation, unknown or muddled ownership) have in fact been often discussed in television specials, newspaper reports, and other venues.

Finally, there is nothing particularly Japanese about all this. Depopulating cities in Britain have had similar schemes. Villages in Italy are also pushing similar programs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a non-starter for me mainly because my Japanese wife would NEVER consider demeaning herself to live in such a place. Thank you.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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