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Number of vacant homes in Japan tops record 9 mil

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Unless the Japanese government reforms laws relating to akiyas then the numbers will keep growing.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

I keep reading about how foreigners are moving to japan and buying akiyas for dirt cheap, but I question who are these foreigners and how long are they going to stay in these places, especially as Japan's countryside hollows out. There cannot be that many digital nomads to make a dent in all the abandoned houses here.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

More opportunities for buy and reform..

-11 ( +5 / -16 )

Note to Mod; 3rd paragraph 2nd line: nursery homes should read nursing homes.

Like a lot of the legal system in Japan, property law is inconsistent and full of holes. Since the government ought to be collecting property taxes each year on all land and any buildings upon it, it is mind-boggling that there is "a difficulty of identifying the owners". This is prima facie evidence that the property registration system is woefully inefficient.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

As mentioned above, the laws currently incentivize owners to abandon their properties. Some financial incentives to reform these country homes as guest houses, cafes etc. could be a win-win.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Most are nothing more than rotting shacks. They are left as they are because the cost of knocking them down is more than the value of the land in many cases.

29 ( +32 / -3 )

Agree with all comments but add

Japanese do zero maintenance on their houses. Of course wood will rot and paint will peel, weeds will grow and roofs will leak.

Fix it you lazy sods or pay someone to do the basics.

Painting is not hard, oil treatment will stop wood rot, an hour a week will keep weeds at bay....

I speak having just rescued an old minshiku and fixed it up real proper like.

Had the wife up on the scaffolding doing the painting and Mother in Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests.

My friends, it's not hard, it can be done.

0 ( +16 / -16 )

Repossess after a notice period

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Disposing of old or broken appliances or large furniture here is already a bother and costly, imagine how much it would cost to demolish a rotting house.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

GuruMick

Agree with all comments but add

> Japanese do zero maintenance on their houses. Of course wood will rot and paint will peel, weeds will grow and roofs will leak.

> Fix it you lazy sods or pay someone to do the basics.

> Painting is not hard, oil treatment will stop wood rot, an hour a week will keep weeds at bay....

I disagree. The houses where I live have new paint jobs every 10 years. Builders are always busy making repairs. The houses suffered damage to gutters and carport roofs from a very violent hale storm. Builders are already fixing the damage.

Large houses with beautifully kept gardens.

9 ( +15 / -6 )

This is an aspect of Japan I have never understood.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

everytime i read story like that....feel unwell as japanese system about akiya is very pointless.we have had plan buy and renovate some but when we have found out about whole process...

if you say A you need to say also B

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Wallace...a "hale " storm ?

Was it "hearty " as well ?

Or did you mean "hail "...lol

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Demolishing houses is ¥2 million plus and then land tax becomes due but not on empty houses.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Disposing of old or broken appliances or large furniture here is already a bother and costly, imagine how much it would cost to demolish a rotting house.

It costs a lot. The government should repossess, tear them down, and offer build discount accommodation for young families, both rental and for sale.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

GuruMick

Wallace...a "hale " storm ?

> Was it "hearty " as well ?

> Or did you mean "hail "...lol

Hail the size of golf balls for 100 km along the Harima-nada coast. Very fearful. Extensive damage.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

It's still a much better problem that Canada and many other Western countries have: exorbitant housing in short supply that many in the middle class can no longer afford. My Canadian friends are incredulous and envious when I tell them about the surplus housing in Japan.

Painting is not hard...

Indeed. In my neighborhood many of the residents have ugly grey concrete walls encircling their prosperities, with all the charm of a prison block. I remember going through a residential area in Manila with the same kind of walls, but they were painted pastel colours. It looked so much nicer.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

More to come in the next few years... No babies but more sexagenarians.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

The Chinese will buy them if means they can get a foothold into the country. If tourism increases and yen remains cheap, they can provide housing to Chinese families or guesthouses for Chinese and other foreigners.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

GuruMickToday  08:16 am JST

I speak having just rescued an old minshiku and fixed it up real proper like.

Had the wife up on the scaffolding doing the painting and Mother in Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests.

My friends, it's not hard, it can be done.

So you’re asking a single person who has retired, at 65+ to do all that. Maybe they’ve got health problems now. They won’t be working, and so their miserable pension/saving they barely scrape by on has to be used up. Maybe they did some work on the property in their 50s but now they’re in their 80s. Think about it, not everyone will live to 100 and I don’t see a 90 year climbing on a roof or swapping out wooden walls. Maybe they’ve no kids, or the kids don’t want the place, maybe they’re single now. so if they’re happy. It’s not my place to tell a 75, 85 year old to just cough up some money to paint a wall on a 100 year old wooden tiny house, and for what though? Of course you can do the work, You’re younger, working, maybe running it as a business . But once you see the time in front of you compared to the time behind you. Maybe I t’s not worth cost in time and money.Especially i you ain’t got much time left.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Mr Kipling

Most are nothing more than rotting shacks. They are left as they are because the cost of knocking them down is more than the value of the land in many cases.

Not according to the article.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Quite an achievement to develop a system so confusing and illogical that no one, even bureaucrats can figure it out. I say if the land taxes haven't been paid and a notice is in the paper for a few weeks then the land can be sold and proceeds held in escrow for a few years in case the owner pops up.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It doesn’t make economical sense to buy an Akiya since new homes in Japan are dirt cheap to begin with and, as someone pointed out, renovating is astronomically expensive and tearing these things down are more expensive than the land they sit on. So a new house with a 10 year guaranteed warranty against defects is a good deal in a lot of people’s minds.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Photo above taken in Kurashiki. Recently I visited someone in the old part of Kurashiki in a really lovely old house. Most envious I was. Then he said that he was planning to have it knocked down, as everyone he knows was doing the same thing and building new. I guess there is an ancient tradition in Japanese communities of knocking down and rebuilding, in 30-50 year cycles? Maybe an earthquake knocks some houses down in a village so they build new ones, then everyone wants a new one. The collective body helps out, in the traditional pattern.

It is said that it will cost the owner(s) somewhere between 2 and 3 million yen to knock a house down. This will surely discourage claims of ownership. Maybe people are waiting for an earthquake to do the job? Why does it cost so much? Perhaps the government could regulate, or failing that, subsidize demolitions.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

dmhondz

Disposing of old or broken appliances or large furniture here is already a bother and costly, imagine how much it would cost to demolish a rotting house.

2 to 5 million yen.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If you think Japan has a problem, in China, the home of the wonderful CCP, there are approx 7.2 million homes empty, and most are new...ish. Even the Chinese population of 1.4 billion could not fill them all. Here in the UK, houses are just too expensive, and most are bought by foreign investors, and Chinese, who do not live in them but rent them out at exorbitant prices.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

People not paying property taxes. Isn't that a "sticking out nail" that should be "hammered down"? Japan is supposed to be an expert at doing this? (sarcasm)

I keep reading about how foreigners are moving to japan and buying akiyas for dirt cheap, but I question who are these foreigners and how long are they going to stay in these places, especially as Japan's countryside hollows out. There cannot be that many digital nomads to make a dent in all the abandoned houses here.

There is certainly a lot of noise and "Look at me! I've got one too!" on social media and Youtube about this. My suspicion is that for all the "free houses in Japan" reporting, foreigners actually committing to buying somewhere is still a minor phenomenon. Yes, you can buy a house, but you can't buy a car with a tourist visa. Good luck trying to get to your house in deep inaka and renovating it without a car.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

kohakuebisu

Good luck trying to get to your house in deep inaka and renovating it without a car.

I reformed our family house in Nagano near Hakuba and lived there for 10 years without owning a car which I have not done now for 45 years.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Perhaps if the Japanese scrapped the form of official theft called inheritance tax, a large number of these properties could be released onto the market. It'd be nice to get hold of a decent-sized block, knock down the old place and build something nice and modern with actual light and insulation. But since the government is dead set on extracting every yen they can from the populace, I don't see that happening for the foreseeable future.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Yes, if you have a family, local knowledge, and 10 years to do it.

I'm talking about someone fresh off the plane. No local knowledge, no language skills, no family to call in the carpenter guy they know, .... the situation is not the same.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I bought one of these "akiyas" just over a year and a half ago. We were fortunate to find a house and land that were meticulously maintained by the deceased owner's family. A diamond in the rough per se.

I can go for a 15 min walk in my neighbourhood and see no less than 10 empty houses. So I can understand that this is a problem that is only going to get worse before it gets any better. And btw... most of the people living in my neighbourhood are 70+ years old.

S

10 ( +10 / -0 )

kohakuebisu

Yes, if you have a family, local knowledge, and 10 years to do it.

> I'm talking about someone fresh off the plane. No local knowledge, no language skills, no family to call in the carpenter guy they know, .... the situation is not the same.

I finished the reforming in 6 months and I did all the work including electrics and plumbing. We didn't have family there.

I have done the same in other countries.

I would not recommend someone fresh off the plane buying any house any where.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Hail the size of golf balls for 100 km along the Harima-nada coast. Very fearful. Extensive damage.

Yeah that was a big one. We were just on the edge of it and 2,000 feet up the mountain - I guess the hail has less far to fall..! But was a big old downpour.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@GuruMick

Fix it you lazy sods or pay someone to do the basics.

Painting is not hard, oil treatment will stop wood rot, an hour a week will keep weeds at bay....

I speak having just rescued an old minshiku and fixed it up real proper like.

Had the wife up on the scaffolding doing the painting and Mother in Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests.

My friends, it's not hard, it can be done.

If you had your wife on scaffolding doing the painting and your Mother-in-Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests, what were you doing? Your statement doesn't sound very good. ;) Lol.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I finished the reforming in 6 months and I did all the work including electrics and plumbing. We didn't have family there.

Concur with that. Mine was slightly different. 350 sqm house completely reformed in 8 months. We completely gutted it to a shell. Had a terrific solo general contractor that sub contracted the specialities. Always was under budget and in time. I mainly project managed and the contractor often thought I was mad for the ways I wanted stuff done. Overall a great experience. I have my eyes on some other nearby to do it again and sell on.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My friends and I have successfully bought 3 akiyas and are working on our fourth. Most that I've seen are nowhere near as dilapidated and run-down like the one in this picture. We bought huge houses with several bedrooms, bathrooms and they are still habitable. They just need a little bit of TLC but that's the fun part of owning one of these. The pride you'll have in knowing you've invested time, sweat and tears into making it your own...and the fact that they were dirt cheap, is such a great feeling. I bought mine for Y1,000,000 in Tochigi. We'll probably rent them out when we're not living in them.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@abe234

That is exactly the Japanese no future mind spirit : no family, no positive driven, no idea about how to maintain a home place, retirement as a no life to expect even if in good health.

Gurumick has never said one should start maintaining a place from retirement or when reaching 80 over...and he's speaking as having done it.

My dad who is now 75 still does the work maintenance on his own with no help. He just pays for a gardener.

That is a huge difference between Japan (and many other countries) and westerners. I speak also by experience.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

So uaintseeme, lucky you to have to time to completely renovate a house, but most of the people I know just work too long and hard to have the time to take on a job like that. Also, you bought the house for 1 million, how much did the renovations cost you? I hope it is earthquake resistant, as many old houses were not made to last a big shake.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@GuruMick

Had the wife up on the scaffolding doing the painting and Mother in Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests.

> I envy your ability to control-awesome !

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wallace...

Not according to the article.

I should have said many not most. Also those for sale and rent are often in places where the population is in exodus mode.... Very few buyers or renters.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

GuruMick

Fix it you lazy sods or pay someone to do the basics.

Painting is not hard, oil treatment will stop wood rot, an hour a week will keep weeds at bay....

I speak having just rescued an old minshiku and fixed it up real proper like.

Had the wife up on the scaffolding doing the painting and Mother in Law on the roof repairing holes and removing wasp nests.

My friends, it's not hard, it can be done.

So your costs were lower then than a retired person being able to do DIY.

PrinToday  02:02 pm JST

@abe234

That is exactly the Japanese no future mind spirit : no family, no positive driven, no idea about how to maintain a home place, retirement as a no life to expect even if in good health.

Gurumick has never said one should start maintaining a place from retirement or when reaching 80 over...and he's speaking as having done it.

True but that’s not what most people can do. If you’ve done some work at 50 and live to 85 or 90 that’s a long time not to do any DIY and the place can fall apart. And not everyone can afford it at that age. I think some small DIY is different from reconstruction or even renovation. And by that time men may have past on leaving the women alone.

ofcourse some could, but also many are happy with what they’ve got. These homes hate empty and have been for years so not quite the same subject.

> My dad who is now 75 still does the work maintenance on his own with no help. He just pays for a gardener.

Thats great but the key point in there is, “My dad” a male! Not many women do DIY. Now on the other hand I know plenty of women who did gardening or swapped their garden for a low maintenance garden as they got older. japanese Homes have historically been designed to be demolished and rebuilt. Many homes are made from stainless steel, so not brick or concrete and DIY in Europe might be different from the DIY in say Hiroshima in the sticks.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've thought about buying an old akiya and renovating it. Old Japanese houses are beautiful and I have no problem living in one (lived in one for eight years as a rental), but, they are hot as a furnace in the summer and cold as heck in the winter. Plus, even if you do manage to fix it up nice and sell it, who is going to buy it off you? A Japanese person who isn't going to make any money off of it (because its you that has done the renos) or another foreigner? Good luck with that. Maybe as a rental it could have another life, but thats a whole other huge ordeal.

So I see them as either a money pit, or, if you do plan to retire in Japan and live out your remaining years in an old akiya in the countryside with a large zen or veggie garden, well, good luck if you have a supportive spouse who also wants to do that (Odds are they don't).

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The ideal of buying an 'akiya' and 'doing it up' is a sunk fallacy., and I can't understand this obsession with it. More often than not, the rotting shacks are ugly and costly to demolish, at least around the 100万円 mark for the structure demolition, alone.

I'd be in favour of them being knocked down and repurposed for building new houses, IF it were managed by the government. But it'd be passed off to all their mates in the construction and real estate circles.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese do zero maintenance on their houses. Of course wood will rot and paint will peel, weeds will grow and roofs will leak.

Many Japanese do not understand weather protection. I’ve seen a new deck built without any stains or coating. In three years it’s cracking and falling apart.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There are many foreigners living in traditional houses in the countryside and seaside locations. Big houses are needed for those who are artists and craftspeople like pottery. Big houses in the city are expensive and becoming more difficult to find. There are also the people who work on the internet so good broadband connections. There are many people who need to live in these places.

I am one of them living in a 7-room house on the seaside in a city. 20 minutes from the nearest Shinkansen. 10 minutes to the nearest station. But the house is well insulated and modern built in the 1990s. I have I Gbps broadband which is usually about 500Mbps.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I understand that we hear wrongly applied English in Japan but no need to use Japanese versions of native English. Houses are renovated, not 'reformed'. Next we'll be hearing about 'high tension' need to 'reform' akiya.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Mr Kipling

Wallace...

Not according to the article.

> I should have said many not most. Also those for sale and rent are often in places where the population is in exodus mode.... Very few buyers or renters.

There are properties with stable communities. Prefectures have "housing banks". Check them out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The value of a house depreciates over time in Japan

While the land has value, often times it's better to just build a new house

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I also think the reason why you have these akiya in Japanese, is the old people die off the kids move to the cities. When the deceased parents the homes to their offspring's they don't want to take on the properties because of the huge inheritance taxes that they will have to pay. LMFAO the Japanese ministry is not discussing the real reason, if these inheritance taxes weren't a robbery, perhaps many will sell and not be left unattended.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some sniping at my comments....so I'll add this

"What was I doing while MiL was on the roof ?"

Supervising from ground level....my legs are a little weak.

"How did I get her up on the roof "?

I told her there was a little kitten lost up there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@GuruMick

Mate!

My hat is off to you.

Usually, I’m the one up a tree or similar cutting down a branch.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Use the branch to jab your Mother in Law.

Works for me.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

To recap:

Cheap abandoned houses exist only in Japan.

The owners don't renovate because they're lazy not because the area is dead and everyone's moving to the city.

These akiya are good investment because when the economy and population are shrinking you can bet they will fetch higher price in the future.
1 ( +1 / -0 )

This problem is going to get so much worse in the next 10 to 20 years. Easily there will be 40 million Akiya in 30 years time because nothing is done about it. Whole towns and cities will be abandoned.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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