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Home Insurance And Aging Homes In Japan: Maintaining Value And Safety – Buying a house in Japan has been my dream for many years and I finally made it a reality.
The whole process involved a lot of research and trial and error. While this has been an incredible learning experience for me, there are certain things I wish I had known from the start. So I thought I’d write an article with some advice.
Home Insurance And Aging Homes In Japan: Maintaining Value And Safety
While buying a house in Japan can be considered an “investment in joy”, it’s not likely to make you money in the long run – especially a house in the countryside.
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The Japanese real estate market differs from other countries in that house values tend to decline over time, especially outside of major urban centers (Toyko, Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka…)
There are many reasons for this, including building standards, an aging/declining population, migration to larger cities, and a preference for new homes over “used”.
In other words, if you’re planning to buy a house in the Japanese countryside quickly, or even sell it for your retirement fund in the future, you’re likely to be disappointed with the results.
That said, if you think of it as a lifestyle enhancement rather than an investment, I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where you can get as much value for your money.
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It is strongly recommended to buy a house for year-round living (provided you have the visa issue sorted out), or as a holiday home for a few visits a year.
Note: I should probably note that there are a lot of big real estate investments in Japan (rental apartments, logistics infrastructure, self-storage, data centers…), but a house in an otherwise probably isn’t one of them.
Unless you are a resident with a well-paid job in Japan, it will be almost impossible to get a mortgage. So you will likely be looking to buy cash or finance from your home country.
And since you’re not looking at it as an investment, but as a lifestyle enhancement (are you reading #1 right?), then you should ideally be in a position where you won’t miss the money you spend on your home. In other words, you don’t want to spend your last $40,000 on a house in Japan.
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Paying cash also gives you incredible bargaining power. I was able to shave about 20% off the list price with a cash offer. If you consider how long the property has been on the market and how motivated the sellers are, you can often turn to a
I realized that an older, traditional house would be much more laborious and also more expensive and time-consuming to maintain.
If I wanted to maximize my vacation time in Japan every year, did I really want to spend every waking hour working on the house? In the end, I decided I’d rather find a newer house that I could move into right away and that required minimal work.
Note: Wondering what my house looks like? You can see the photos in the “My House” highlight on the Cheap Houses Japan Instagram channel.
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. For example, if you can live in Japan full time and have the skills / money to make it work, maybe you should give it a try 😉
Chimney Renovations If you’re looking for a good example of what can be done with a chimney renovation, check out Tokyo Llama’s youtube channel. It’s unbelievable what he did with the property he bought! I have been watching since the first video he uploaded and the transformation of the property is fascinating. You can see it in the video below:
In regards to buying a newer home, I would like to suggest that increasing your initial purchase budget can save you money in the long run.
When you factor in repair and maintenance costs and potential resale value (although remember, we’re not factoring that in), buying a newer home in better condition is likely to be cheaper to maintain than an old one.
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Note: For skilled DIYers who have Japanese residency, you can ignore this suggestion and buy that 120 year old fireplace 😉
It’s tempting to think that when you buy a house, your costs will drop to zero because you’re not paying monthly rent.
According to JapanGuide, average utility costs for one person are just under ¥10,000 per month: about ¥4,000 for electricity, ¥3,000 for gas, and ¥2,000 for water.
When you’re away for an extended period of time, you should be able to pause or turn off ancillary services depending on your contract. In my case, I suspend my water contract and pay about 1000 yen per month (base rate) for electricity because I have a longer contract. (My house is all electric so I don’t have a gas connection)
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Property taxes are around 1.4% of the value of the house/land per year. I pay about $500 a year for mine.
Fire insurance starts at $200-$400 for a 2-year contract. It is not mandatory, so it will be up to you to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Maintenance costs depend a lot on the particular house. My house was in really good condition, so I only spent about ¥15,000 on renovations (new tatami, fusuma, and a quick roof fix).
The most important thing is to pay for the construction inspection before buying the house (5金分-7金分). It will tell you what work needs to be done and even give you a rough estimate of the cost. (See also number 8 below)
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If you don’t have a close friend living nearby, you’ll probably need someone to visit regularly when you’re away to air out the house, mow the lawn, etc. These options vary by location and can range from ¥3,000 to ¥10,000 per hour, but the price may increase if you need an English-speaking manager in a tourist area (such as Niseko).
While it may be tempting to pull the trigger and buy a home remotely (yes, it is possible – see #9 below), I would highly recommend viewing the home in person.
While most Japanese real estate sites aren’t that sophisticated with their photography (to be honest, a lot of the photos are pretty poor!), property photos don’t always tell the whole story.
It is important to get a “feel” for the house, imagine spending time there. Almost as important is seeing what the surroundings are like. Some examples:
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While the current travel restrictions make it difficult (if not impossible) to visit Japan right now, it’s probably worth waiting until you find the property that’s perfect for you.
Structural, plumbing, electrical and roofing problems can be extremely expensive to fix in Japan. They also often remain hidden to the untrained eye, so it’s best to hire a building inspector before making an official offer on any home.
The cost of an inspection is usually around 50,000 to 70,000 yen, and he or she will give you a written report on the condition of the house (in Japanese). I would also highly recommend going in person and looking at them during the review (I did and learned a lot!) so they can point out useful things that may not be included in the report.
When I started looking for a house in Japan years ago, I really thought I would buy a beautiful old one
Federal Housing Administration
But as I looked at more and more properties and did more research, I saw homes that were outside of my criteria but offered unique benefits.
The house I ended up buying is less than 30 years old and not even in the country, but I could see that it offered great value. For one thing, it was less than half of my $70,000 budget, it didn’t need much work, and it was close to a small town where I had friends. It also had excellent public transport options – I wouldn’t even need a car. Plus I could walk to the konbini and the supermarket.
If I had been more set on a particular style or type of house, I think I would have overlooked the one I ended up buying. I am very happy with my house and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing!
After talking to a few subscribers, I realized how difficult it can be to buy a house in Japan with limited Japanese skills (I’m only at N1 in JLPT and even had some difficulties!). I have even heard of how many real estate agents will avoid your emails or calls simply because they are not comfortable working with strangers.
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I decided I needed to do some more research to come up with a good solution. So I’ve spent the last few weeks talking to English speaking real estate agents and property managers in Japan via Skype!
While most agencies focused on high-end foreign investment or vacation properties ($500,000 and up), I’m happy to say that my favorite option also had the most reasonable prices.
Nippon Tradings International is managed by the husband and wife team of Ziv and Chikako Nakajima-Magen. Their company acts as an intermediary between the agent and the foreign buyer.
They handle all Japanese communication with the agent, the search
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