Japan is giving houses away

Japan is a one-of-a-kind destination. It’s quirky, kitschy and could be one of the coolest places on the planet. Its cuisine alone is “worth the detour”, says the Michelin Guide, which has Japan in the top two countries in the world with the most Michelin-starred restaurants.

A strong sense of community, adherence to cultural values and respect for history and its elders, along with a technologically advanced society make Japan an extremely attractive destination.

But could you live there?

Would a free house get you over the line?   

According to Rethink Tokyo, there are more than 8 million vacant properties in Japan, many of which are being sold for next to nothing and many are basically being given away. And they’re not in the middle of nowhere, either. Many are in or around the outskirts of major cities, while some are in more ‘rural’ areas.

These unoccupied properties are being listed for sale on online databases known as ‘akiya banks’. Akiya means ‘vacant house’ and thousands of these empty homes are in relatively good condition and going for small change – at least when compared to the Australian property market.

Most homes are selling for a maximum of 30 million yen (about $375,000 Australian dollars), and some are listed under ‘gratis transfer’ for the sum of zero yen. You just need to pay some taxes and commission fees, and the place is yours.

Japan’s glut of vacant houses can be largely attributed to its ageing population. Most older people move in with younger family members or retirement homes and simply leave abandoned dwellings. Another reason is that Japanese people are very superstitious. If anything bad happened in their home – such as suicide, murder, or ‘lonely deaths’, which are all thought to bring bad luck in Japanese culture – they often leave it.

Hence the 8 million abandoned properties. If this trend continues, by 2033 it is estimated that there will be around 20 million abandoned houses. The Japanese Government, in a bid to encourage home ownership among younger people and perhaps draw some foreigners in to help prop up the economy, is offering incentives, such as subsidies for those who take over and renovate old properties.

In contrast to Australia’s housing shortage crisis, the housing supply in Japan is at an all-time high and demand is at an all-time low. You can even claim an Australian Age Pension in Japan. Could it be that Japan is now ripe enough for you to consider a foreign investment property or even a downsize and ‘sea-change’? We’ve contacted RethinkTokyo to find out if it’s possible and we’ll keep you posted.

Read more at Vice.

Would you consider moving to Japan?

Related articles:
Japan: What you need to know
Seven days in Japan
Best destinations for solo travellers

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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