Buying a house that cannot be rebuilt

Due to land and construction laws in Japan, there are some houses that legally cannot be rebuilt. This is an important point to watch out for when you are looking to buy a home and land.

These types of properties are called “sai-kenchiku fuka” which means reconstruction is not allowed. In many cases this is because the particular block of land does not have sufficient street frontage.

3 Examples of land that cannot be rebuilt on.

Generally speaking, for a road that is at least 4 meters wide, the block of land must have a minimum street frontage of 2 meters. If it is less than 2 meters, it is illegal to build on this block. Other examples include houses built alongside pathways or covered waterways that are not legal roads. Some of the less developed areas in Tokyo still have homes alongside very narrow pathways which are not accessible by cars, and more importantly, cannot be accessed by firetrucks in emergencies. If the house is destroyed for whatever reason, a new home cannot be built.

In the days before cars, there were many houses with only a small pathway to access the road and these properties occasionally appear on the market for sale. These type of properties are favored by those who enjoy renovating older properties and don’t mind not having a carspace.

Advantages:

  • Prices can be considerably lower than other properties (30 ~ 50% lower)
  • Annual land tax is low
  • Low land values mean such properties may reduce inheritance tax
  • High rental yields

Disadvantages:

  • If the house is destroyed by fire or earthquake, it cannot be rebuilt
  • The majority of banks do not provide home loans on these properties
  • Because loans are difficult to obtain, it is difficult to find a buyer when you want to sell the property in the future

Before you buy, check the road frontage and the actual classification of the road in front of the home. By law, real estate advertisements must indicate if the property is a ‘sai-kenchiku fuka‘ and cannot be rebuilt, but there are some real estate agencies who may intentionally or accidentally leave this out.

Houses fronting a covered waterway in Sakamachi, Shinjuku-ku