4-point checklist when buying an older apartment

If you are thinking of buying an older, secondhand apartment in Japan, these are some of the important factors that you need to consider:

[1] What are the building’s common areas like?

When inspecting an apartment, it is important that you thoroughly check the building’s common areas including the entrance, bicycle and car parking, hallways, garbage disposal room and rooftop (if possible). If a building is well managed and maintained, it will be evident in the common areas. If, however, it is unclean or looking run down, it could be a sign that the building is not being property cared for. 

[2] Does it meet the latest earthquake-resistant standards?

The latest earthquake-resistant construction standards (called ‘shin-taishin) were introduced in 1981. Check if the building meets these standards, but beware that not all buildings completed in 1981/1982 are shin-taishin as the planning and construction may have begun several years before the new building code was introduced.

If you are looking at an older building, check if they have done an earthquake-resistant inspection or if they have plans to retrofit the building in the future.

[3] How are the ceilings and floors?

New apartments tend to have an air space between the floorboards and concrete slab below, and the ceiling and concrete slab above. This helps to retain warmth and acts as a noise barrier between floors. It also reduces the risk of troubles from water leaks and makes maintenance easier.

Older apartments, however, may not have this space between the flooring/ceiling and the concrete slab. Poor insulation can add to heating and cooling costs, and noise from neighbours can be amplified. There are often different ceilings heights with lower beams and it can be more difficult to attach light fixtures.

[4] Are the building management fees appropriate?

Naturally the price of the apartment is a deciding factor for many, but it is important to also consider the ongoing costs, such as the monthly building management and repair fund fund fees.These fees will be normally be higher for smaller buildings as there are fewer apartments to spread the cost over. They may also be higher for buildings with a lot of extra facilities, such as a pool, concierge service etc.

While lower monthly costs may help your household finances, is enough being set aside for future repairs and maintenance? Cheaper is not always better.

Find out if any major repairs are planned for the future, and how much is currently in the building’s repair fund. Be prepared for the possibility that monthly fees rise in the future.

A well-maintained and well-managed building is essential to protecting the value of your asset.

Source: MyNavi, August 22, 2013.

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