4-storey homes growing in popularity

Japan 4 5 storey homes

Demand is finally starting to grow for 4-storey wooden-frame homes as future revisions to the inheritance tax laws in Japan leave the older generation searching for better ways to pass their wealth onto their children.

From January 1 2015, the basic deduction on inheritance tax for one heir will be reduced from 60 million Yen to 36 million Yen. This will increase the number of people who will become liable to pay inheritance tax. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in Tokyo’s 23-ku will have to pay the tax at some point.

However, for multi-family homes where several generations live under one roof, up to 80% of the property’s taxable value can be reduced. Building a multi-family home can therefore provide some offset for future inheritance taxes.

Some landowners, especially those in urban areas where land prices are high have designed homes to cater to two and even three households. This allows the home-owner to create an additional space for parents or in-laws as well as a separate space to rent out, with rental income helping to cover construction costs.

Wooden-frame homes offer some advantages over concrete ones as they don’t require large columns which would otherwise take up valuable living space.  They are also generally cheaper to construct that concrete homes, although costs can increase as you go up a level or two.

Mitsui Home’s 4-storey ‘Multis-4’ range starts from around 236,000 Yen per square meter, while Sumitomo Forestry’s ‘EARLYbird-For’ starts from 218,000 Yen/sqm.

Sumitomo Earlybird For
Sumitomo Forestry’s ‘EARLYbird-For’ model homes.

Some builders are also offering 5-storey homes. PanaHome’s ‘Vieuno’ series of homes range from 3 to 5 storeys.

In April, a 5-storey wooden-frame apartment building was completed in Setagaya. This is Tokyo’s first 5-storey wooden building.

Shimouma Apartment Setagaya
The 5-storey ‘Shimouma Apartment’ in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.

In 2000, the Building Standards Act was amended to allow 4-storey wooden-frame houses in urban areas, provided they were built to the same fireproof standards as concrete structures. Although this provision was introduced over 13 years ago, it has taken some time for landowners to embrace it. In Tokyo, just one 4-storey wooden residence was built in 2011. According to the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association, as many as 51 4-storey wooden-frame residences are either planned or have been competed by August 2013.

Landowners should be aware that height limits in some residential areas may restrict the number of floors possible. If there are other 4-storey buildings in the area then it may be possible, but it is always advisable to check with local authorities.


Asahi Kasei, July 26, 2013.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, October 2, 2013.
TV Tokyo, July 3, 2013.

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