The problem with trying to buy an abandoned ‘akiya’

The Japanese countryside is dotted with old, rambling shacks and farmhouses that look empty and abandoned. They can even be found in urban settings. You may think it’s a simple process of just pulling the title with the owner’s name on it, giving them a call and offering a few Yen to take the old home off their hands. And voila, you now have a charming fixer-upper of your own?

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Setagaya has the largest number of akiya (empty homes) in Japan

On a city/town/district level, Setagaya ward in Tokyo has the highest number of empty homes, or akiya, in Japan. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were an estimated 49,070 empty homes in Setagaya as of a 2018 survey, representing 10.4% of total housing stock. Neighboring Ota ward was in second place nationwide with 48,080 empty homes, and a 14.8% vacant house ratio.

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Japan’s vacant house ratio reaches 13.6%

On April 26, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released their housing and land data as of October 2018. This survey is carried out once every five years. According to the report, the nationwide residential vacancy rate was 13.6%, a 0.1 point increase from 2013. The total number of vacant homes across Japan reached 8,460,000, an increase of 260,000 homes over the past 5 years. 

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Government approves new law to deal with abandoned land issue

On June 6 Japan’s House of Councilors approved a new act concerning the use of abandoned land. The new law will go into effect from June 2019.

This law will grant local municipalities, private corporations and non-profits the right to use idle land for up to 10 years. This applies to land where the owners are unknown or cannot be contacted. If the owners make themselves known and object to the use of their land, the land will be returned to them at the end of the 10 year term. If the owners do not object, the term may be renewed.

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Desperate sellers in ski resort town forced to pay buyers to offload apartments

Some owners, in an attempt to offload their apartments in aging ski resort towns, are paying companies to take the properties off their hands. For companies offering this relatively new service, charging fees to the seller is how they balance the risk of holding a property that comes with high running costs and limited resale potential.

How it works

According to the website of a company that specializes in buying up resort apartments, they ask the seller to pay them enough to cover the following:

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New life for old homes in Onomichi

On the hillside leading up to Senko-ji Temple in Onomichi City, Hiroshima, sits an old wooden house built between 1921 ~ 1923. Despite being registered as a national tangible cultural property in 2013, the historic home had been left empty to rot on the hillside for decades.

Luckily, a local non-profit organisation has stepped in to restore the old property and convert it into a guesthouse. Repairs will start this month, with completion expected by February 2016.

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