Japan Is Giving Away Abandoned Houses For Free

December 13th, 2018

While many people around the world are struggling to save up money to make a down payment on a home, Japan has the opposite problem. Thousands of abandoned homes in Japan are now being given away or sold for incredibly cheap prices.

Some of these abandoned properties come without any cost. Even crazier? Some “buyers” will even be paid to take possession of one of these properties.

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Getty Images/Carl Court Source: Getty Images/Carl Court

According to reports, Japan has more than 8 million unoccupied properties.

With such an overwhelming supply of unoccupied homes, many owners have decided to start giving away their properties for incredibly low prices or even for free. In certain cases, local governments also provide subsidies for those who will tear down the older homes and replace them with new ones.

Abandoned homes used to be associated primarily with rural communities, but this is no longer the case. They’re now also found in suburbs and even cities. In Tokyo, 70 percent of people live in apartments due to the population size, but more than 10 percent of the homes in the city are empty. This figure is already higher than other major cities around the world, including Paris, New York, and London.

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Flickr/Nelo Hotsuma Source: Flickr/Nelo Hotsuma

Having abandoned properties throughout Japan doesn’t just waste land.

Those who pass by the abandoned buildings that are falling apart consider them eyesores – and rightly so. They can also pose a threat of fire due to their poor maintenance and become easy targets for vandals. All of these factors can decrease the property values near the abandoned homes.

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Flickr/Stuart Rankin Source: Flickr/Stuart Rankin

The number of abandoned homes in Tokyo and the rest of Japan is predicted to rise in the coming decades.

The biggest contributor to this trend is the country’s aging population. Deaths outpace births, and a quarter of the population is more than 65 years old.

In some ways, there simply does not seem to be enough interest in buying the homes. This is particularly true of homes with less-than-stellar pasts, in inconvenient areas, or impacted by construction limitations.

Many people do not want to live in a home where someone died, whether by suicide, murder, or a “lonely death” from old age.

In fact, by 2033, the Nomura Research Institute expects there to be as many as 21.7 million abandoned dwellings in Japan, which would account for about a third of the homes.

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Getty Images/Akio Kan Source: Getty Images/Akio Kan

The idea of giving away properties or selling them for incredibly cheap prices is just one of the many solutions Japan is working on.

Municipalities and the federal government are working to implement measures, like the previously mentioned subsidies for new owners who will tear down and replace dilapidated homes.

Even with the subsidies in place, this is expensive. Demolition is further discouraged by a tax break from decades ago that encourages construction via taxing vacant lots at six times the rate of plots with buildings.

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Flickr/Stefan Lins Source: Flickr/Stefan Lins

Even with all the abandoned homes in Japan sitting empty, people continue to build new ones.

In 2016, there was a 6.4 percent increase in housing starts from 2015, up to 967,200. If the trend continues, Japan’s strategy of giving away homes may not be enough. The country may even need to limit new construction, but this would negatively impact the economy.

Some companies and individuals are also taking steps to reduce the number of abandoned properties — and make a profit. They buy dilapidated properties and then either rebuild or dramatically repair them.

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Max Pixel Source: Max Pixel

Some specifically work with the homes that face stigma due to death.

Those property owners will perform traditional rituals to clear out negative energy and even work to reinvent the homes as “good luck properties.” Even after putting money into the homes to revamp them and clear the negative energy, these homes sell for well under the market price.

There are also websites where you can find listings of abandoned homes, known as “akiya banks.” These online databases have thousands of properties.

If you do choose to move to Japan to buy one of these cheap or free homes, be prepared to put in a lot of effort, as these properties are fixer-uppers.

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Source: Elite Readers, Business Insider South Africa, The Japan Times, CNBC, Fast Company, VICE