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Auction of unprecedented generosity: why in Japan, the authorities decided to distribute 8 million homes and how to get them 

Buildings give almost nothing or with huge discounts, but there are a few nuances.

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Reasons for the distribution of houses

In November 2018, Japanese authorities launched a program to reduce abandoned homes across the country. To this end, the government decided to put them up for sale at symbolic money or for free.

According to a report from 2013, there are about 8 million empty houses (akiya) in Japan, and their number is growing. Among the main causes of this phenomenon are natural disasters, aging populations and superstitions.

According to the government, in September 2018, for the first time in history, Japanese from 70 years and older accounted for 20% of the total population. At the same time in the country for a long time, the birth rate continues to fall, and are popular among the youth suicide and death due to overtime .

In addition, young Japanese do not want to move into houses where someone died because of old age, committed suicide or was killed by someone – this is considered a bad sign. There is even an Oshimaland site with a list of properties that should be avoided for these reasons.

According to the forecast of the Nomura Research Institute, by 2033 the number of abandoned houses could reach 21.7 million: this is 30% of all housing in Japan. Researchers believe that if the trend continues, the authorities will have to limit the construction of new homes.

Typical Japanese Akiye Photo by m-louis, Flickr

Abandoned houses are a serious social problem, including due to the fact that they are often subjected to vandalism, attacks by pests and collapses. In addition, municipalities with a large number of such housing receive less taxes, and the land is devalued.

Vacant housing is often located near major cities and the authorities expect that residents of overcrowded megalopolises will decide to move to a more peaceful place. In the appendage to the houses themselves, in some cases they are even ready to pay extra: for example, if the building is empty for too long.

What you need to know before you apply for “free” housing in Japan

Not all empty houses are distributed free of charge, but most often they are sold at extremely low prices. To simplify the process, the authorities in different regions collect abandoned buildings on special sites – akiya banks. There you can quickly and conveniently purchase the house you like, but it is worth considering a few nuances.

The RethinkTokyo publication advises not to buy real estate right away, even if you like it from the photos and it looks great. It is necessary to call an expert to evaluate the building, otherwise soon after the purchase it may become clear that problems can be solved only by demolition. In addition, in case the house turns out to be uninhabitable, it will still need to pay taxes for it.

The main problems of buildings are most often associated with termites, water leaks or ventilation problems. This can lead to mold, which will destroy the house.

An example of akiya Photos from Tochigi Akiya

If the building does not have any fundamental problems, in most cases it will still have to be partially or completely repaired, especially the bathroom and kitchen. It can cost the new owner up to 800 thousand yen (about half a million rubles) for three square meters of repair.

In some cases, the government is willing to allocate subsidies to those who decide to rebuild the building, as this benefits the community. However, conditions vary depending on the specific prefectures and regions of the country, and they need to be clarified in the local municipalities.

Some of the houses can be mortgaged, but since akii are usually older than 1981 and are built according to outdated standards, this can be difficult. The popular type of mortgage Flat 35 applies only to new types of homes: conditions for such loans may also vary depending on different banks and regions of the country.

Most often, Akiyya can not be bought, but rented for a long term with the right of redemption after 25-30 years. In this case, the cost will be about 50 thousand yen per month (about 30 thousand rubles). Buy a house can usually be cheaper than a million yen (about 600 thousand rubles).

It is not recommended to buy a house that the authorities or the bank received after the bankruptcy of the previous owner. Such property in Japan is very rare and it is believed that it is always associated with crime. Sometimes yakuza or other gangs are involved in these deals.

The authorities do not impose special requirements on the future homeowner: this can be either a foreigner or a local resident. However, the country does not issue citizenship along with the acquisition of real estate, and even become a temporary resident of Japan can only be subject to employment, study, marriage with a citizen of the country or refugee status.

In some regions, those who want to get a home should have citizenship and a family in which parents are no more than 43 years old, and children are no older than secondary school.

How to find and get a home

There is not yet a single site where you can find all Akiyas in Japan: many cities maintain their own resources or create sub-pages on large sites. In the overwhelming majority of cases, you will need knowledge of the Japanese language, or the use of a translator, to search for accommodation on the sites.

Tochigi Akiya website screenshot

Such resources as Chiba , Tochigi and Nagano preserve their resources . There are separate sites for specific areas within the prefectures, for example, in Mininamboso district in Tiba, or in the city of Ueda in Nagano. There are also several real estate sites that publish Akiyya by district or prefecture, among them inakanet , inakakurashi and furusato-net .

However, it is best to come to a particular city and contact the administration: many houses are not posted on the Internet and you can only find out about them after personal contact with officials.

Some sites and blogs compile Akiyah lists from several sources in one place. To find housing there, you need to create a query from the keyword “Akiyya Bank” in Japanese and the names of the desired territory. For example, by combining the 空 き 家 バ ン ク and 千葉 site will give information about available homes in the territory of Chiba.

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