Do you know ‘Otori-bukken’ ?
Truth be told,
We have to admit there are a number of
shady and dishonest real estate agents in Japan.
As a foreign investor considering investment opportunities
in the Japanese real estate market,
it’s crucial to be aware of the tactics some unscrupulous agents
employ to lure potential clients.
Beautiful Stories, Hard Realities
Real estate agents/realtors are always holding seminars in Tokyo, Osaka and elsewhere, luring in amateur investors (for Japanese investors so far)
and telling them beautiful stories of how this person or that person got rich in the property market.
I never exaggerate such successes in my seminars, although of course they do exist.
Instead, I always tell the audience true stories from my experience and those of other clients and inexperienced investors, and in particular about the mistakes made.
In today’s uncertain economy, dynamic growth potential with low risk is tempting.
Real estate companies are constantly manufacturing the opportunities to captivate the naive investors.
Kabocha no Basha was one of them.
Suruga Bank Scandal background
Japan’s Financial Services Agency has launched an emergency inspection into Suruga Bank over investment irregularities involving women-only shared houses.
Suruga Bank extended over 100 billion yen ($915 million) in loans to about 700 people, mainly middle-aged salaried workers, to invest in Kabocha no Basha — or “Pumpkin Carriage” ; women-only shared houses operated by Smart Days.
Tokyo-based Smart Days also worked as a middle man between Suruga and investors and solicited investment from salaried workers, pledging to pay them rents for 30 years.
But Smart Days struggled with low occupancy rates and stopped paying the rents to owners they promised in January 2018.
Smart Days filed for bankruptcy in April 2018.
Pitfall of sub-leasing(sub-letting) real estate investment
High yielding, guaranteed rent（sub-leasing) should be too good to be true ?
Recently one of the scandals which rattled the industry is KABOCHA-NO-BASHA
(Pumpkin Carriage) problem.
The background of the scandal is as follows.
Investors were guaranteed a fixed monthly amount over an extended period if they invested money by contracting with a real estate company called Smart Days(Tokyo)
that used the funds to set up and manage share house facilities under sub-leasing agreement.
Since 2015, Smart Days, operator of women-only share houses called Kabocha no Basha (Pumpkin Carriage), has promoted high yield investments through the media and has mainly acquired customers of office workers. In the sub-leasing contract, rent payment collected through the sub-leasing is sought to pay back the debt for a long period plus small profit.
For example, suppose you borrow 100 million yen from a bank and the monthly repayment amount is 500,000 yen, if you earn rental income of 550,000 yen a month, it will generate 50,000 yen a month profit. This system is typical leveraging in the real estate investing and there is no red flag about it.
In an ideal setting, Smart days as the sub-leasing company would rent out rooms to tenants and bring in a steady and continuous supply of rent, a portion of which would go to the investors.The shared house with shared toilets and bathrooms is not as wide as 7 m² in living space, but the initial cost of moving in is kept low (so they say), and it was expected that more women moving into Tokyo from rural cities will choose to stay in these share houses.Smart days also promoted the business to support tenants finding a job (This is an alarming part)
The real estate trade can be stressful in any country.
The financial commitment is substantially large, the regulations and laws are complex
and the market risk is high. Average Japanese people share the same concern.
Another problem is a large part of consumers’ assumption that all estate agents, letting agents and
landlords are all regulated. In Japan, all the agents who actually arrange the real estate transactions
(including rental contract) must be licensed.
Engaging in the marketing activity to lure the investors without holding a license is against the
Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Business Law. If your consultant or agent do not hold
the license, your contract is not completely protected by the said law.
It would be treated more under civil law. But if your broker is licensed, they are regulated by the government
and thus your contract is eligible for more protection under the conditions set forth by the said law.
Nonetheless, there are some rogue agents or consultants who are not licensed in Japan.
For example, such rogue agents put up advertisements for properties on which they have not been
instructed to promote in an attempt to get a cut of the fees.