While inspecting any property is important, it becomes even more uppermost to check for defects found in second-hand property especially akiya (空き家abandoned houses)
In Japan’s real estate industry, it is generally assumed that there are four types of risks of ‘defects’ （瑕疵）the industry professionals usually recognize.
They are physical defects, psychological defects, environmental defects
and legal defect (issues).
1. What is a physical defect?
Physical flaws are situations where the building leaks, termites occur, and the earthquake resistant strength is insufficient.
Some common physical issues
For example, with 8 million akiya (Abandoned house, 空き家),
old houses are usually very affordable in Japan these days. However, those old houses could also come with a lot of issues that you may not be prepared for.
What seems like a great deal at first may ultimately cost much more than you originally thought.
It is always recommended to do your research before investing in real estate, particularly when the property in question is old property.
The following checklist will give you an idea of what issues to watch out for when buying a second-hand property especially an older home.
Due diligence always pays off.
You want to avoid common physical defects, problems with the construction structure.
Japan has the risk of earthquake.
You remember the earthquake in Kobe in 1995 and Tsunami disaster in Fukushima in 2011.
Although Japan’s earthquake-resistant technology of buildings is considerably advanced than that of other countries,
we have to be realistic.
In the interest of personal safety and protecting the value of what is likely your biggest financial asset,
prospective buyers and investors should be aware of any natural disaster risk impacting a potential property purchase.
If the building is broken or collapsed due to an earthquake, you cannot get rent.
In most cases, learning about natural disaster risk will not stop investment, but it will help investors make a better-informed decision about where to buy and preparing in terms of appropriate insurance coverage depending on the type of natural disaster risks most affecting the property.
Unfortunately we don’t have a comprehensive ‘natural disaster risk score’ covering whole Japan announced by the government or a certain institute but on the prefecture and city level, many prefectures and cities
release ‘hazard maps’ to show the risks of natural disasters
in the area.
Do you want to buy a house or invest in Japan ?
If you’re considering an international investment property, step one is to find a good real estate agent who understands the country’s regulations,
especially if you’re not fluent in the local language.
Next question is what sort of criteria for judgement do you have in your mind for finding a property ?
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never find it.
How about crime rate ?
Japan is safe.
Having lived in Kobe, Kawasaki, Tokyo, Sydney, Gold Coast, London
and travelled over 25 countries, I can assure it. And crime rates are an important indicator to analyze when looking for an investment property.
Buying the property in a high crime country or area can be risky not only to you, but also to your investment or even to your tenants.
High crime generally reduces the values of properties in a given area.
A study in USA for example, found that a 10 percent reduction in homicides resulted in an 0.83 percent increase in housing values the following year.
Needless to say, people in Japan do care about the safety in the neighborhood.
I am not saying that you can’t make money in areas with higher crime.
There could be a good number of investments in areas with a relatively high crime rate. There are still?plenty of good people in those areas that you can make money renting or selling to.
But the important thing is to know what you are getting into.
It is important up front to decide what kind of risk tolerance you have and what types of areas you are willing to invest in.
But how safe is Japan ?
Once you’ve decided on what kind of areas(countries) you are looking to invest in,
you can start to research them. Always ask Google first.
Here is the some statical data on some developed countries by UN, GLOBAL STUDY on HOMICIDE 2013.
UN GLOBAL HOMICIDE DATA 2013
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)
Some critics in the industry are predicting the price of condominiums in Tokyo shall drop soon simply because they are too expensive for people to buy.
According to Nikkei in December 2017, the average price of a newly built condo in the capital region — Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama
and Chiba — rose 7.6% in 2017 to 59.08 million yen ($533,000).That was higher than the average in 1989 and 1991 and the second-highest level ever,
trailing only the 1990 record by 2.15 million yen.
Are condominiums really too expensive ? Are those critics are right ?
We need a crystal ball to predict the future
but today I am going to discuss the reason why the price of condominiums may go down.
Personally though, I am still mildly bullish about the market right now due the global aspect (see below UBS report)
and the healthy growth of the secondhand condominium market.
It is always to good to listen to the people with different opinions.
Let’s listen to what critics have to say.
We saw the condominiums developers go bankrupt one after another in the recession after the global financial crisis in 2008.
Nonetheless, the current price of newly built condominiums in greater Tokyo area has risen up sharply over several years and they are becoming more and more unaffordable for average salaried workers.
In the latest Tokyo kantei report in 2017, the average price of new condominiums are about 8-10 times higher than average annual income of the skilled workers in greater Tokyo area.(vs. 14 times in London)
London house price
The reason for raising is not because real demand is strong because everyone wants to buy them.
Previously I discussed the defect risks when you acquire the property.
Today I will discuss the risks while you are owning the property.
In fact, there are several challenges while you own and manage the property.
Vacancy is one of them.
Vacant rooms obviously do not generate any income so it is very important
to fill your property (whether it is a rental house or a small multiunit rental property) with good, rent-paying tenants.
However in practice, you will see vacant rooms for certain time period over the years and there are tenants who don’t honor the leasing contract.
Let’s look at the ‘vacancy risk’ and how to mitigate such risk.
The beauty of real estate investment in Japan is that your can expect very
stable income every month. Rents are usually paid monthly.
Therefore finding stable trustworthy tenants is a key for success.
However, due to certain reasons such as inconvenient location of the property,
Investors may face the situation where the property being vacant.
If your occupancy rate is very poor, you may have the problems to pay back
the loan. That is the ‘vacancy risk’.
There are risks associated with any investment – loss of capital, finance, leverage and liquidity risks and so on.
Not like buying the paper assets such as REITS, many of these are only relevant to the direct investment (where the investor invests, owns and has control over the real estate asset).
This article will highlight the main risks associated with investing in real estate in Japan and provides commentary on how to analyse and mitigate these risks.
Today I am going to discuss the risks at time of acquisition.
Unlike regulated industries such as accounting and financial planning, working for a property company (as distinct from working as a traditional real estate agent),
does not require a great deal of education, experience, or study prowess. Marketing investment property requires nothing really but the ability to sell.
That is one of the reasons why there are unlicensed (often rogue )
‘property consultants’ in Japan.
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 protected by the said law.
For more information, please see my post on February 11, 2018.
Are there any rogue real estate agents in Japan ?
At the end of the day, even the good agents cannot guarantee the success of the investment and thus investors must learn the risks and returns
before they make a investment.