Japan's immigrant population has radically increased over the years, and many have made Japan their permanent home.
For many immigrants, renting or purchasing a new house seems like a daunting task. But with the rise of abandoned homes in Japan, it has led many to wonder if foreign expats can purchase them?
Today, we will discuss all about the things you need to know when purchasing a house from the "Akiya bank" and what documents you need to translate from English to Japanese.
Let's get started!
Why Are Abandoned Homes on the Rise in Japan?
There are several reasons why "abandoned homes" or Akiya has been on the rise in Japan over the years. One of the most influential factors, however, is largely due to the aging population of Japanese nationals.
Japan is considered one of the countries with the lowest fertility rates in the world. With most of the younger population opting to live in metropolitan areas, many communities have struggled to maintain their population.
Insider reported that because of the limited job opportunities, closed communities, and declined states of provincial areas, the majority of youth choose to stay in cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
Another reason these homes are unappealing is that in some provincial areas, "ghost towns" have sprung up. So even if you bought a cheap property in the area due to the house's conditions still being livable, you would be surrounded by Akiya houses, having little human interaction.
Because of this, the Japanese government has found it difficult to attract younger couples and youth to move back to the province. This has led to many local governments developing Akiya banks.
What is an Akiya Bank?
An Akiya Bank is not a bank per se, but a property information service that local governments run to attract occupants to vacant houses in their area. Depending on the prefecture, some areas provide real estate tax breaks and various subsidies to owners purchasing Akiya properties.
Can Foreigners Buy Akiya in Japan?
Like with any real estate property, foreigners or "gaijin" can purchase Akiya homes. The same rules in purchasing real estate applied to both Japanese and foreigners. Unlike other Asian countries, there aren't restrictions, and you can own land on a freehold basis.
However, when purchasing Akiya homes, they might have special requirements for interested buyers. For example, they might prefer selling the property to those younger than 40 years old and offer incentives for couples with children.
Most often, the pre-requisite to purchasing an abandoned home, especially in rural areas, is that the homeowners will be living in those houses and renovating them. Because of dwindling populations in the provinces, it's not surprising that many provinces have this as a requirement as they want to increase the number of residents and improve their communities.
This largely depends if you're purchasing from the property's owner, a real estate agent, a national tax agency, or Akiya bank. Some Akiya is being auctioned online and at the Akiya bank's office or tax collection agency. You will have to outbid other interested buyers, which could increase the cost of your dream house.
The national tax collection agency is in possession of abandoned homes due to previous owners not paying real estate property tax. Sometimes, inheritors of the property don't want to pay mortgages or debts linked to the property and so disinherit themselves from it. It is how the property ends up in an Akiya bank or the national tax collection agency.
Rural Japan is bountiful with unique beauty and natural landscapes
Should You Translate Your Documents to Japanese on Your Own?
Besides being able to understand and speak Japanese, you will also need to have all your documents translated from English to Japanese. But what if you're fluent in the Japanese language? Would it be okay if you were the one to translate the documents?
Even if you're proficient in the Japanese language, it's not advisable to translate official documents on your own for various reasons. Translating documents requires the following formats that Japan's public and private institutions would accept.
Translating documents requires expertise in understanding the legal and government systems and the cultural nuances of the documents' origin and target country. This is why many agencies and institutions dealing with real estate and legal proceedings require certified translators to translate official documents.
With how sensitive and critical official documents dealing with the purchase of real estate properties are, like Akiya, working with professionals in certified Japanese translation services will ensure it makes the process fast and efficient while complying with the Japanese real estate and legal system. Many certified Japanese translators work under strict protocols that guarantee quality and are up to international standards, like the ISO.
List of documents you will have to consider when purchasing an Akiya house:
- Personal Documents (Passport, Visa, etc.)
- Mortgage document
- Registration certificate
- Tax-related documents
- Stamp Duty
- Financial Documents (Bank statements, Income Reports, etc.)
- Documents establishing the property's boundary
- Building or Renovation Permits
Some of the documents mentioned above will need to be translated by a certified Japanese translation expert, while others you can file yourself.
Suppose you're not proficient with the Japanese language. In that case, it's always good to talk with language experts and get the opinion of a real estate property agent or lawyer to assist with all matters pertaining to your real estate property purchase.
The Pros and Cons of Purchasing Akiya
Like with all things when investing, whether it's for real estate properties or stocks, it's best that you weigh the Pros and Cons before purchasing them, which we have listed below.
The Advantages of Purchasing an Abandoned Home in Japan
For families wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, owning an Akiya will be perfect for you. It will also allow your family to live on a bigger property wherein you can garden, and your kids can run around, which in big cities it's not possible.
Even if you're an immigrant with a working visa, you can still purchase an Akiya property, especially if you have been living in Japan for several years.
Many of the Akiya homes are traditional Japanese homes. If you're a big fan of traditional Japanese architecture and not so much modern Japanese homes, you might consider purchasing an Akiya.
As previously stated, many rural areas are trying to attract more people to their communities. Because of this, they provide special offers, like subsidies and tax exemptions, when purchasing an Akiya from their district or prefecture. For example, in some provinces, for each child you have, they will provide deductions on your monthly mortgages or provide additional monetary subsidies.
If you're a strong believer in the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Purchasing an Akiya will allow your family to be a part of tight-knit communities where you can develop a close relationship with your neighbors.
The Disadvantages of Purchasing an Abandoned Home in Japan
Renovation costs can be expensive. For example, the most common problem old abandoned homes face is termites. You will need to hire exterminators and refurbish the wooden parts of the structure.
There might be hidden costs. For example, some Akiya may be free, but when you apply for the registration, you might be shocked to find that before it became an "Akiya," its "fixed asset" was valued at a high price. And so when you register it, you will be taxed for registration, property acquisition, fixed asset, city planning, and stamp duty. All of this could cost you 174,000 JP Yen and above.
Very far from major cities. It's problematic because this means you might have a lot of job opportunities when you move to your new home.
Closed communities. There are drawbacks to having tight-knit communities, such as locals being wary of new occupants. It's best that before you purchase a home, you get to know your future neighbors so that the transition wouldn't be much of a problem.
Is Buying an Abandoned Home in Japan right for you?
Finding a place where you can call your home as a foreigner might seem like an unlikely dream, but in Japan, your dream can become a reality. But like all dreams made into reality, you will have to put in the effort to turn an abandoned home into your dream house.
Besides overcoming cultural and language barriers by working with professionals in certified Japanese translation, you will also need the help of local government officials and real estate experts in drawing out plans and preparing for your purchase from an Akiya bank.
Myko Mendoza has formerly worked in customs transactions, and maintains an in-depth knowledge of global immigration and business trading. She has written several articles on immigration, language barriers, and tips for living and working abroad.
👉 Contact Myko Today and make your relocation dreams to Japan that much closer to a reality!