There’s good news for struggling millennial homebuyer who are moving to the land of the rising sun. Japan is giving away free homes or selling them at large discounts as part of a government scheme to tackle the country’s unique housing crisis.
In 2013, more than eight million properties across Japan were unoccupied, according to a government report. And the situation is expected to worsen as the nation’s population is expected to decline from 127 million to about 88 million by 2065, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security, meaning even fewer people will need houses.
Some of them can be yours for free or for very low prices and the government may give you a subsidy to renovate one. There are even databases devoted to helping people find these homes, known as “akiya banks”. These databases are generally organized by region.
The akiya scheme aims to tackle the issue while helping young people get onto the property ladder. The scheme also hopes to revitalize towns that were expected to vanish.
Prices on one particular akiya database don’t go any higher than a maximum of 30 million yen (about $360,000 Australian dollars), while many properties are listed under “gratis transfer” for the sum of literally zero yen. Pay a few taxes and some agent commission fees and the place is yours.
What’s driving the government to give away homes? It’s understood that Japan’s akiya glut is due in part to the nation’s dramatically ageing population. Another factor is superstition.
Properties associated with tragedies such as suicide, murder, or “lonely deaths” are thought to bring bad luck in Japanese culture, making it harder to sell them on to a new owner and further feeding the surfeit of vacant properties that are slowly falling into disrepair around the country.
So, what do you have to do to claim one of these homes? Move to Japan, for starters, since the only requirement is a permanent resident visa. For that, you’ll just need to be a highly-skilled immigrant or have a job offer.