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You could buy an empty house in Japan for as little as $500

Some local authorities are even giving properties away for free to solve their empty house – or ‘akiya’ – problem

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson

Struggling to get on the property ladder? In search of adventure after months locked down in your poky little flat? Here’s a solution for you: move to Japan!

It may come as a surprise given the population density of the country as a whole, but Japan has a real problem with abandoned houses, which is great news for prospective homeowners. 

In a bid to fill some of these empty abodes – known as akiya – local authorities are offering people the chance to snap up a house for as little as $500 (£362). Some are even giving properties away for free, offering renovation grants or subsidising childcare for young families who move into the area.

And to help prospective buyers to find the perfect property, many have also set up online ‘akiya banks’, databases that list all of the abandoned houses available in an area. 

Conducted every five years, Japan’s most recent Housing and Land Survey in 2018 recorded a massive 8.49 million empty homes across the country – or 13.6 percent of the total housing stock.

The country’s ageing population is largely to blame. Many houses are being left empty as older inhabitants move into care homes or pass away, with fewer young people to take them on afterwards. 

The issue is particularly pronounced in the prefectures of Wakayama, Tokushima, Kagoshima and Kochi, where home vacancy rates are all above 18 percent. And it’s not just rural areas where the properties can be found, with plenty of empty houses available on the outskirts of major cities including Tokyo and Osaka too.

Already researching overseas removal companies? There a dozens of websites and blogs that collate the various akiya banks and offer advice on relocating. You might need to brush up on your Japanese first, though!

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