Marc has lived in Japan for about 15 years and recently bought his dream home on the world famous island of Naoshima. In this interview, Marc shares with us about the real estate market in Naoshima, the challenges of working with renovation contractors, and convincing the owners to sell the house to him!
*All the photos on this page are of Marc’s house.
Would you mind quickly introducing yourself to our readers? How long have you lived in Japan and what brought you there originally?
Marc: Hello Michael! My name is Marc and my wife is Juliette. I have been living in Japan for about 15 years all together.
I came to Japan for the first time in 1996 when I was 16, as my parents were tired of hearing me talk about Japan (lol). They kindly bought me a plane ticket (my first international trip) and told me to go and check it out by myself. I arrived in Narita and after a bus ride through rice fields, I was catapulted into Shinjuku. I remember stepping out of the bus, and looking around: I felt like I was in the movie Akira (the anime) and I fell in love.
“We spent a week (in Naoshima) during summer time and rented a small place.
I really felt strongly connected to this island.”
Where is your house? Why did you choose that location?
Marc: Our house is located in Naoshima, Kagawa prefecture. Naoshima is known for its famous museums and art house projects in the inland sea of Japan (Naoshima, Teshima, Inujima).
My wife introduced me to Naoshima a couple of years ago and we stayed at Benesse Hotel. What an experience — it was just mind blowing.
Then couple of years later, we came back to Naoshima as we were not allowed to leave Japan due to Covid. We spent a week there during summer time and rented a small place. I really felt strongly connected to this island.
I was able to connect with some people from the island and asked if it was possible to buy property. The answer was really simple: there is no real estate market in Naoshima. Availabilty is scarce and when it opens, you don’t know about it as they keep opportunities within the community. However, we got super lucky as one of the local who became my friend after this trip told me that one house would become vacant and that I should come immediately. Which we did and acquired this lovely house built in the 60’s.
“There is no real estate market in Naoshima. Availabilty is scarce and when it opens, you don’t know about it as they keep opportunities within the community.”
What was the most difficult thing about the buying process? Was there anything surprising?
Marc: The most difficult thing about the process was to convince the owners to sell that house to us. They carefully screened who we were — it was like a job interview! I had to explain my family situation, why Naoshima, and what I will do with the house and so forth. It was reassuring somehow as they loved their house so much, they really wanted us to take care of it.
As for surprises, there were many! For example, there were no clear house plans, size calculation, plot size canvas, etc. Everything was everywhere and we had to gather all of it by ourselves — with their help, but still! It was surprising.
“Some owners want to sell fast and need the cash.
So be ready and quick otherwise the house of your dreams will go to somebody else.”“
What renovations did you do? How long did the whole renovation process take and how much did it cost? Were there any unexpected costs?
Marc: The house itself was so well maintained (it was renovated 2 or 3 times in 50 years) that we didn’t plan on doing anything for a while. It is very nice as it is.
However, we will start some renovation works in Jan 2022 for 3 months. We will emphasize the Showa style of it, make it even more authentic, building a wooden deck around the house and adding pergolas to get a nice beach house feeling to it. The cost will be around 100k USD, but we went full out and like I said the house as it is has worked well.
Unexpected costs, no, but more like everything is expensive in Japan when you renovate. It takes a lot of time with the contractors to explain what you want, as they want to make it perfect. It’s hard for them to understand foreigners taste and you have to go into much detail to avoid miscommunication.
“It takes a lot of time with the contractors to explain what you want, as they want to make it perfect. It’s hard for them to understand foreigners taste and you have to go into so much detail to avoid miscommunication.“
If you could do it all again, what would you have done differently?
Marc: One lesson: Some owners want to sell fast and need the cash. So be ready and quick otherwise the house of your dreams will go to somebody else.
Also, if you know you will need some renovations, take a loan that will combine the price of the house + reno. You cannot get loan in japan for reno works only, so be careful!
Anything else that you’d like to share with Cheap Houses Japan readers?
Marc: Please come and visit us, and spread the word if some friends want to rent it:
This is how the house looks now (before the renovation).
Marc's House Photo Gallery
A big thank you to Marc for sharing his story here. What do you think of his house?
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Looking for more advice about buying a house in Japan? Read this article I wrote: