After falling in love with Japan in 2007, Sydney-based retired couple Julie and Charlie took the plunge and bought a holiday home in Japan in 2018. I finally got the chance to sit down with her and ask about their experience, regrets, the buying process, the renovations and all the nitty-gritty details they didn’t quite expect to encounter along the way.
Would you mind quickly introducing yourself to our readers? How long have you been visiting Japan, and what brought you there originally?
Julie: Hello! My name is Julie, and our home-base is in Sydney. We initially visited Japan in 2007 on a family holiday with our two, then, adolescent daughters. It was the eldest daughter’s infatuation with Sailor Moon that prompted the choice!
We fell in love with the country, the culture, arts, organisation and a hundred other things. We subsequently returned for about a fortnight every year or so.
In 2018 both my husband and I retired and we were determined to buy a holiday house in Japan. Owning a house meant we could spend more time in Japan with less expense.
“Owning a house meant we could spend more time in Japan with less expense.”
Where is your house? Why did you choose that location?
Julie: We decided we couldn’t afford Tokyo and settled on Osaka as being closer to the sea and a less costly location.
What was the most difficult thing about the buying process? Was there anything surprising?
Julie: Immediately obvious was the need to hire the services of an interpreter.
We gave ourselves 6 weeks to find a house. We barely made it! Adjusting to a Japanese way of doing things was challenging.
Things unfolded rather slowly; for instance, we would get in the real estate agent’s car to spend the day with a list of five houses to see and ultimately might see two. Because… we needed to stop for a morning break, lunch (altogether in a restaurant), and afternoon tea. In between, driving in Osaka city traffic was/is insanely time consuming. It was all – except for the traffic – very pleasant and civilised. Just not speedy!
Our real estate agents tried very hard to provide us with houses which met our criteria: inexpensive, mostly traditional interior, and a tiled bathing and toilet area (no fibreglass, thank you!). Also, we wanted the oldest house they could find.
Ultimately, we made about 3 different offers on places. We found that “counter offers” were often not made; particularly if we ‘low balled’ the offer. Finally we found just the right place.
“It was more like buying a car rather than a house”
The actual purchasing ran very much along what would be conventional Australian practice. Actually, more practically like buying a car rather than a house. With the exception of two things:
- We were required to provide proof of who we were and where we lived in Australia. Passport, birth certificate, driver’s licence were not good enough – we needed a notary public from/in Australia to verify we were who we said we were.
- The real estate agent offered us a home insurance policy (we didn’t have to take it; could have gotten our own). It was a really good policy and very convenient, so we took it.
Approximately how much did you purchase your house for?
Julie: The house price was AUS $61,700 [$45,310 USD].
What renovations did you do? How long did the whole renovation process take and how much did it cost? Were there any unexpected costs?
Jule: On our first trip back to Japan after the purchase, we (again with the help of our interpreter) replaced all of the tatami flooring, as well as the fusuma or sliding interior doors.
I honestly cannot remember the actual cost, but several thousand dollars. Like under Australian $10k and more than $5k.
If you could do it all again, what would you have done differently?
Julie: We actually slightly regret not buying out of an urban centre. It seemed at the time that living in a rural area would make it too difficult for friends and family to visit… which we now know to be untrue.
As long as you are not buying in a completely remote location, there will be transport of some kind in some time frame available.
“Our daily expenses are actually lower than daily expenses back in Sydney”
Anything else that you’d like to share with Cheap Houses Japan readers?
Julie: I would encourage anyone who can afford to buy a holiday house overseas, to seriously consider Japan. We have personally found that while we are in the house that our daily expenses are actually lower than daily expenses back in Sydney.
It is so much fun to walk, bike ride, goof around (temple markets… wow, the best!!!). Just go for it!
Julie and Charlie's House Photo Gallery
A big thanks to Julie for sharing her story here. What do you think? Would you buy a house like theirs in Osaka?
If you need inspiration to find your dream vacation house in Japan, follow Cheap Houses Japan on Instagram.
Many of the photos of Julie and Charlie’s house were taken by a family friend Lorrie Graham. Check out her write up about the house and more photos here.