Shenike bought her first house for 2.5 million yen and her second house for only 230,000 yen — and those numbers are including taxes and realtor fees! Here she shares her thoughts and experiences about buying and renovating her houses.
*All the photos on this page are of the houses Shenike bought and the surroundings.
Would you mind quickly introducing yourself to our readers? How long have you lived in Japan and what brought you there originally?
Where is your house? Why did you choose that location?
Shenike: My partner and I bought our 2 houses in Sasebo, Nagasaki (Kyushu). The reason being is that we saw it as a business opportunity since there is a shortage of houses for Navy personnel within our area.
“The most difficult thing for us is the language barrier. I’ll do the basic conversations via emails as I can easily translate it. However, we have our personal translator who works with us during the house closing.”
What was the most difficult thing about the buying process? Was there anything surprising?
Shenike: The most difficult thing for us is the language barrier. We aren’t proficient in Japanese therefore, I’ll do the basic conversations via emails as I can easily translate it. However, we have our personal translator who works with us during the house closing.
Approximately how much did you purchase the houses for? Were there any unexpected costs?
Shenike: My partner and I bought two houses within 5 months, yes I know that’s crazy. Our first house, which is about 68 years old, was selling for ¥2,000,000. However, we got it for ¥1,000,000. During the closing, we spent nearly ¥1,500,000 total including realtor’s fee, translator fee, scrivener fee, house taxes and 5 years insurance.
The second house was a God send. I rarely talk about this one because no one would believe me but I magically found a house selling on the local Akiya site for ¥30,000. This house is roughly the same age but way bigger than our first house. We spent roughly ¥200,000 during closing which covered the usual fees. The most expensive fee was the scrivener’s, which was over ¥100,000.
“The renovation for our first house was a headache but low-key, I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Approximately how much did you purchase your house for? Were there any unexpected costs?
Shenike: The renovation for our first house was a headache but low-key, I enjoyed every bit of it. The disadvantage of buying a house as a foreigner in Japan is that you can’t access ANY LOANS! So everything was cash which sucked us dry for a bit.
The first house is a two-story house. We decided it was best to move in but for us to make it liveable we had a lot of renovation to do. As I mentioned before, this house is 68 years old. The walls were a mixture of mud and bamboo while the floors were either very old tatami which I hate or soft wooden floors. I found a Japanese contractor (sent from heaven) who was kind and willing to work with us even though he doesn’t speak English. It would have cost us about ¥5,000,000 cash to do both floors so my partner and I decided to only complete the first floor so that we could move in asap.
The 1st floor project cost us ¥2,400,000 and the project was completed within 6 weeks. It could have been shorter if the kitchen set arrived on time. Although the project was ¥2,400,000, my partner and I thought it was best to purchase the kitchen set and bathroom set off our credit cards, therefore having to generate less cash in hand. With that said, I definitely never got my ideal dream plan but it worked out quite well and I love it each and everyday.
Another thing about this project is that our contractor was so understanding that we only paid him half the amount upfront and paid off the rest in monthly payments.
“You will never get your plan. You have to be flexible to the changes.”
If you could do it all again, what would you have done differently?
Shenike: You will never get your plan. You have to be flexible to the changes. That one hurt me a little. Budgeting is important. Never fool yourself. Sit with your contractor and plan it out. Contractors are human beings too. I definitely learned a lot through this renovation. I will be working on the second half of the house this summer then we’ll start to work on the second house.
Shenike's House Photo Gallery
A big thank you to Shenike for sharing her story here. What do you think? Would you buy a fixer upper to rent out in Japan?
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Looking for more advice about buying a house in Japan? Read this article I wrote: