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Here’s why Japan is giving away houses for free

Japan is giving away free houses. Image: Getty

Too difficult to break into the Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart or Canberra housing market? You should try Japan.

Home to sushi, sumo wrestlers and numerous high-tech companies, it’s also suffering a chronic oversupply of houses.

The problem is so bad, Japan has actually started selling them for minimal sums or even letting them go for free, according to Insider.

That’s unusual, what’s going on?

Japan, like many countries, is dealing with a top-heavy population. There are more older Japanese people moving out of their homes on the outskirts of the major cities than there are young people willing to buy them.

The country’s population is set to fall from 127 million to 88 million by 2065, the National Institute of Population and Social Security notes.

And, according to the Japan Policy Forum there were 61 million houses in 2013, but only 52 million of these we occupied.


Then, there’s the fact that young Japanese people are also slower to start families and as such don’t require larger homes.

Another problem.

Japanese superstition can also have an impact. Properties that have seen suicides, murders or lonely deaths are difficult to shift.

In fact, there’s a site called Oshimaland which lists properties like these.

That’s another problem for sellers.

How do you buy these houses?

The unoccupied properties are often listed on online databases called akiya banks. Akiya means vacant house.

The akiya bank scheme matches buyers with homeowners and empty properties, and each town sets their own rules for akiya schemes.

In some, the house may be handed over for just the price of the agent and processing fees while others will subsidise the cost of renovations.

Other towns, like Okutama near Tokyo, stipulate that buyers need to be younger than 40, or have at least one child under 18 to encourage a younger generation of homeowners.

They also require buyers remain in the town and commit to renovating the home.

Japan isn’t the only country giving away free homes

You could snap up an Italian castle for free, provided you commit to transforming it into a tourist destination.

The 103 buildings, offered through Italy’s State property Agency last year, are all placed along historic routes throughout the country.

“The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector,” Roberto Reggi from the State Property Agency told The Local Italy.

“The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists.”

Or you could try Chile, Mauritius, Ireland and Spain. All four of these countries are home to towns which will pay expats to move there.

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