According to the government, new housing starts in 2009 were the lowest they’ve been in 45 years. At 788,410 units, it was also the first time since 1967 that the number of new housing starts fell below a million, and the 27.9 percent year-on-year drop was the highest since 1974.
Meanwhile, the used housing and reform markets are doing quite well. The used housing sales company Livita, a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric, recently told Asahi Shimbun that about a year ago they noticed a large spike of interest in older homes that has only increased since then. Part of Livita’s business is to buy company housing complexes that are not longer occupied and convert them for sale. A potential buyer chooses a unit and then instructs the company as to how he or she wants it to be remodeled.
At a study session for just such a complex in Kawasaki last weekend, there were between three and five potential buyers for each unit that was going on sale. The average size of the units was 70 square meters at an average price of ¥27 million, which is about 30 percent less than comparable new condos in the same area. “We automatically think new condos are better,” one interested buyer told the paper, “but these are really quite appealing, and they’re much cheaper.”
Misawa Home has reported that new home sales in the Tokyo Metropolitan area in Dec. were 20 percent less than they were in Dec. 2008, while used home sales rose 18.2 percent over the same period. In addition, remodeling sales have increased by 3.8 percent. One remodeling industry association said that homes built to earthquake standards in the 1980s are particular popular for “reform-minded” buyers.
Part of the Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto for the last election stated that Japan’s housing police must change and that “remodeling older homes” should be prioritized.