A riddle

The house pictured above is on a major road in the city of Inzai, Chiba Prefecture. It was built in 2004 on a 446.28-square-meter plot of land. The floor area of the house itself is 82.29 square meters. It is less than one minute from a bus station. The bus ride from that station to Inzai Makinohara station on the Hokuso train line is 13 minutes (from Inzai Makinohara to Nihombashi is a little less than an hour). Since the land is relatively large, there are none of the usual privacy problems one gets in Japanese housing developments, and the lack of buildings in the surrounding area means the house gets a lot of sunshine from three different directions.

According to Inzai city records, the average price of a single-family home in this particular area of the city is ¥24 million. This house is now on sale for ¥15 million. It has been on sale for more than three months, which is why we went to see what it looked like. With the conditions we mentioned above, this should be a steal, but for some reason no one seems to want it. Of course, normally in Japan, a house that’s older than 20 years, unless it’s in the middle of a major city, has no value. This one isn’t that old, and though it’s hardly impressive in terms of design or style, it still seems to be in good shape. Moreover, the land, which is on a major thoroughfare, should be worth quite a bit (if Inzai’s assessment protocols can be considered accurate).

But even if the property’s continued vacancy seems a mystery, it’s not a place that we ourselves would ever want to own, and maybe that feeling, more than the logic of the economics, says something.


  1. Miko · December 4, 2011

    Every once in a while I see places like that, and I can never figure out why they remain vacant for so long. They always look depressingly similar, though. That house, for example, could be one of any number that I see in the suburbs of Kobe, where I live.

    You mention bus and train lines. What is a typical commuting time in that area? I’m doing an easy 30-minute door-to-door commute (monorail 9mins, train 7mins, walking/waiting time about 15mins – none of it during rush hour, I always get a seat) and yet it’s driving me nuts to the extent that I’m thinking of moving and/or quitting my job and getting a crappy job in a local supermarket or something. Anything to avoid the trains. How much does commuting time factor into the decision to buy a home in the Kanto area? Do people even feel they have much of a choice in the matter? Is it a major issue for you?

    One thing’s for sure, my next home (if I ever move again) will be within walking distance of my job.


    • catforehead · December 4, 2011

      We both work at home, but occasionally have to go into Tokyo for work-related reasons. As a daily commute, the journey from the house depicted to Tokyo would be quite a grind, but we know a lot of people who put up with worse and so we don’t think that’s the main reason the house remains unsold. There really are just too many “used” properties on the market and we have a feeling that anybody who might have shown interest in this particular one probably thinks if they wait a few more months the price will go down even further–it happens all the time. And if somebody else snatches it up before that, no big deal. It’s not as if it’s anyone’s dream house.


  2. Ἀντισθένης · December 4, 2011

    A suicide would do that to the price in Japan.


    • Miko · December 4, 2011

      Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Either a suicide, or the death of a lone elderly person that went undiscovered for a while. However, don’t those kinds of unfortunate deaths usually take place in apartments, rather than in (relatively modern) family homes?


      • catforehead · December 5, 2011

        If the low price has anything to do with death, it more likely would be connected to suicide or what is euphemistically termed “foul play.” The death of an elderly person might devalue the property in the eyes of some potential buyers, but real estate agents aren’t obliged to inform buyers of the fact. However, according to the law, if someone killed himself or was murdered in the house, the agent would have to tell anyone looking to buy about it. In any case, in Japan almost no one who is sick and about to pass away dies at home. Unless the death is sudden and unexpected, old people invariably die in hospitals or care facilities, whether they want to or not.


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