Soft sell the hard way

The one that got away

Most of the properties we inspect we find over the Internet. Sometimes they’re on real estate portal sites like Suumo, which includes listings of multiple agents, and some are on sites run by individual real estate companies. If we want to inspect a property we find on a portal site, we usually call the real estate agent whose office is closest to the property itself, because we know what a pain it is for an agent to come a long distance just to open a house up for maybe fifteen minutes without much chance of a sale. Remember that real estate agents are salespeople, which means even if they know there isn’t much chance of selling a particular property they have to be polite, and we try to make their job easier.

So we were totally unprepared for the attitude we encountered last week when we called a realtor about a property in central Chiba. The house was 94 square meters on a piece of land covering 191 square meters. It was built in 1980, which is pretty old by Japanese standards, but it only cost ¥6.5 million. The picture of the exterior was impressive enough to make us think that it could be remodeled into something pretty good, since at that price we could afford to put more money into it. We found the property listed four times on one particular portal site and called the realtor whose office was closest to the house. Also, we were planning to be in the area to inspect another property, so thought we’d kill two birds with one stone. This is how the conversation went.

(After many rings, a gruff male voice answers saying the name of the realtor)

“Hello. We’d like to inspect the ¥6.5 million house you have listed for Honda in Chiba.”

-“Why do you want to buy a house?”

(This threw us off immediately. He didn’t ask what sort of house we were looking for or why we liked this particular one, but why we wanted to buy a house. As we pondered an answer he laughed.)

-“Do you know this area?”

“We know a little bit…”

-“Do you know what people call this area?”


-“It’s called the Tibet of Chiba.”

“Well, there are lots of places called the Tibet of wherever.” (Usually, the term refers to a residential area that’s remote–we once lived in a place called the Tibet of Kawasaki.)

-“Yes, but this is the real Tibet. When you say ‘the Tibet of Chiba’ to a person from Chiba, they know exactly where it is.”

“Well, we’re looking for a cheap place, a place that we can remodel in a way we like, so we want to see it in order to figure out how much remodeling would be necessary. Also, the property seems to be open on three sides, which is good for us.”

-“But it’s the Tibet of Chiba.”

“Yes, we understand. It’s far from the station and that’s probably why it’s cheap. But we would still like to see it.”

-“When do you want to come?”


-“And how would you get here?”

“By train.”

-“Can you come to our office?”

“We can just meet you at the property if you give us the address.”

-“But how will you get to the property?”

“We’ll walk.” (We understood how odd this sounds to most realtors, but we usually like to get a feel for the area by arriving early and walking around.)

-“There’s no bus.” (According to all four ads, there is a bus from the station that takes ten minutes to get to the property.)

“Like we said, we’ll walk.”

-“You can’t walk. It would take more than an hour.” (All four ads also say it takes 20-25 minutes to walk to the property.)

“Well, we’ll work that out…”

-“You’re not going to like it.”

“Uh, so, you don’t want to sell it? Is there a problem with the property that isn’t mentioned in the ad?”

-“The house is fine. But only two people out of ten find this house at all appealing.”

(Two out of ten? At this point, the agent, who talks like a gangster, is starting to scare us, so we quickly tried to find an excuse to hang up.)

“Oh, we see, it’s in a housing development. Actually, we didn’t realize that before.”

-“You don’t like housing developments?”

“No, we don’t.”

And we hung up. After running the conversation over in our mind we realized the agent had our number: We were one of those couples who are never satisfied, so it was a waste of his time to show us the property. Still, we’d never been confronted with that sort of sales style. Now we really want to see the property.


  1. Mr Squid · April 19, 2012

    Many thanks for the interesting blog, we’re looking at buying a house in Japan and this site has been very informative.

    Not related to this post, but some of the properties we’ve looked at are located on private roads and are have a 私道負担 clause/condition/whatever. Do you have any posts/articles which cover this? It’s easy enough to work out the general principle, but I haven’t found any examples of what this might involve in practice.


    • catforehead · April 19, 2012

      It means you own part of the road that leads to your property along with your neighbors. In practice, that means it’s your property but you can’t do what you want with it. You can’t build on it or alter it in any way, and in terms of the occupancy rate for your particular piece of land you can’t factor it in–meaning the occupancy rate only applies to the land your house is on. It also means you are responsible for its upkeep along with the other owners.


  2. David · April 24, 2012

    Do you still have the link for this listing?

    That picture and the price make it sound interesting.


  3. Odaikorob · April 27, 2012

    Very interesting real estate agent I must say! Assume you are going to view the house despite the agent trying to put you off. I would definitely view the place just because the agent was so caustic! Do post up again once you’ve been to the place. I for one am very intrigued and think you should definitely go see the property.


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