Move Over Italy – Japan Is Also Selling Off Abandoned Bargain Homes to Lure Residents

Italy isn't the only place to score a major deal on an abandoned home.

Japan is also dotted with unoccupied homes called akiya — an estimated eight million of them. And like their Italian counterparts, Japanese officials are willing to let some of them go for free in the hopes of revitalizing rural areas across the country, Nikkei Asia reports.

Even when the houses aren't free, local governments across Japan are giving away things like renovation grants and subsidizing both purchases and childcare for families making a move, according to Nikkei. And in some cases, officials are changing zoning laws to allow for these old homes to be transformed into new businesses.

One town, Okutama, gave away three dilapidated properties, one of which is set to become a restaurant, Nikkei reports.

The rise of remote work during the pandemic has helped these efforts. One Japanese town, Fujikawaguchiko — which sits at the foothills of iconic Mount Fuji — said it has seen more young families taking over its akiya, as it has become easier to work remotely.

Tokyo Cheapo describes akiya as houses "no one wants to move into and which real estate agents have basically given up on trying to sell." Their availability reflects both an aging population and a desire for newer properties among Japanese homebuyers.

Like Italy's €1 homes, Japan's akiya can end up costing real estate bargain seekers quite a bit, Tokyo Cheapo points out. "Making your akiya livable may require an investment," the site notes.

There are also other conditions, including requirements to live in a place for a certain length of time before being able to acquire its title. And there are taxes based not on the bargain price paid for the property, but the Japanese government's estimate of that property's actual value.

Akiya make up an estimated 13% of Japanese housing stock, according to Japanese government data. That figure is expected to explode in the coming decades as Japan's population continues to decline.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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