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In Japan your dream home could become your nightmare


Commentary by Hank F. Miller jr.


(CNBNEWS.NET)Many people in the Tokyo Metropolitan area who were living in a Japan-Tokyo-Shinjuku-building-photo-night-kakanowdotcom-377x500 high-rise when  the March 11 earthquake struct, subsequently decided to move. The problem was not the structural integrity of the building, which was not damaged at all.


photo of high rise buildings in Tokyo Japan

According to a survey by the Condominium Management Companies Association, even high-rises in the Tohoku and Chiba region"performed"excellently.  


None collapsed, and only 1.6 percent required"large-scale"repairs.More than 80 percent sustain only slight cosmetic damage or none at all. For the Japanese people the issue was more the matter of quality of life. Elevators automatically shut down during an earthquake and can only be turned on again by a certified technician. It might be days before they are operational again and walking 20, 25, or even 30 flights of stairs or more can be tiring.  Also electrical power is lost through either damage or design (planned blackouts), high-rise living is virtually impossible, and not just because the elevators.

Water supply and sewage systems require power. So the months since the quake and the Fukushima nuclear power plant disasters, most Japanese people living in the area of the the quake intensified the off-and on search they started many years ago for a place to buy, whether it be a single-family house or a condominium. But in the end most stuck with renting, because if the disaster proved anything, it's that you can lose everything in a matter of minutes and still have to pay for it. Many home owners have no disaster or earthquake or tsunami insurance at all or could not get it. Also many homeowners from the stricken area still have outstanding loans on their houses that were destroyed to pay off.

For this reason, they assumed people would be more apprehensive about buying,but real estate agents they talked to said that while business fell off immediately after the March 11 quake, it was back to pre-quake levels by early April. If anything changed, it was the criteria that potential buyers used to decide on a property. In terms of both rentals and sales, many people preferred being closer to the ground. "First-floor units are really popular now,"one agent told the people, that a notable switch from before the quake, when higher floors commended higher prices.

Another problem being, is that most Japanese homes are not built strongly like in the ones States or in Europe. Japanese home buyers ask these questions now when looking for an earthquake-proof dwelling in Japan.

1- Was the building constructed before or after 1981?


2- Was the property under the residence once marshland,landfill,reclaimed land from the sea or leveled ground?


3-Has the house been bolted to it's foundations and is the roof strongly anchored bolted to main beams?


4-Does it have strong wooden or metal braces in the walls and how about insulation between the walls and ceilings?


5-For a condominium,how much is the (shuzenhi), repair fee charge?


6-Is the repair fund for the condominium enough to cover damage from quakes or liquefaction?

Most Japanese people never asked real estate agents these questions before only very few have. Property prices took a plunge after earthquake and real estate agents are finding it extremely difficult to sell any property or rebuilding of new homes in the earthquake stricken areas hit by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.



Warm Regards from Sunny Kitakyushu City ,Japan.

Hank F. Miller Jr.


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