Investing in Japanese "Akiya"

I’ve been following this internet personality, Shu Matsuo Post, a real estate investor and TED speaker based in Japan. His recent content in social media concern the akiya, abandoned or condemned homes in Japan that are being sold for a low, low price—sometimes about 10% of similar-sized homes in the U.S.

Recently, the Japanese government has also made owning these akiya easier (other than the price, of course), since foreigners can now also own them and, apparently, operate them as income-producing properties.

One of his recent Instagram Reels is about an investor in California who purchased an akiya for about six million yen (about $38,000), and is planning to rent it out for 75,000 yen a month (about $480).

The question is, does this make sense from an investment standpoint? Would you invest in an akiya, given the chance? And what are the likely implications of someone operating in a completely different, almost alien, market to the U.S.? And is it really as easy as it sounds?

Very interesting. I’ve always wondered about investing outside the US, but because of all the differences in currency, laws, culture, and many other things, I haven’t explored it as much as I probably should have.

I’ve heard Japanese real estate is quite different from the US in how it depreciates in value, rather than appreciates… probably because of the declining population they have in that country.

I’m not sure what implications this would have for the long-term viability of investing there, but just from a cash flow standpoint, assuming all the projections are true in this example, it does meet the 1-2% rule, which is a grossly oversimplified way of measuring an investment property, but not a bad way to take a first look at something without spending much time on it.

Assuming those numbers pan out for that investor, I like how the total all-in investment is only $38K USD. These days, it’s hard to find a decent property in the US for that price.

I am curious about how property management works in Japan. If I don’t speak Japanese and don’t live in the country, I wonder how I would find a decent property manager to keep the property occupied. I’m also not sure how I would monitor how good a job they’re doing.

It’s easy to drive by a property in my town to see how things are going, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin if the property as on the other side of the world and I can’t speak the native language.

I wonder if property management is an easier job in Japan to begin with.

I’ve never been, so all I know is what I’ve seen on TV and the internet, but as an outsider, the Japanese seem more neat, orderly and better put-together than most western cultures.

It could be an Asian culture thing in general, but they seem to do a better job of raising respectful people who follow the rules don’t cause trouble. I could be wrong, and even if I’m right, that might not translate to better tenants, but I wonder.