canada home prices

You can buy these homes in Japan for a fraction of the cost of a home in Canada right now

Canada is going through a housing crisis.

Over the past few years, housing demand has shot way above supply, and when paired with general inflation, it has crushed the dreams of many aspiring homeowners.

If you don’t see yourself being able to purchase a home in Canada but are willing to relocate to fulfill your dream, you might want to look elsewhere.

Japan has over eight million abandoned houses due to depopulation and a deregulated market. Many of these homes are sold for low prices or even given away at no cost.

We spoke to the creator of the Instagram page Cheap Houses Japan about how Canadians can take advantage of Japan's affordable housing.

Michael is originally from Canada and was inspired to set up his page after achieving his dream of owning a holiday home in Japan a few years ago.

He told us that buying a house in Japan can be a painstaking process. "For starters, most real estate agents in Japan aren't comfortable working and corresponding in English, so the language barrier can be a big challenge," Michael noted.

"Another factor is the commission structure for real estate sales," he said.

In Japan, the market for newly built properties is more popular and profitable for real estate agents. "As a consequence, it can be difficult to find a real estate agent willing to spend the extra time and energy to help you find your cheap fixer-upper dream home," Michael said.

His learning experience inspired him to create his website and Instagram, as he "wanted to share what I learned to help other people with a similar love of Japan pursue their dream of home ownership."

However, Michael cautions against investing in Japan's cheapest or "free" housing unless you're up for a challenge.

Cheap or "free" vacant homes — known as "akiya" in Japan — are a part of the country's housing market culture. Properties are listed for no or meagre cost but often require extensive renovation and can come with strict maintenance terms and conditions.

However, with the average house price in Canada reaching a staggering $685,809 in February 2024, it is no wonder followers of Cheap Houses Japan are daydreaming of a land of more affordable property.

If you're tempted to take on a few renovation challenges, one of these homes could be yours.

To give you an idea of what affordable real estate in Japan looks like, here are some property listings Michael recommends for under $70,000.

One-storey cabin in Tomi, Nagano — $46,695

This charming single-level cabin was built in the early 1980s and boasts two Japanese-style rooms, a bright living room with a skylight, and sliding glass doors that lead to a wooden deck. Encircled by greenery, the decking is ideal for indulging in the natural serenity of the surrounding forest.

Tomi is known for its wine grape production and sunny weather. The region organizes numerous wine tours and festivals annually.

Near the cabin, you can explore the Myojin Museum Art Village, temples, castle ruins and thermal springs.

Two-storey home in Bizen, Okayama — $66,898

Prepare to be awestruck by the breathtaking ocean and mountain vistas at this vibrant red, two-storey residence in Bizen, Okayama.

According to Michael, this home was built in the late 1990s. It boasts a Western-style loft room, a cozy Japanese-style room, and a bright LDK — a common term for "living room, dining room, and kitchen" in the Japanese real estate market. The floors are wooden, and sliding glass doors lead to a spacious balcony.

The property spans over 200 square metres of land and includes a garden enclosed by a white picket fence.

Michael warns that one thing to look out for when buying property in Japan is the neighbourhood association fees. The fee for this property amounts to 64,000 Yen ($572 CAD). Unfortunately, there is no parking available.

Two-storey fixer-upper in Imabari, Ehime — $10,700

For only $10,700, you could own this two-storey renovation project in Imabari, Ehime.

Imabari is renowned for its cycling routes and scenic views of the Seto Inland Sea and nearby islands.

This property was previously a barbershop. It features three Japanese-style rooms, three storage spaces, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Although the price tag is tempting, Michael cautions that the location is secluded and the place requires substantial investment.

Two-storey home in Shima, Mie — $56,195

This two-storey home is in the serene seaside city of Shima in Mie. Shima is known for its stunning vistas of Matoya Bay, pearl cultivation, and the Shima Spain Village, a theme park inspired by Spanish towns.

This 1960s home comprises nine rooms, a snug kitchen, and ample storage space.

The property has a generous plot of land, almost 650 square metres, providing plenty of space to cultivate your very own vegetable garden.

But since the nearest train station is approximately 14 km away, you must own a car.

Two-storey home in Takikawa, Hokkaido — $30,776

This mint-green home is located amidst the rolling hills and vibrant flower fields of Takikawa, Hokkaido.

You will find some fascinating design choices, such as black bathroom walls, vivid pink carpets, patterned wallpapers and chandeliers.

The property has almost 600 square metres of land, and the nearest train station is only a 13-minute walk away.

Three-storey home in Uonuma, Niigata — $56,185

Are you looking for some extra space? Then look no further than this three-storey eight DK (dining room, kitchen) house in Uonuma, Niigata. It is only an hour and a half drive outside Niigata, known for its beautiful scenery, rice fields and sake breweries.

There is an extensive garage/storage area beneath the house and a ski resort within walking distance.

It has over 1,000 square metres of land and is situated in a tranquil residential neighbourhood near the Aburuma River.

Two-storey villa in Ito, Shizuoka — $68,225

If you enjoy the great outdoors, this coastal villa could be for you. Located in Ito, Shizuoka, this villa is surrounded by hot springs, mountains and the Jogasaki Coast.

This two-storey property has bright, spacious rooms, including a Japanese-style room that overlooks the garden from its balcony. The living room has high ceilings, and there is a spiral staircase leading to the second floor.

Two-storey hilltop home in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka — $64,211

This two-storey house on a hill in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, combines classic design with contemporary style.

The property, built in the 1980s, has undergone various renovations, including flooring, bathroom and exterior.

It is not too remote either. The nearest bus stop is only a three-minute walk away, and the closest train station can be reached within eight minutes by car.

"I think this is a good price for a house in this condition and location, but as always, do your research!" Michael says.

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