TOKYO - '
Local authorities are offering people the chance to buy a house in Japan for as little as $500.
In some cases, they’re even giving the houses away for free. The only catch? You have to be willing to live in a "ghost house," Architectural Digest reported.
Don’t worry — the houses aren’t haunted, they’re just abandoned. They’re called "akiya," which is a deserted or unoccupied home in Japan.
Websites in Japan are listing homes in rural parts of the country for as little as $500.
Foreigners aren’t excluded from purchasing "akiya," but the renovation costs as well as various building codes preventing them some from being demolished might dampen the lure for those who aren’t Japanese citizens, according to the Architectural Digest.
While it may be difficult for foreigners to follow through on purchasing a home in Japan, it’s not impossible. According to various local brokerage firms, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Japan.
"You don’t need the permanent residence to buy a property here. You could buy akiya while you are traveling in Japan for vacation with the tourist visa," writes Yamamoto Property Advisory.
Acclimating to the rural areas where most of the akiya sit may also be difficult for foreigners, though Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made revitalizing the areas to appeal to younger residents and breathe life into the abandoned towns a major part of his platform when he took office in September.
In an October speech to Japanese parliament, Suga said "through tourism and agricultural reforms, we will create a flow of people to rural areas, increase local incomes, revitalize rural areas, and boost the Japanese economy."
Local governments are even going so far as to offer tax incentives in order to entice people into moving to the areas.
In Japan, cheap housing comes as the country faces a population crisis.
Japan’s population began to decline in 2010 from a peak of 128 million, The Associated Press reported. Without a drastic increase in the birthrate or a loosening of the staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, it is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.
By then, four in 10 Japanese will be over 65 years old.
The government has a target of preventing the population from falling below 100 million, but efforts to convince Japanese women to have more babies have yielded meager results. Young Japanese continue to drift from the countryside into big cities such as Tokyo, where the birthrate is a mere 1.13 children, thanks to long working hours, high costs and killer commutes.
According to the country’s Housing and Land Survey from 2018, Japan’s negative population growth has led to nearly 9 million "akiya" collecting dust.
Another housing report published in May 2021 from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that vacancy in rural homes is at a staggering 16%.
This story was reported in Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.