In most countries, older homes usually sell for a premium because of their history, charm, and structural integrity. But in Japan, houses rapidly depreciate over time, becoming nearly valueless in 20 to 30 years.

Newly-built homes are the crux of the Japanese housing market obsessed with a culture of razing and rebuilding. This approach to building longevity has its roots in the poor construction techniques used when meeting the booming demand for housing after World War II and the frequently updated building codes mitigating natural disasters.

The rapid depreciation provides little incentive for homeowners to design and maintain their properties to entice a potential future buyer.

This provides a market where homeowners accept their negative equity while designing homes customised for their needs. Consequently, Japan has an extraordinarily high number of registered architects due to the demand for newly built custom homes.

While this trend seems to apply to most of Japan, there are signs that change is afoot. Some homeowners take a smaller-scale approach to the wrecking ball and renovate their homes by redesigning floor plans and opening up spaces.

The gradual change is attributed to Japan’s changing demographics. Experts project that population growth will decrease by nearly 40-million by 2065. The population is also ageing, and soon more than one-third will be over 65.

These demographic trends are causing an above-average number of older homes to become vacant. By 2033 about 30% of houses could be available, giving the Japanese a reason to rehabilitate old houses instead of building new ones.

In the more urban areas where most of the population skews younger, people have more flexible options. Companies in Tokyo are looking at non-traditional and less-cultural forms of housing like repurposing old office blocks into apartments or modern co-living areas.

Pic courtesy of NKS Architects. Source: