Seeing a man about a house (Part II)

First a second inspection:

Last week, after a particularly heavy rain, I decided I wanted to go back to The House to have another look and perhaps see if I could find any evidence of roof leaks. On this trip my Mother in Law (ML) decided she also wanted to join, as she had some acquaintances in the hamlet that she wanted to talk to. So we drove over there with MB and my brother in Law as well. We stopped at the stone cutters house and asked if he was home, but a young woman answered that he was out on errands that would keep him away all day. We thanked her and complimented her on the lovely Japanese garden they have and the very large nice country home, she seemed to be a very nice. ML commented that the stone cutter also used to raise pork somewhere nearby, and that the house was built from the handsome profit they made from that.

We move on down the road to a farm house just behind a Shinto shrine. This house looked to be of similar style to “The House” and ML lets out a “Gomen-kudasai!” as we near the entrance. The house also has a very nice Japanese Garden, and as it’s the last house on the road it benefits from an unimpeded view of the Valley as a backdrop. An elderly lady answers (We’ll call her “Mrs. W”). We introduce ourselves and she remembers ML, and then with very little prompting she gives us the low down on The House.

She said that the man who lived there was the oldest son of the man who built The House. He passed away ten years ago peacefully, and The House was inherited by his nephew (the owner we have been speaking with). The house is therefore not quite as old as we thought. Perhaps built in the 1920’s or 1930’s.  She mentioned that the same carpenter built several houses nearby including her own at the time, as he was a much sought after temple carpenter from Kyoto. She said that after the current owner’s uncle passed, the house was left alone, the current owner visits once or twice a year to pay respects at the grave site. A couple of years ago it was rented to a local man who apparently used it as a place to camp while hunting wild boar, as well as a place to butcher said boar. But that he stopped coming about a year or two ago.

Then she reveals herself as the owner of the extensive kabosu orchards I saw, and we talk a bit about that. She seemed very happy to see us and expressed her hope that everything works out and that we can join the little hamlet. It helped immensely that her and ML had a connection and that also she met MB, as I find that elderly people in the countryside love to see children. I think they just don’t see enough of them around and it helps to brighten their spirits.

From there we walked down to The House were I did a second inspection looking especially hard for water damage or evidence of recent leaks from the prior night’s storm. Unexpectedly, I didn’t find anything.

Meeting the Owner:

On Sunday the entire family and I drove to Fukuoka to meet with the Owner of The House. The owner was very friendly, and we talked about all kinds of things unrelated to the house for a while just getting to know each other. I asked him what his future plans were with the house. The first thing he said was that as the oldest son he had an obligation to keep the property and pass it on to his son, and that he very much wanted to preserve the house that his grandfather built. He was adamant that he had no intention of selling the place. He said that he had gotten a quote from a local architect to completely remodel the house and that the price tag had pretty much ended that idea. “It would be cheaper to tear it down and build another house there.” he said. I got the feeling that eventually that is what he wanted to do.

I asked if he planned to return there one day, and he said no, he does not. We talked about what I planned for the place. How I wanted to bring the house back from the brink, and restore it little by little, how I wanted to use the land. He seemed very pleased with all of that. Then we got to talking about how we would structure the deal and it became very clear that we were not even close to on the same page.

From his point of view, he just wants a renter. Someone who will live there, and by extension, keep the place from disintegrating further. The problem is that it is too late for that. The House needs more than just a renter. In any case it is in no condition to rent out. The House needs someone who is personally invested in it and who wants to put in the time and resources to fix it. He would have to spend a lot of money to hire the contractors who could bring it back to a livable condition. I am essentially offering to do that for him.

His offer was a 2 year lease at roughly $200 a month…

I responded that in order to fix it to the point of being habitable would take me months of work, and would cost not only significant time but significant money as well. In order for it to make any sense for us, we would require a 20 year lease at minimum, and essentially rent free (we would cover the property taxes and insurance -amounting to only a couple hundred dollars a year – so that the place would not cost him anything). The way we see it, because we won’t be owning it, our adoption of this place is as much a service to him as it is to us. Our living there will only increase the value of his property.

Our hope is that eventually, either he, or his son who will inherit the property will sell it to us. But we at least want the guarantee that after all the effort we put into it, he can’t just kick us out after a short lease expires. We parted ways, with the promise that we’d think it all over and that he would get back to us. Now we can only wait and see.

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9 Responses to Seeing a man about a house (Part II)

  1. kenelwood says:

    Hey Brodo, otsukare.

    I will only say what I would do, given my own circumstance and experience here:

    I wouldn’t invest in uncertainty, there’s already plenty of that going around at the moment. In Japan, land owners are well aware of ‘renters’ rights’ and Acquisitive prescription (取得時効shutoku jikō), which says that a renter can legally take over land that has been under their stewardship for a 20 year period. In fact, land owners actually use this inversely, almost in ‘loop-hole’ fashion, as a way to avoid land tax(es) and inheritance tax(es), by letting renters foot the annual bill until take over time.

    If the owner says no to a 20 year lease, that speaks volumes.

    Anyway, this is just the way I see it,




    • brodoland says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard that a couple times before but I don’t get how that has anything to do with an actual lease on a house. I mean, if I rented a house in Tokyo for 20 years, would I automatically own the house? What are the legal mechanics of something like that? I would really doubt that acquisitive prescription applies to rental property under a lease contract. But if you have a solid source you could point me to on that please share it. Thanks. IB


  2. kenelwood says:

    Hey IB, as to your first question about taking over a place in Tokyo:

    I’d imagine it’d involve a lousy landlord, someone who never comes around yet just pays taxes to hang on to the property. But I won’t say another word on Tokyo as I’ve got no direct experience there.

    I do know a bit more about land in the countryside:

    I would really doubt that acquisitive prescription applies to rental property under a lease contract.

    Nope. It does. True story: just over 20 years ago my wife’s’ g-father (now dead) started renting a hatake to a family who eventually built a house on said land. After the g-father died about 11 years ago, the wife’s family didn’t ask the the family to leave the hatake and kept receiving rent money. Then, just last year, the renting family living on the hatake took their case to court; took over the land through Acquisitive prescription. 20 years had passed !

    Historically, agriculture land owning families actually use the law of Adverse Possession to get rid of unwanted ag-lands. They simply stop paying due-taxes, and let someone they know (or don’t know) manage the land, or, in other words, keep it aesthetically pleasing with right-angle rows and no weeds. Local governments make far more money off foods and forest by-products and all the oil that goes into producing or tending them, than minuscule land tax revenue.

    So again, my point in the first post was that if the old man doesn’t agree to at least a 20 year lease contract, it might mean he’s got no intention of letting it go, ever.



  3. kenelwood says:

    Hey again IB,

    Not trying to dampen the mood, BTW. I’m simply sharing my experience here. I hope nothing but the best for you and your family.




  4. john e says:

    I think you’ve got the right attitude there Brodo, not much to do but wait, hard to sweeten the offer any more. In the meantime there’s more props to be found out there and eventually one of them will pan out. Happy hunting.


    • kenelwood says:

      Hi again IB, just back from a longboarding session. Yeah, like johnE says here, it sounds like it could be a good deal as you’ve got plenty of time to look for other properties. Instead of a 20 year lease, what about 19 ?



  5. inesusan says:

    hmmm… sorry to say that but that sounds like stress to me. :/ to invest your money , your time and your heart . I would say you should keep your eyes open for plan B just in case . And maybe there is a house plus land out there which is free to sell and not rent


  6. brodoland says:

    Thanks everyone. I am waiting with my fingers crossed. There are a ton of other prospects around here but both TLG and I really liked this house and the area its in. I hope it all works out.

    @Ken: Interesting story… If that is the case then I can see why he might not want to rent it for so long. I don’t know much about renter rights in Japan, but when a lease ends in the US the landlord can say, “move on,” regardless of the wishes of the renters.


  7. Kyushu Ranger says:

    Hi B,
    I often looked at houses here which were in abundance and cheap till Fukushima. But something may come up and it’ll do good to keep checking. Good luck!


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