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After living in a typical 2LDK in Osaka for close to ten years, we are a bit depressed by the cramped space and total lack of charm. We are ready for a move and are considering buying an affordable older home. Is an older Japanese house or a turn-of-the-century style home in Kobe an option?
Great question! There are many options, each with benefits and drawbacks. Buying an older home can be a real bargain. However, it can be difficult to get a bank loan, so you should be prepared to self-fund the purchase, renovations, and maintenance. Depending on how rural the location is, there may not be a paved road to the house, which could make transportation a bit of a hassle. You should also check out zoning restrictions—some, for example, permit renovation of the original structure, but do not permit building a new structure. As a final caution, be sure to check out whether the house is in a landslide zone.
On the up side, there are literally millions of empty old Japanese houses in rural areas. They can range from houses that are in states of decay and disrepair to old homes with strong foundations and structures and original flooring, beams, etc. Many prefectures are trying to attract people to move into these rural areas (Yes, even foreigners!). Some offer financial enticements in the form of various subsidies for purchase and maintenance. In short, if you can self-finance and are committed over the long haul, then an older home might be a good option. Near Kobe, you might want to check out the Tamba Sasayama area.