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​Emerging Trends in the Niseko Property Market

Winter is on us, but it feels really hot over here. At Taiga Real Estate, we fielded an unprecedented level of enquiries for October and November, and other real estate agencies in Niseko report the same. Transactions are also up, and the local solicitor office has all hands on deck trying to process deals. Ski-In, Ski-Out are constantly requested, as are properties on the middle and lower Hirafu bluffs, but what are the emerging trends?

1. Increase in pure “lifestyle" investments, properties where the owner is not interested in rental revenue. The trend is directly measurable by the number of new properties that are not finding their way into the rental pool. Even with an apartment with fantastic lift proximity, the buyer may elect not to rent it out.

Some of this has to do with the shift to Asia based buyers, people who plan on using the property all year round. In summer, their Hokkaido property is a rare, temperate getaway from the withering summer heat of South-East Asia. For them, Niseko is a second home, which they do not want to share. The increase of high net-worth buyers is also driving this new trend.

2. The emergence of what I call the “Jackson" crowd. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is dotted with estate style properties, beautiful chalets which are secluded away on large acreages. In the past few years Hirafu has seen some beautiful new homes pop up 5 - 15 minutes drive away, and these are often bigger in scale and budget than projects inside the village. Before the global financial crisis, most of the land transactions outside Hirafu village were speculative. Now the majority of people looking for larger lots are committed to building a hideaway home. Concurrently, it is getting increasingly difficult to find truly stunning sites outside the village.

3. The buyer demographic has broadened, which has produced a real deepening of the market. Just 4 years ago, the market was dominated by Australia and Hong Kong, but these days the buyer is just as likely to be from Malaysia, Singapore, and increasingly from Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia. This has resulted in greater stability for the Niseko market, and economic hiccups in any one country will have a lesser effect. Although the Japanese press loves to play it up, buyers from mainland China are still relatively rare.

4. As a local, I have always enjoyed the diversity of Niseko. Even back in 1996 when I first moved here, the mountain population was varied. Purely Japanese, but from all over the country, and often well travelled. These days, interesting people from all over the world are coming to work here. You may not know it, but Kutchan and Niseko Towns are amongst just a handful of towns in Japan with a growing population. Whether you drive 10 or 15 minutes to work doesn't make any difference, so secondary properties closer to the main towns and schools have been moving more briskly.

5. While I wouldn't call it a full on trend yet, I have started to see a small trickle of soon-to-be retirees. Often half of the couple is Japanese, and they are planning a “return". Hard to stay away from the clean living, safety, and amazing food!

These trends all point to a healthy resort that is starting to mature as an international property market. The medium and long term outlook is positive, which is why I personally continue to invest predominantly in Niseko. My parting advice for buyers is to look for properties with intrinsic value, meaning views, natural setting, proximity, or size. Stating the obvious, but these core qualities will produce positive outcomes in 5 to 10 years when you decide to sell.

Keith Rodgers is the Principal of Taiga Real Estate and his two little girls have recently helped him to graduate from backcountry to the bunny slope. Please contact him for any questions on property in Niseko.

[email protected]

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The Dark Side of Japan Property

Japan is a country where you can drop your wallet on a subway bench, and find it an hour later with all the cash and cards intact.  So it is hard to imagine wholesale industry theft, thousands and thousands of Japanese being duped out of their savings by unscrupulous real estate agents. The Japan bubble years must have been one big roller coaster, people so flush with cash, en masse they would buy property site-unseen.  Some property agents took advantage in a big way.

All around the Niseko area, you can spot the remnants of fraudulent development schemes.  Buyers in Tokyo and Osaka would be shown a subdivision plan in idyllic Hokkaido, often with photos of completely non-related developments, which displayed paved roads and infrastructure.  Only after settlement would the buyer realise they had bought a postage size piece of land on the side of a mountain.  

Have a look at the map at below, and you can see that within the nearby vicinity of Hirafu there are several such developments (circled in red).

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The developer usually held ownership of the common road (although often it was not registered as such), and when they went bankrupt in the 90s (most did), the buyers were left with no clear access to the main road. And since the development was never property surveyed, even if access can be guaranteed, the property markers cannot be defined without contacting and confirming with the other 50 buyers in the sub-division. Many of whom have thrown away the worthless title. The end result - you cannot get a building approval on your land.

From time to time we get a request to list some lot with an address we have never heard of, and often it ends up being in one of these subdivisions. It is pretty hard to tell the poor owner that we cannot even list their land. Perhaps the only upside is that Japan is dotted with what I call "private parkland", since effectively it is impossible to do anything with it!

Suffice to say that with so many people getting burned during the bubble, many Japanese take a pretty dim view of realtors. Some of these jokers are back to their old tricks, and unfortunately some of the original victims are getting duped on the exit as well. Have a look at this interesting piece in Japan Property.

Anyone who has travelled in Japan has stories of how honourable most Japanese are. Yet even here, it all comes back to "buyer beware", asking the right questions and getting the right information.  When considering a purchase, be sure that the lot is registered with the town office, and has clear access to the road.  If the subdivision is connected by a private road to the main road, make sure the private road is actually registered as "road".  If not, then see if an easement can be put in place to your land, or joint ownership arranged for the private road.  And perhaps most importantly, fly over and have a look with your own eyes! 

Kazahana Chalet Available for Bookings

Taiga is proud to introduce Kazahana Chalet as one of the top rental chalets in Niseko Hirafu. With 6 bedrooms and an enviable perch atop the exclusive middle village bluff, it is a very comfortable space for families and larger groups. Please contact us for details. For more photos, please view the project page.

Hirafu-Niseko Infrastructure to Receive Funding

  • Keith Rodgers
  • June 25, 2014
  • Niseko

Very exciting news, as Kutchan Town Government has announced just over 900,000,000 yen in much needed funds (mainly from the central government) for infrastructure in Hirafu Village. Taiga Real Estate and Project Management was appointed as the sole foreign representative on the steering committee, consisting of local businesses, municipal and district government. We believe in active contributions to affect change, even though this often means volunteering for spans stretching into years.

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Riccardo Tossani, architect and urban designer of Riccardo Tossani Architecture (Tokyo and Niseko) was appointed as a special observer to the steering committee , advising the committee, comparing master planning strategies in other famous resorts and participating in decision-making processes. Community meetings were held several times last year, and locals had the opportunity to make suggestions. The proposed budget includes the following items:

  • 600,000,000 yen – Community center (police station, post office, conference facilities, ATM)
  • 160,000,000 yen – Parking lot and bus loop works at the WelcomeCenter parking lot
  • 22,000,000 yen – Area signage
  • 10,000,000 yen – Main symbol sign
  • 16,000,000 yen – Street Banner fixtures
  • 50,000,000 yen – Emergency information system
  • 70,000,000 yen – Road upgrades/new sidewalk between Hirafu-zaka (Alpen Hotel) and the gondola

Further community consultations are still needed to refine the budget, but this is a great announcement about new amenities. A fixed timeline has yet to be announced.

Heli Footage of Beautiful Niseko Onsen Sale

You gotta love it when technology takes a jump that is uplifting. Literally so, in the case of the mini drone helicopters, which give you an entirely new perspective of wild spaces and also building sites. A few years ago Taiga Real Estate brokered the sale of an onsen hot spring in Niseko, which sits in the middle of some stunning scenery. At the end of the road, totally private (you cannot see a single neighbour), on top of a cliff above a wild mountain creek, looking up into the backbowls of Annupuri, and also across the value to Mt. Yotei. However, even with a 360 degree panoramic photo, I felt that the pictures did not do justice to this land. Fortunately Glen Claydon of 360Niseko came to the rescue, and for the first time a viewer can get a sense of the breathtaking beauty of the onsen’s topography.