Economy Model Homes in Japan — Aida Sekkei

With recession inevitably comes a more competitive marketplace. The house-building industry is no exception. We’ve seen a surge in home purchases leading up to the April 1st 5 to 8 percent tax hike, with an unfortunate but foreseen slump afterward.

Housemakers in Japan have had to adapt to this changing climate. In recent days we’ve seen shockingly cheap custom homes being advertised, some as cheap as 5.55 million yen (about 47,000 US dollars at the current exchange rate). Remember here that this is a custom or order-made home, built to the client’s specifications (within certain parameters), as opposed to one that’s thrown up first and sold after.

5.55 Million yen Homes

Today we’ll be walking through the pros and cons if you will, of Aida Sekkei’s (アイダ設計) 5.55 million yen custom home scenario. I would suggest you read till the end to get the full picture.

Includes (is or uses):

* (Note that any details that are not included here but are basic essentials for a safe and functional house can be assumed included.)

– an upper size limit of 50 m2, or a tsubo-tanka (cost per tsubo; 3.3 m2) of about 364,000 yen. Quite small, but relatively cheap, looking at it from a cost per unit area.

– a contemporary wooden structural model (在来木造工法), reinforced concrete slab foundation, and glass-wool insulation for floors, walls, and ceilings (roof) that contact the exterior.

– standard electrical wiring. Wide switch plates, TV, intercom, and required smoke alarms.

– water boiler, fire-resistant exterior siding, slate roofing tiles, and 24-hour ventilation.

– window shutter for large 1st floor living room window, and low thermal emissivity (low-e) dual-pane windows for all living room windows.

– standard materials and products that are used by default, such as shoe shelf, kitchen unit (triple burner), bath unit (1 tsubo; 3.3 m2), toilet (with bidet), etc.

– a 35 year structural guarantee. This only guarantees the structure and foundation itself, and does not guarantee interior finishes or appliances of any kind.

Does not Include:

– land. As you probably know, the land can easily be double, triple or even quadruple the cost of the house. The timing of the land purchase will depend on whether or not you want to match the land with the structure. Factors such as the direction of the sun, surrounding structures, road and waterworks access, and of course budget, can greatly affect your home design and layout.

– curtains, light fixtures, air conditioners, or other household electronics.

And the clincher for last. 5.55 million yen does not include shokeihi (諸経費) or “sundry expenses”, such as scaffolding, garbage disposal, construction permit fees, etc. This shokeihi can vary considerably depending on the size of the house being built and other factors, but for this size it would be about 2.24 million yen.

So provided you’re good with all the “default settings” as written above, the cost of your new home will be a more or less minimum of 5.55 million plus 2.24 million yen, totaling 7.79 million yen (about 66,000 dollars). Still, not too shabby for what they’re promising. Just keep in mind that this size is most likely only suitable for a single person or a couple with no children, and that any deviance from the default settings could easily double this number.

To put this in perspective, they say 110 m2 is the norm for a family of 4 or 5, which by this plan would amount to 5.55 million x (110/50) = 12.21 million yen. Again, still quite cheap from cost per area standpoint, but not the ridiculous 5.55 million that they have etched in your brain. In the end it’s safe to say that this particular deal is more chum than anything else. What they’re really hoping is once you’re there, for you to go ahead with their other more expensive options.

In Closing:

To close, I’m not in any way advocating this particular deal. What you have to know about the house-building industry here in Japan is that the house being built will only be as good as the sum-total of those involved in the building — from the architects to the carpenters to any construction firms or foremen in-between. If there’s a weak link anywhere along the line, you’ll have a sub-par house.

Regardless of what any housemaker or construction firm might offer or advertise, the bottom line is this: Building a good house costs money. — And quite a bit of it. Depending on the route the money takes, it may run out along the way. What this means practically, is that cheaper houses must inevitably cut corners. The chance that you as a client, can control the quality/outcome of your home in such a situation is highly unlikely.

Although Aida Sekkei as a housemaker is reasonably trustworthy — and I would trust them to (eventually) deliver the house — there are several things that you should probably expect from second tier housemakers, or an economy model home option:

– not all that prompt when it comes to specific dates certain phases of construction were scheduled to be completed, as well as keeping the initial date of completion.

– can be quite disorganized. In general, things like being able to get in contact with the foreman when you want to, timing and consistency of communication and updates on building progress, cleanliness and state of building site, etc, can be less than ideal.

– and naturally, you shouldn’t expect anything too fancy or special in terms of the aesthetics of the finished product.

Other than that, the structure itself should be sound (they do have a 35 year structural guarantee). After all, they are a fairly large housing corporation and have a long-term reputation to maintain.

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