FH 1

We like to think of ourselves as pretty capable bargain hunters. After all, we still think back fondly on the day we got a car for 980 yen (US$8.25) and the night we got liquored up with unlimited sake for 3,000 yen (thankfully that wasn’t all within the same 24-hour period).

But as attractive as those deals were, we think we’ve found something even more enticing: a house in a coastal town in Japan that’s completely free.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a boarding house, nor is it a temporary rental agreement. This house, situated in Kumamoto Prefecture’s Amakusa City, is being offered for sale at a price of zero yen (equivalent to US$0, at current exchange rates).

Actually, considering the null price, we’re not sure what realtor Amakusa Life is doing can technically be called “selling the house for zero yen.” We guess it’d be more accurate to say they’re giving it away for zero yen…except that “zero yen” is sort of implied when you say “giving.”

Anyway, the house is free, is what we’re saying.

▼ Bottom floor (left) and top floor (right)

FH 5

As shown in the floorplan, the two-story house has two rooms with Japanese-style tatami reed floors on the ground level, plus a kitchen and separate toilet and bathrooms. Up the stairs, you’ll find two more Japanese-style rooms, plus one more with wooden floors.

The surrounding neighborhood, called Ushibukami-cho, is a coastal fishing community on an island just off the west coast of Kyushu. With 20 square meters (215.3 square feet) of floor space on each story, the house isn’t palatial, but it’s definitely big enough for a single occupant. A couple, or perhaps a one-child family, could even squeeze in. Built in 1971, the house may not be brand new, but it does have a nice view from its hillside perch, and you can see a slice of the ocean in the distance.

FH 3

Of course, people say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and it seems like the warning should be just as applicable to houses. Is there some sort of sinister catch? Could this be one of Japan’s “accident site properties,” homes where a suicide or homicide has taken place, which become almost impossible to fill at anything close to regular market values?

We were all set to call the Ghost Busters to investigate, until we remembered that they (and ghosts) aren’t real. So instead, we contacted the realtor to get the story. Our call was answered by Mr. H from Amakusa Life’s regional promotion team, and we got straight to the point, asking if the house had been the scene of an untimely death.

“No, not at all,” he reassured us.

OK, so if there’s no supernatural housemate footing the bill, how come it’s free? Well, while Tokyo may be crisscrossed by train and subway lines, in rural Amakusa, you need a car to get around. Unfortunately, the free house is surrounded by a labyrinth-like network of streets too narrow to drive down. You have to park about 150 meters (492 feet) away as the crow flies, then snake your way through the maze, and while you won’t have to fight a minotaur along the way, you will have to climb up some stairs set into the hill.

Not wanting to deal with the hassle any longer, the owner moved out 10 years ago, and the house has been vacant ever since. Having been left alone for a decade means the house needs a few repairs, and between that and the inconvenient approach to the lot its owner doesn’t think it would fetch a high enough price to even bother setting one.

FH 2

As rural Japan struggles with shrinking populations, many localities are experimenting with initiatives to lure residents of more urban areas to their sleepier towns. Amakusa Life is involved with a program that publicizes vacant homes and plots of land in an effort to convince city dwellers to move to Amakusa.

If the price of this free fixer-upper sounds right to you, you can find more details here on Amakusa Life’s website.

Source, images: Amakusa Life
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