Hokkaido gets increasingly popular among foreign and Japanese investors, who want to find cheaper property, a holiday retreat or just a place to escape the hustle and bustle.
You most often hear that foreigners go to Hokkaido (and often Sapporo) to spend one or two weeks skiing.
The other seasons are also great, offering a great quality of life and astonishing nature.
In this article, I explain all the essentials you need to know when buying property in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido real estate market
Hokkaido and its real estate market are significantly different from the Japanese mainland and the three major Japanese islands.
Firstly: It’s among the least densely populated areas in Japan, the population density is less than 65 people per kilometer.
That’s around 1% compared to the population density in Tokyo, where the density is more than 6000 people per km.
Secondly: it’s the 2nd largest island in Japan, but also the northernmost part of the country, thus exposed to a colder climate, with a comparatively harsher winter season.
Third: its low population density, beautiful nature and high-quality ski resorts make it a popular destination for tourists that are local or coming from overseas.
Hokkaido also expects to lose more than a million of its residents in the coming two decades, which equals to 20 – 25% of the total population.
Sadly: it has the highest rate of depopulation in the country.
With a population that declines with a rapid pace, it’s not difficult to understand why the mainland has the upper hand when it comes to property demand.
Property prices are lower in Hokkaido compared to the mainland (Honshu), on top of that, price appreciation is low as well.
Price comparison between Hokkaido and the mainland
If you have USD 200,000, you can buy a 3-bedroom apartment in Nagoya, or a 3-bedroom house with two-floors in Sendai.
Listen to this:
For the same price, you can buy an entire apartment building (!) in Sapporo (which is the capital of Hokkaido), with 10-units to rent out.
Hokkaido is currently turning into a major tourist hub for local and foreign tourists, they’re doing much to make it even more tourist friendly.
Worth mentioning is that the region plans to build Japan’s first casino, trying to attract more foreigners.
The coming tourism boom allows you to invest in resorts and residential properties that you can rent to tourists for great rental yields.
If you have some piled savings, investing in Cambodia won’t be the only place where you can get good yields.
All in all, if you’re planning to invest in real estate in Hokkaido, invest in properties that can be used as resorts, or apartment buildings near popular tourist hubs, to rent out to tourists (not neglecting the potentials to rent out long term).
Buying land in Hokkaido
You can buy land in Hokkaido regardless of your nationality. This is rare in Asia (basically, only Korea and Malaysia are the two other countries that qualify to the list).
And you don’t need a residence permit. You don’t even need a visa, nor visit Japan, to purchase land in Hokkaido.
Where should you buy land then? Well:
The best places to buy land is near ski resorts and tourist hubs, where prices are on the rise due to increased tourism. Some examples are undoubtedly Niseko and Asahikawa.
Choosing your land type
The 3 most popular land types are: agricultural land, commercial land and residential land (remove Malaysia from the list, and now you only have Korea and Japan as the two options where you can buy agricultural land).
There’s a higher demand for farmland in Hokkaido as people tend to escape from the stressful city lives, going to more rural farming towns.
Also, the commercial land prices are on the rise due to the boom in tourism, as the demand for new retail outlets, hotels and resorts increase.
Buying cheap land
There are a lot of factors that can affect the price of land and its future appreciation.
If your land is near a major road or a train station, the cost will be higher, but the price appreciation will be higher for such property.
Another way to grab a cheaper plot of land is to look for land that is not available in the standard rectangular shape.
You can find a significant price difference if the land is about the same size, but available in an odd shape (other than rectangular).
Where should I buy property in Hokkaido?
The best places to buy land or residential property in Hokkaido is in Sapporo, the province capital.
You should also look at property in or close to the ski resorts, and other tourist hubs, where foreigners buy property to keep as second homes, or to let.
Buying property in Sapporo
Sapporo is the provincial capital of Hokkaido and the most populated city on the island.
It’s also the commercial and business center of Hokkaido.
Prices are generally higher than other cities or villages, but still significantly lower than mainland Japan (not talking about places like Tokyo or Osaka).
The average price of a newly-built condominium is more than JPY 40 million (ca USD 350,000).
Interestingly: around 90% of the total condominiums in Hokkaido are located in Sapporo.
In the last few years, there’s been a drop in the buying activity for new apartment, as almost half of the new apartments remained unsold, mostly because of higher prices.
Sapporo property market outlook
It’s expected that prices for new apartments will drop in the next few years.
But you can still find many foreigners residing in Sapporo. The city acts as the gateway for tourism to Hokkaido, as there are direct flights from many Asian countries.
This makes it a good option to invest in real estate to earn decent yields, rather than expecting high price appreciations the coming years.
Most of the tourists planning to stay in Hokkaido firstly arrive in Sapporo and tend to stay for a few days, before they travel to other cities.
Buying in Niseko
Niseko is the famous ski resort where property buyers from Hong Kong, China, and Australia try to find a second home.
The city is experiencing a boom in tourism, attracting much foreign investment.
Niseko and its surrounding areas are also famously known for breathtaking views, snow-covered mountains and attracts a lot of visitors during the winter (it’s one of the most visited ski resort in the country).
Niseko property market
The demand is high in Niseko as wealthy foreigners buy property to keep as their second home, to visit during the holiday season.
As mentioned, it also provides you good opportunities to buy property for high rental yields.
But due to a higher demand, the prices here are also relatively high.
Buying in Kutchan
Kutchan is another small town and a popular tourist hub that becomes increasingly popular among foreign tourists.
The city is located just 50 km west of Sapporo, and 2 hours away from the nearest airport by car (New Chitose Airport).
You can also buy farm and residential lands here. Prices are relatively cheaper than Niseko, which lures investors who can’t afford property in Niseko to this town.
The town is mostly known for potato farming.
Buying in Asahikawa
Asahikawa is the second largest city after Sapporo, with an estimated population of 350,000, located at the center of the island.
The temperature here in winter exceeds -20 C, and it has the most days with snowfall in all of Japan.
Due to harsh weather, the prices here are low. You can buy a 6-bedroom large house with two floors for less than $250.000.
It’s also becoming a major tourist hub, as it is known for having art. The city also has a zoo which is ranked as Japan’s top zoo.
Visually, Asahikawa is beautiful and surrounded by the magnificent Daisetsuzan Mountain Range. It also has around 120 rivers that flow through and around the city.
Most people who want to get away from all the hustle-and-bustle of the world visit this place, which makes it a good option to invest if you seek high rental yields.
Real estate agents in Hokkaido
The investor-friendly policies of Japan allow you to buy property in Hokkaido, without even visiting Japan. This would be a big no-go in places like Thailand or Cambodia.
But no matter if you want to buy property in Hokkaido from your home country, or by visiting Hokkaido, in both cases, you need the assistance of a good local real estate agent.
Below, I’ve listed some of the biggest real estate agents in Hokkaido.
b. Niseko Real Estate
d. Hokkaido Real Estate
Hokkaido is a bit mysterious to foreigners, in fact, many haven’t paid a thought of investing here.
But prices are generally cheap and you can find great deals offering high rental yields in the popular locations, mentioned above.
More and more Japanese and foreigners want to own a home with proximity to the rest of Asia, or they simply want to try something else than the Alps in Europe or ski resorts in other countries.
Hokkaido is becoming increasingly interesting, before you buy property though, be sure to find a reputable local real estate agent.
if you want to know more about property regulations and foreign ownership in Japan, I recommend you to read this article.