Building blocks to success
Buying, selling and making money from property in Japan isn’t as impossible as you might think. KS met property developer Samantha Anderson to find out the real deal.
Samantha Anderson has carved out a niche in Japan as a property developer and is currently involved in her most ambitious project to date: a six storey 1,500m2 warehouse in Yodogawa-ku that she has set her sights on transforming into a restaurant, event space and residence. It’s a huge place with endless potential, yet is essentially an empty shell. Transforming it will be a mammoth undertaking.
Kansai Scene: How did you get started in the property market here?
Samantha Anderson: Like many, I started working in Japan as an English teacher. After a few years I opened my own school but sold it 3 years later. I had always been interested in getting on the property ladder and after lots of research I realized that property here was a great deal cheaper than back home in Australia. With the help of an agent, I purchased my first two apartments at 3mil yen a piece and began renting them out. That same agent has remained a close business partner ever since. It was him that suggested I get into flipping properties too.
KS: What is flipping?
SA: You buy a cheap, run-down property, renovate it and sell it on for profit. It’s an immensely satisfying process. I do all the design of every property I have flipped. I strip down the place to its ‘skeleton’ and build it up again, trying to make best use of the space available. Rather than trying to guess what a potential buyer would want, I simply design it as if I was going to live there. I source top-quality yet bargain kitchen units and other features online and choose colors and fittings that have more of a gaijin feel.
KS: How long does the process take?
SA: From start to finish, about 2–3 months. That is, from the moment I have signed the contract to when I sell it on. But you have to move fast and be prepared to make snap decisions. My agent will call me about a potential property and often ask me to meet him in 30 mins to view. The properties he shows me are all non-listed places. The owner is usually looking for a very quick sale. I will take a quick look and decide there and then. More often than not though I have already decided before I even see the place. Contracts are usually signed within hours of viewing. You then need to have the cash ready in days. You can’t wait around for loans on these types of properties.
KS: So you buy them all in cash?
SA: Essentially yes. But it’s not my cash – it’s the banks’. Financing is the hardest part of this business for sure. I totally distrust the Japanese banks. Getting a loan as a foreigner is really, really hard. They ask you to jump through many hoops before then finding other excuses not to loan to you. I have managed to get some financing through Japanese banks, but not before I absolutely hounded them.
KS: How did you finance the production costs?
SA: I have had to use a few of my existing properties as collateral, scrape together every last piece of cash I could find and refinance a block of land that I own back home. It’s a fairly large plot of undeveloped land on the fringe of Melbourne that I bought when I was 25. I believed that it would one day be worth something, although I was the laughing stock of my friends and family. It has since doubled in value every year.
KS: What are your plans for the latest place?
SA: In early December, the 1st floor will open for business as a family friendly restaurant called Mama Rina. We’ll be offering an international buffet menu with a Western-style salad bar featuring organic veggies from Tondabayashi. There’ll also be a pool and Balinese style garden. On the 2nd floor I am planning a kids room and a home delivery pizza service. The 3rd and 4th floors will be developed as event spaces, and we’ll have office space and a staff gym on the 5th floor. Finally, I’ll get around to renovating my own apartment on the top floor. Oh and the rooftop! Just wait until you see the view from up there…
Mama Rina will open in early December.
• Address: Osaka, Yodogawa-ku,