How far would you be willing to go to live in a convenient, spacious apartment? Most of us would be willing to put up with a lot. Noisy, gloomy, dank apartments are all quickly snapped up as long as they are close to subway stations and are reasonably spacious. But what if your apartment was the scene of a violent crime, arson, or even a murder? Would that make you think twice?
For a lot of Japanese people, the answer is unsurprisingly ‘yes’. As a result, the legal word shinriteki kashi bukken (心理的瑕疵物件), ‘psychologically blemished’ property, was created as a euphemism for places with a shaded history. Such is the stigma of being designated ‘shinriteki kashi bukken’ that one real estate owner requested a bereaved family pay him 1.5 million USD after their relative committed suicide in his building. The reason? The owner believed that the incident had tainted the whole complex and he was considering rebuilding the entire place from scratch.
“Say, for example, someone commits suicide in an apartment, it would become a shinriteki kashi bukken. This apartment then becomes significantly cheaper than the general market,” Nobuyuki Okuda from the internet site start-owner.com explains. As a representative of a company which specializes in helping people get on the property ladder, he has noticed that the buyers’ attitude towards these apartments can be surprising, “If people don’t care about such flaws, this pricing can actually be seen as an advantage to these properties.
“If the owner refuses to budge on price or you can’t get the property cheaper,” Okuda advises, “It’s only then that these properties can become something of a problem.” Despite this warning, he usually finds that most landowners are willing to negotiate on price simply to fill the space. Properties with particularly bloody histories have even been offered at half or less than half their usual price. Of course, not all shinriteki kashi bukken are created equal, and discounts vary as a result. The term includes a range of problems from murder, to being close to questionable religious groups, or being used as a gangster hangout.
As a result, even the non-superstitious may want to avoid these apartments altogether. The first thing to do is to ask your real estate agent directly if anything suspicious has happened at a property you are looking at, as that creates a legal obligation for the company to tell you the truth. Of course, if you suspect the owners may have lied to the real estate company, you should talk to the neighbors or search the address on sites like oshimaland.com which contain lists of apartments with dubious histories. If after discovering the truth you are still undecided, a compromise can be to check whether an exorcism was performed. Even in these modern times, many property owners arrange for priests to perform blessings after major incidents.
To check whether you are about to move into a shinriteki kashi bukken apartment, visit oshimaland.com
More on Mr. Okuda: http://startowner.com
To rent one of these apartments: http://suumo.jp (type in 心理的瑕疵物件)