Why Strange Domestic Architectural Designs Are Popular in Japan

interesting designsIn terms of the real estate market, the situation in Japan is quite literally alien to our own. While we track mean property values almost religiously, with nearly every newspaper showing pages and pages of charts, the Japanese don’t list the potential monetary value of a property as high on their list of priorities. Building a home that is right for them is much more important than thinking about what features a future buyer might like to see. In fact, Japanese homeowners often have the mindset that no one else is ever going to inhabit their home. While this might not be very easy to comprehend for us folks in the west, you can probably imagine how liberating this approach might be in terms of the architecture.

Tokyo-based architect Alastair Townsend talked about how and why strange and wonderful architecture is so commonplace amongst domestic properties in Japan in an article he produced last year for the arch daily online journal. The article attracted significant interest and even resulted in a visit from CNN.
The images that he selected to accompany the article exhibit perfectly what he meant when he used the phrase “oddball architecture.” These included a property that was essentially a triangular shaped, grey coloured structure that had no windows, a huge glass box that was three stories high and another property that could only be described as some sort of concrete puzzle piece, and an abandoned one at that.

After studying at London’s Architectural Association, Townsend later moved to Tokyo with his wife and business partner Kayoko Ohtsuki, giving him a unique perspective over architectural trends in the country. He has noticed that among the younger members of the population, their primary goal is to eventually live in a newly built property. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an apartment in the city or a fairly isolated house in the suburbs, it’s just about living somewhere that’s uniquely theirs. The idea that someone else has lived in a property before them is not an attractive one.
“When they build these properties, there’s no expectation that they are going to flip them for a profit later on. In fact, there’s no expectation that they will sell them at all” Townsend added. “That’s because it is not like the UK where you try and move up the housing ladder, one rung at a time; there is no housing ladder in Japan.”

So do these homes that exhibit oddball architecture attract widespread interest and becomes sort of iconic landmarks in the local area? “No” says Townsend. “These properties are built around very eccentric visions, and the wish to live inside someone else’s vision is something that probably doesn’t exist.” Most of the people that come to see these homes, do so because they have a serious interest in architectural design, not because they are interested in purchasing them. The way housing works in the western world, where properties typically appreciate in value over time doesn’t exist here. It’s more about how great a value the property has personally, rather than financially.

All That You Need To Know About Packing For Your House move

Throughout the years people gather lots of possessions they consider prized. They become a part of their lives, going with them from house to house, every year becoming more valuable. When moving home, we can sometimes have nightmares of our favourite porcelain puppy turning up at the new house with his head missing, or the expensive wine glasses arriving in pieces.

So to ensure that this doesn’t happen you have to make sure that when you’re packing these items away that you take extra care when doing so. Having the correct materials to be used is paramount. This means sturdy boxes, good strong tape, bubble wrap; even foam padding for those really fragile valuables. You don’t have to shell out large sums of money on expensive protective materials however; using wadded newspaper, old blankets and pillow cases can work just as well.

Be sure to pack room by room, it is very easy for boxes to get mixed up and this can slow down the time it takes to unpack at the other end.Removals

It is very important when packing china or pottery like crockery, to make sure that you pack each item one by one and completely cover each item in bubble wrap or newspaper; this will prevent it from becoming damaged whilst in transit. Make sure that you do the same with any glass or cups that have too. Glass should always be boxed separately from other items. Avoid over packing boxes; this can lead to damage being caused from pressure created from the weight. When packing glass be sure to be even more mindful of how much you put into one box, remember keep the heavy items at the bottom and the lightest at the top!

Now that you have packed your box, tape it closed with a couple of lines of tape in both directions; then label the box fragile with a water resistant marker pen.

Make sure to use some common sense when packing more delicate items, don’t risk an items safety to save on time; this is the fastest way to damage your items, so if you think that you may have put a few too many things into a box, take them out and start a new box.

Before you move a large item like a bookcase make sure you empty its contents into boxes that are labelled with which bookcase they came from.

Heavy items should always go at the bottom of the box but if an item is especially heavy, try to put into a small a box as possible on its own so that it is easier to transport. The last thing you want is a back injury while you’re moving so make sure you keep your back straight and bend your knees when lifting up boxes. When you turn carrying a heavy item you will want to lead with your feet; if you turn with your back you greatly increase the chance of injury.

When you’re loading the van you should be sure that all of the boxes you’ll need first go in the van last, so you can get immediate access to them on the opposite end. You certainly don’t want to have to wait a long time for the kettle!

Letting Property With An Online Letting Agent

More and more property owners these days take advantage of professional help when considering letting their homes. Not at all times is the letting task uncomplicated and streamlined and you simply wish to make sure all things are done correctly. With the assistance of an online letting agency, letting property will pose a lot less hassles for the landlord. In that case, so what do you need to take into account when searching for online letting agents?

Your initial thing to consider you’ll have will be what you expect from the letting agent (myonlinelettingagents.co.uk). One example is, you might just be looking for letting agents which will merely find you a tenant for your property or maybe you want them to locate you a tenant coupled with handling the entire rental agreement for the full term. Once you have made this choice you will then be ready to evaluate those agents. Some companies can care about as much as possible although some might only be capable of finding tenants for you.


Before choosing the correct online letting agency, understand what type of services they offer before you make your final decision. This really is a key point and should be your main criteria to find the best online letting agency. Just what should you look for if you choose a letting agent?

Services an online letting agency can provide:

• Where will they be situated? Is there a nearby office?

• What ways do they have to promote your property?

• Will they advise you when you have any questions?

• What packages do they really offer and what is included in the price?

Make sure you put in writing all those factors and don’t wait to ask them if you are uncertain with regards to their assistance.

Yet another aspect you should consider when comparing such online letting firms is whether they may be independent and / or if they usually are associated with and rely on an estate agency. In terms of their rates, a few online letting agencies are only going to require a fee when they successfully let the home or property, but not all offer you this benefit. Be sure you know how they manage this in advance. A few agencies could do this differently, for example it is also common they may charge a fee in advance instead.

4Do not forget when you are evaluating online letting agents that you normally get what you pay for. A number of agencies may have hidden charges which are not at all times very clear if you take a look at their web sites. Although the normal fees may be low you might have to pay out for numerous extra services. If you possibly could, stay away from such hidden fees and choose an agency that’s transparent and lets you know about their packages and all the fees. One big advantage to do research on the web is that you can evaluate the company by investigating customer feedback from those property owners that used the agency in the past. From going over other property owners experiences you can quickly have an impression in regards to the reliability and dependability of your chosen online letting agency.

Time to Get Tough on Letting Agents?

UK regulations for letting agents are relatively relaxed when compared to other countries, and there have been calls for stricter regulations to be enforced. Recent studies that were conducted suggest that implementing these changes could generate an extra £20 million for our economy every year.

letting agentsThere are currently almost 12,000 companies in the country that offer letting services and RICS have suggested that it is time to get tougher with these companies. RICS claim that compared to other services in the property industry, letting agents have “had it easy” and the investment required to enforce tougher regulations would be recouped in 36 months or less.

Currently you don’t have to pass a recognised qualification to become a letting agent, meaning you aren’t required to demonstrate you know how the process works, and there is no code of conduct that has to be adhered to.

This lack of structure leaves both landlords and tenants open to manipulation and scams, which not only affects them but it also has consequences for local economies.

TBR, an organisation specialising in economic research, gathered all the data for the study conducted by RICS, which was undertaken to gain an insight into the potential effects of enforcing regulations on these companies.

It is estimated that putting these regulations in place, installing all of the systems that would be required and providing the relevant training, would require an initial investment of somewhere close to £45 million. However, when this is weighed against a potential annual of benefit of £20 million, it appears to be a worthwhile investment.

Tenants would be better protected when renting a property and the study estimates a drastic decline in the number of tenants who lose deposits or receive unexpected bills from rogue agents.

Landlords will also be better off as letting agents would be required to maintain a minimum level of communication, which could help to cut out unnecessary expenditure. Additionally, the improved communication is also likely to ensure tenants remain satisfied and fewer errors are made.

The global director at RICS, Peter Bolton, said “This report highlights the reasons why these regulations need to be put into place, as thousands of tenants and landlords around the country are potentially at risk, and rogue letting agents are harming local economies.”

Housing Market Picking Up According to RICS

The general feeling about the UK housing market is much more positive than it has been in recent years according to a senior representative of RICS.

February saw better property sales numbers than at any other point in the last 36 months, but this optimism should be treated with caution and does not signify the start of the next housing boom warn experts.


Reports from RICS show that each surveyor on average managed to sell just under 20 properties in a 90 day period leading up to February, and this rise in sales looks set to continue. Prices have also seemed to stabilise during this period.

The Funding for Lending Scheme has been praised for improving the availability of mortgages for potential buyers, with many more options than there were previously. The scheme funds participating mortgage lenders, so they are able to offer better mortgage deals.

“While the nation’s economy is still struggling, the housing market appears to be moving in the right direction throughout the UK” added Mr Bolton from RICS.

“We cannot be certain of the main cause for this increase in activity, but these new initiatives launched last year do seem to have had an impact. The main thing is to not get carried away, as housing market activity is still some way off what it was prior to the collapse in 2008.”

In fact, the number of property sales is barely half of the number that was sold in 2007, which was just before the recession started. Since then the market has struggled from year to year, with unfavourable conditions prompting the public to adopt a “rental” mindset. Various government initiatives during that period have helped, but the vast sums required to secure a mortgage have made it impossible for the majority of people to buy a home.

Ramping up Housing Construction is Key to Economic Progress Claims CBI

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has proposed a new housing development project that would see the creation of 50,000 new affordable homes for a total cost of just over £1 billion.

It is predicted that the development would create approximately 75,000 new jobs and £18 billion in revenue for the economy. The CBI has also advised the government to allocate more funding to infrastructure projects, and suggested people should be offered tax deductions if they renovate vacant properties.

If all of these plans were enforced it would cost the government a total of £2.2 billion, which could be raised through the sale of state property and budget cuts within government facilities.

A senior representative of the CBI said “The country has a fiscal plan in place, and we agree that that should be followed, but the country’s confidence needs to be restored.”

“The plan we have proposed would help to kick-start the housing sector, providing more opportunities for first time buyers to make their first steps onto the property ladder, help second-steppers escape from low equity situations and provide incentives for renovations.”

The organisation believes that economic growth in 2013 will be modest, after the end of 2012 saw the UK economy contract.

Reports from the Council of Mortgage Lenders highlight the problems currently being experienced in the housing sector, with housing starts at the end of 2012 almost half of what they were during 2007. In terms of construction activity at the start of 2013, rates also experienced a decrease, falling just over 6 percent from December 2012 and close to 8 percent when compared with January 2012.

The CBI is not the only organisation advocating an increase in funding for housing and infrastructure projects. The British Chambers of Commerce also believes this is the way to proceed, even if welfare benefits have to be further slashed. They set a goal of 100,000 new homes in the next two years.

Homeowners Finding it Difficult to Progress up the Property Ladder

A large proportion of recent reports have been related to new schemes that are making the property market more accessible for first-time homeowners. Initiatives such as the Funding for Lending Scheme and FirstBuy have made this possible, as have attractive mortgage rates.

But what about property sales to other groups? Current homeowners are finding conditions unfavourable with regards to moving to a different property. Recent reports show the number of sales generated at the start of the year have been relatively low and the number of mortgage applications that were accepted in February was the fewest since July 2012.

These figures may have been influenced by property owner’s commonly referred to as second-steppers — anyone who has already bought their first property and wishes to “trade-up” — who are experiencing difficulties in being able to fund the acquisition of a new property, according to reports released by Lloyds TSB.

Prior to the economic collapse, there was a housing boom, during which many people bought their first property. During that period, prices were higher than they have ever been, but after the market collapsed, these prices plummeted and still haven’t recovered. Consequently, these homeowners now have no real equity in their property, making it difficult to move.

There is also the added problem of an increase in the deposit required to secure a mortgage. In 2012, the average deposit required amounted to just over £60,000, compared to less than £40,000 in 2002.

The problems being experienced by second-steppers can also have a knock on effect to the first time buyer market, as less properties are put up for sale, making new builds the only real option the majority of the time.

The Housing Market’s Role in the UK’s Economic Recovery

How can the housing market help to rectify the economic situation in the UK? We asked a number of experts for their opinion, which you can read about below.

Dr Richard Wellings (Institute of Economic Affairs)

IEA staff portraits 2012, westminster londonHousing is one of the key components when talking about economic recovery, but in the UK there are so many rules and regulations that it makes it very difficult for anyone to develop a property. We need to ensure properties are safe, but we also need to make the process possible for anyone wishing to build a property. I am also talking about self-build projects here, which could help to reduce the public’s dependence on mortgage loans and other forms of credit issued by the government.

The idea behind local housing associations is in theory a good one, however these projects are mainly aimed at low income groups who are dependent on government handouts. If our economy is going to recover, we need to reduce this dependence. To do this, private accommodation needs to be prioritised, as it targets employed individuals that generate money for the government.

To further reduce reliance on government funding, private investment should be encouraged. In the last few years people have generally been put off private investment as it has been difficult to achieve respectable returns, due to the high costs involved.

Professor Kenneth Gibb (University of Glasgow)

If done properly, the construction of new property is indeed important for the economic recovery of this country. However it needs to be built in areas where there is sufficient demand. Not only that, but mortgages also need to become more accessible and transaction costs need to be lowered, otherwise private construction companies will continue to find it difficult to finish developing sites. For this reason, initially at least, affordable housing should be emphasised.

Additionally, local partnerships should be encouraged, where resources and expenditure can be kept to a minimum without affecting the development of new housing.

Steven Howell (Localis)

Current government restriction on the construction of new housing by local authorities is preventing the market from progressing. These restrictions should be lifted, or at least made more lenient. If this was done, the housing market could help to revitalise the UK’s economy from the ground up.

Jim Bennett (Homes and Communities Agency)

Across the country there are countless sites that would be perfect for housing development, but  can’t obtain the various permissions due to lack of infrastructure. By ploughing money into developing infrastructure in these areas, new homes could be built in locations that have a high demand for housing.

Support the Get Britain Building initiative, which will provide the funding required to re-commence construction work that has been put on hold. The investment is over £500 million, but it is an investment that can be recouped and is intended to reduce the risk that is shouldered by private developers.

Get Britain Building

Tim Morgan (Tullet Prebon)

I am firmly behind implementing a solution that is backed financially by the government. The amount of personal debt in the UK has doubled over the last decade, and many people are now unwilling to risk taking on more debt, which includes mortgages. Once the economic situation has improved, the housing could be privatised by incorporating a “right-to-buy” clause into contracts.

Since 2008, the number of housing starts has dropped by 100,000, which is a clear indication that we have the ability to be able to improve construction efforts.

Funding could be raised by the government through the sale of valuable social housing and by making it possible for local associations to borrow money against future rental incomes. So rather than having to raise the approximate £10 billion required to fund an increase in construction rates, only £4 billion would be required, which is a relatively insignificant sum when the potential benefits are taken into account.

Kevin Matlon (Social Enterprise & Labour Councillor)

Local authorities are not currently able to invest, due to restrictions imposed by banks they have existing loans with. These authorities are being forced into accepting unfavourable loan conditions if they wish to borrow more credit to build new housing. This is counterproductive to these authorities and the public, and needs to be stopped.

Depressed Housing Market “Here to Stay” claims Financial Expert

39840Financial ExpertA financial expert at the Bank of England has claimed that he doesn’t believe the housing market will ever fully recover from the economic recession and actually believes a lower number of property owners may prove advantageous for the country.

Housing problems have been on the government’s agenda for a number of months now and recently the Prime Minister announced new housing reforms that are designed to combat the situation, which is hindering the UK’s economic progression.

David Miles, the expert making these claims, believes that financial lenders will no longer issue mortgages for high amounts and believes it could become normal for people to purchase their first home in their forties. To the public, these statements are a cause for concern and suggest that fluctuating property prices may never to return to the level they were once at, due to a lack of market activity. However, Mr Miles also stated that this change in the housing market is not “the end.”

Mr Miles’s statements certainly seem to contradict the plans that government officials have publicised in recent months, which intend to increase the number of property owners in the UK. He also believes that financial lenders would be unwise to once again offer mortgages with relatively small deposits. “Lending within the housing market was one of the contributing factors to the economic collapse we have experienced.”

“In my opinion it is unlikely that conditions in the housing and mortgage markets will ever return to pre-crisis levels, but that is not something that should cause a panic.”

If the economy’s success was less dependent on these markets, it may actually benefit us according to Mr Miles. Additionally, he was keen to point out that renting has a number of benefits that buying doesn’t, including the ability to move easily from one location to another, which could help to lower unemployment levels.

“If larger deposits are required to secure a mortgage, the average age of a first-time buyer will rise significantly and the overall proportion of the country that are homeowners will decline” he said.

“If everything is taken into account, would lower rates of property ownership really have a huge negative impact?”

These comments were made after financial experts reported the country’s economic condition as being at a point close to that of 2008. A questionnaire was issued to a number of experts, and a large proportion of them were of the opinion that the economy was likely to suffer a negative impact in the near future. Whilst the cause of the impact is not clear, most concerns are related to the euro zone.

The euro zone has been in trouble for some time now and it was recently reported that interest rates on short-term loans given to Spain have been doubled. There has also been a lot of speculation that the French are in danger of forfeiting their AAA credit rating. Meanwhile Germany, who have largely staved off the effects of the recession, have warned other countries that they must support plans to save the euro zone, which include continent-wide bonds. “We don’t have a magic solution to make all these problems disappear” said a financial expert from Angela Merkel’s party. “As far as we are concerned, there is no other solution other than the current policy.”

State of Housing Market Reflects the Condition of the UK’s Economy

That’s the opinion of the Council of Mortgage Lenders anyway, who are totally behind the new Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS).

The number of property sales in the UK during the summer of 2012 was extremely low, largely owing to the economic instability across the country.

According to CML reports, the value of mortgages issued in August 2012 was £12.6 billion, down from £12.7 billion the previous month. This statistic is made to look even worse by the figure from the same month for the previous year, which was 4 percent higher.

The FLS was developed to try and reverse this trend and spark some new life into the market, by funding financial lending institutions with tax subsidiaries, allowing for better mortgage and loan rates. Another initiative that was launched is known as the NewBuy scheme, and aims to provide newly built property for potential homeowners who aren’t able to put down a large upfront deposit.

Bob Pannell of the CML said “The FLS is certainly a radical move not without its own risks, but it could potentially reverse current trends and kick-start the housing market in the near future.”

housing-market“Whilst it’s not going to be a universal solution to all problems the housing market is facing, it will hopefully make mortgages and other loans more accessible for a large number of people. We just have to wait and see, as we won’t really know what affect it has had until it has been operating for a year or so.”

Not everyone has been totally supportive of the initiative however, with some sceptics believing it is not providing a solution to the main problems in the housing market.

“We are seeing changes as a result of the FLS, but problem areas have not been affected. I don’t deny that credit has become more accessible, but it’s become more accessible to sections of the population that don’t need it” said Ashley Brown of Moneysprite.

Recent reports from the CML indicate fairly low market activity, which is to be expected with current economical conditions. “Until buyer confidence picks up, housing market activity will remain subdued” added Mr Pannell.