Sunday, August 31, 2003

A story of a flat in Tokyo

It was last weekend. I noticed an open flat in a gorgeous condominium for sale nearby and popped in. The condominium was on a quiet street at central Tokyo, well designed, decorated and maintained. A kind of condominium I never have imagined I could afford before. But Interestingly the price on ad looked not so impossible.

I didn’t mean to window-shopping. Though I am not a rich girl at all, I’ve already got a couple of flats for investment and am looking for third one for my own residence. Why and how I do is a long story. Briefly speaking, three years ago, I was a fresh divorcée having no money, no job, no good job experience, and no man. It was most urgent that I reconstruct my life, job and money at first. So I got my job, then chosen flat investment for money rising from zero. Against popular negative image of property investment in Japan, I had rather positive image for women investing property. For instance, at my high school end days of estate bubble period, there was still a myth of elder OB, who worked as a student part-time nightclub hostess and dated with a property dealer (rich people in bubble period), made good fortune from the commission of introducing her clients to her man for property business while she was still a university student. Some years ago at the middle of recent England estate bubble, an English friend of mine bought a flat room by 100% mortgage planning to resell it later. Also popular image of landlady, like agree greedy old widow, tells that flat owner is a kind of job I could continue when I get old.
These days Japan in middle of deflation, property price in centrally Tokyo went down, the rate of mortgage interest is bottom. They are good wind for me to buy flats! Also I could have practical advices form a good friend of mine who made a fortune from stock option during IT bubble years and invests it to properties. Thanks very much!

Anyway, I went into the half-opened door of the flat “Hello”.
A man from the property agent who welcomed me was wearing casual shirts and looked me rather confused face instead of sales smile those professional sales people wearing clean suites would show with eyes not smiling but calculating if this one has money or not. It made me think the flat had sold out.
This ground floor flat had a living room with kitchen, a small 6 tatami-matted bed room with a fit-in closet and separated Toilet and Bath rooms. Good size for 1-2 people. It also had a small garden, which separated by high walls covered with large ivy leaves that shade the direct eyes from neighbors but windows of neighboring mansions would prevent intruder to garden. Strange was that though there is no sign of living, a fridge and a sofabed with blanket were there. It looked curious.

I asked “What are they?” “ Our stuff stay in this room sometime because vacating long would ruin a room soon” Why has this room vacated long?? I went on
“Who was living in this flat before?” “ A doctor was an ex-owner. His daughter used to live hear.” Mmmmm……
“ Then how many people has come to have a look at this flat so far?” “ Not many. I am surprised that some women had came to” He did not know this area is a popular area for creative women to work and live.
“Had any one been interested in?” “Not yet” Oh! the flat had not yet sold out. So I went on further questions. “Can I ask more details? What the estate condition is? Owner?” “Yes.” The building built on the leased land is cheep, but nothing will remain with me after the land is returned. “What’s the major maintenance history of this building and how much saving money this building has got for future maintenance?” “ ..I’ll check them later if you want” They are important information. Poor maintenance history means shorter building life. Less maintenance saving means they might charge the residence extra for future maintenance.
I finally asked “ Can I see a copy of registration of this flat?” “ I’ll send it you later”
Registration tells everything. Something strange but giving up extracting more information from this quiet sales person, I left the flat.

I received a copy of registration from the property agent several days later. The registration tells history of ex-owner of the flat and now I understand.

In 1991, a year of the end of estate bubble, an ex-owner bought this flat and mortgaged it for 110 millions yen. Unfortunately the ex-owner bankrupted 2 yeas ago and the flat went to auction. The property agency who is selling bid only 14 millions yen last year. It was only 15 years ago when this small flat was estimated the value of 110 millions yen!! a bank really rent him this amount of money.. And within 15 years the property value dropped to about 1 in 10. Today this flat is on sale for 20 millions yen.

What I can say for this flat is, in Japanese “Tsuwamono domoga yume no ato” from Chinese old poem. A place once mighty warriors battled for their dream but nothing left, empty. I’m afraid I don’t know what to say in English, I’ll be glad if anyone can tell me saying in English for this Japanese phrase....