Habitat Hokkaido was born out of a desire to help buyers achieve their ideal family home, holiday home, or investment property and to assist sellers realise their asset values in a clear, transparent and friendly manner.
We sat down with Henry Turner, the co-founder of Habitat Hokkaido, to discuss what first drew him to this amazing part of Japan and why he wants to introduce more people to this incredible area!
Click here to view all the listings from Habitat Hokkaido on UchiJapan.com or read the article below learn more about Henry's journey to Hokkaido and his top tips for buyers.
What is your background and experience in the real estate market in Japan?
I have been a Hokkaido lover since 2007, I knew from my very first visit I wanted to make my home here!
I moved from Singapore to Hokkaido in 2016 and was the real estate sales manager for a leading real estate and development company in Niseko for 3 years until 2019.
I co-founded Habitat Hokkaido which has been operational since June 2021 and absolutely love living this business!
What’s your ‘story’?
I am originally from London but I have now lived abroad longer than my formative years in England. I moved to Hong Kong in 2004 and worked for Swire Properties before moving into Finance shortly thereafter. Escaping a brief stint in Credit Default Swaps before the Lehman's Crash, I moved to Singapore at the end of 2006 where I worked as a Currency Derivatives broker for 10 years before trading it all in for a completely new life.
I fell in love with Hokkaido during my first trip during the winter of 2007-2008 and bought a property in Hirafu a month later. After my wife became pregnant with our first child, we made the decision to move here full-time.
It has been the single best decision of my life!
What do you love most about Niseko and the surrounding area?
What I love about Hokkaido is the expanse of stunning natural scenery, the wildly different seasons, the friendly and ‘outdoor-mad’ people, the food (and beer) and the ability to enjoy all sorts of activities throughout the year.
What qualities makes a good real estate agent?
Someone who listens to their clients and provides them with options directly matching their goals, so attention to detail is paramount. If you don’t live this business, you can’t deliver to your clients!
What has been your favourite selling experience or greatest project to work on?
Never before have I ever experienced such genuine job-satisfaction!
I love every aspect of this line of work, from sourcing listings, through client-interface and of course closing deals. But at the risk of sounding insanely cheesy, the greatest pleasure I get is from making clients (buyers and sellers) happy. If I can do a deal where both parties walk away genuinely happy and clearly satisfied with our performance as their agent - I don’t care if it's the smallest deal or the biggest deal. It's an incredible feeling!
What’s the hardest part about your job? And what is the easiest?
For me personally, the hardest part is the admin side of the business. Thankfully however, we have that well covered with the help and assistance of experienced professionals in their respective fields who we have built solid relationships with over the years. *Shout out to those - you know who you are!!The easiest part is talking to clients. I always feel like buyers’ enquiries somehow turn into my personal property searches. So, I’m always happy to do the groundwork, as I find it fun. With my background in financial markets, I absolutely love the deal process and get enormous satisfaction from closing (regardless of deal size!)
What makes your market of Niseko attractive to investors?If I had to pin it down - I would say Habitat Hokkaido’s niche is ‘value’ - and I don't mean 'cheap'!
The well-known locations within the area have sort of been ‘tracked-out’ now. Just like hitting the hill, the groomers will always be popular, fun, consistent and indeed vital. But a section of the buyer market is always on the hunt for something ‘off-piste’. Habitat Hokkaido operates mostly in that space.
Where do the opportunities lie in Niseko at the moment?
The ‘vanilla’ options of Niseko, Hanazono, Annupuri and their connecting areas, are all good, safe, sensible investments.
The ‘exotic’ options are the wider areas of Makkari, Rusutsu, Lake Toya, Kimobetsu, Kyogoku and the like. This is where I believe the tri-factor of investment can be achieved. Highly desirable location to holiday or live, currently undervalued, and with a reasonable-to-high likelihood of capital appreciation in the short-to-medium term.
What needs and wants do your clients have that might differ from other areas of the world?
We have two main classes of investors:
1: Those wanting to find a more idyllic location for a holiday/family home which better represents their vision of Hokkaido living.
2: Pure investors seeking business opportunities and value.
As a company based in and operational out of Makkari, Habitat Hokkaido is not only perfectly located to service both those categories of clients, we are also very much on the ground to assist local residents with both their buying and selling needs.
The Next Few Years
How has the real estate market held up through the pandemic?
Obviously, it has been impacted. Sales and general activity were significantly down for the first year or so.
But the last 6 months has seen a very strong rebound and eagerness to buy from investors and those able to live and work remotely.
What changes do you foresee in the real estate market once borders reopen?
I think we are on the cusp of a significant uptick in the market.
Your Tips For Investors
What are a few crucial things to consider for a foreigner looking to invest in Japan?
Tax! It is paramount to fully understand how your investment in Japan will impact your specific situation.
We always advise our clients to seek independent and professional tax advice to understand the impacts and obligations relating to their specific circumstances.
What are the mistakes to avoid when investing in Japan from abroad?
Not contacting an experienced and licensed real estate professional - like us at Habitat Hokkaido!
Do you have any properties available now that are particularly unique or exciting?
Yes - three very different options all representing great value at the moment
Hirafu: In the lower village we have this beautiful cottage. It's just been discounted and is now listed at only $770,000 USD, which is incredible value in the prime resort village of Niseko United.
Makkari: a stunning and absolutely huge piece of land, over 17 acres, with river front access. This is a prime spot to build your own incredible home (or homes!) which will be situated halfway between Niseko United and Rusutsu resorts as well as being within 30 minutes of Lake Toya. At only $400,000 USD it is an absolute steal.
Sapporo: in the capital city of Hokkaido we have a really interesting investment opportunity. This 6 unit apartment block features 3 two bedroom apartments and 3 studios and is directly across from Tsukisamu Park - one of the most beautiful parks in Sapporo. At less than $940,000 USD this is a great option for solid returns.
Any other tips or comments for people visiting UchiJapan.com?
Uchi is a fantastic resource for people looking to check out many different options from many different real estate agents. I think at Habitat Hokkaido we can offer something quite unique with our listings, so don't hesitate to get in touch!