NISADE is one of the leading tourism and real estate companies in Hokkaido. Based in Niseko-Hirafu but with operations and projects in Rusutsu, Kiroro and Furano on top of their core Niseko business, NISADE has been helping owners buy, develop and then manage their properties for over 15 years.
We sat down with Jonathan Martin, CEO of NISADE, to discuss his best memories and what the future of real estate in Hokkaido looks like and how their tagline of "your alpine partner" really applies to what NISADE stands for.
What’s your ‘story’?
The NISADE story started 15 years ago when we arrived into Niseko as developers to bring something different to the market and with a strong focus on selling to Asia as opposed the Australian market. In our first two developments we quickly realised we needed to become vertically integrated and become a one-stop-shop across real estate / operations / construction. Oh and then we even undertook F&B to ensure our buildings had the right level of functionality and amenity!
With a technical background in listed funds management businesses across share markets and property development, I at first found many aspects of real estate in Japan frustrating. However in time I learned that the simplicity and trust one is afforded by architects and builders assures buyers and developers surety.
What do you love most about Hokkaido?
I love seeing our clients success, success in buying what they want and of course success in some of the staggering profits our clients have made over the years. It has also be extremely rewarding to see the life changing profits afforded to the original long term Japanese owners of land and buildings in the area, for many years they could simply not believe how much buyers were prepared to pay them, in one instant the Seller was just so so grateful to us for selling his hotel as it suddenly released all his retirement and caring for his grandchildren anxieties. Today he remains a close and good friend.
We started in Niseko and over the years recognized the immense beauty of the physical environment of the northern isle, the different areas within Hokkaido and the outstanding ski and snow opportunities on offer. We therefore widened our focus Hokkaido wide.
What we love more than anything is sharing this small corner of planet earth, sharing it to guests and sharing the immense investment opportunity with investors.
What qualities makes a good real estate agent?
The single most important quality is the ability to listen closely followed by an absolute attention to detail.
In listening you have to “hear between the lines” as often there is conflicting drivers to purchasing, one side wants a holiday home for the kids the other side wants a great investment return. To listen you have to ask questions and then more questions which takes time and thus develops strong relationships.
Everyone says passion is the driver but is that passion to close a sale or passion to earn a commission.
At NISADE the only passion we have is back to that sharing as this is the fundamental driver to successful and lasting long term relationships, relationships that develop into true friendships over the years. That is why we not only sell the real estate we manage the property moving forward, our tagline “your alpine partner” is our core philosophy.
What has been your favourite selling experience or greatest project to work on?
Being a fully integrated property company from site selection through design and construction to opening champagne on the first night of operations we have worked on and delivered many many projects. And all have had their different influences
My personal favourite was The Vale Niseko as I was intricately involved in every aspect of the development and when we launched we were 3 times oversubscribed by buyers. Oh what a moment that was! But then the Lehman shock / global financial crisis hit us and we lost 90% of those buyers, yet we pushed on and clawed our way to a successful completion. And today those Owners will always be special to NISADE.
As development managers and hotel operators we generally complete all the sales and marketing activity for projects we work on, so we are deeply meshed into the marketing collateral, the websites and the project vision on so many of our projects. Those of note including Kozue, Terrazze, The Vale Niseko, Maples and Setsumon.
On other projects we have been joint brokers. This has been successful and rewarding because we were able to be involved in another developer's design vision. They are always different in appeal and values and examples include Skye Niseko, Aya Niseko, Fenix Furano and Intuition Niseko.
What’s the hardest part about your job? And what is the easiest?
The hardest part of the job is without doubt missing out on a property, to have to go back to a client and tell them it “just sold” is never enjoyable. And it has happened a lot over the years, especially with ski-in ski-out property.
The easiest is the friendships you make, those moments of welcoming a buyer to their new property, to meeting all their family, to guiding them around the mountain or hosting them to one of the many amazing eateries in the area
A more technical answer to the easiest aspect relates to the sales documentation and process. Japan is a country that runs on the core element of trust and that flows into how business is conducted. So purchasing is relatively easy, it does not generally require lawyers to work through contracts incurring significant costs, it does not require extensive due diligence and despite a language barrier it is largely seamless.
What makes your market of Hokkaido attractive to investors?
First and foremost I would have to say capital growth. Even the most ardent skier still wants to know that in years to come the property will have increased in value. With the strongest capital growth in Japan for now nearly a decade the growth story of Niseko is well founded. This is now extending to the wider Hokkaido market.
What is the most exciting thing coming to your destination in the near future?
Our destination is Hokkaido. Our business remains predominantly in the snow business and within the snow business the most exciting new offering will be Rusutsu. With strong long term strategic development plans this resort will become on of the key destinations for skiers.
Where do the opportunities lie in Hokkaido at the moment?
Value in the secondary market for sure. Our market tends to drive to new projects on an off-plan basis, which leads to the secondary market often being overlooked. You might be looking at rates of $17,000 USD per square metre in the primary market but there is still value at $9,000 USD in the secondary market for good product.
That said, there is always opportunity in securing ski-in ski-out property so the focus now is around the ski portals and lift bases. Hanazono and Niseko Village definitely have stronger offerings in the last 2 years because of their ability to access the resort directly from their land.
What needs and wants do your clients have that might differ from other areas of the world?
Finance, because buyers want to leverage their acquisition as is normal for real estate globally. Japan does not have many options for financing and those that are available are selective, particularly when it comes to international investors. NISADE, however, has worked closely with Tokyo Star Bank and now has access to funding.
The Next Few Years
How has the real estate market held up through the pandemic?
Initially it ground to a halt, transactions fell over or were delayed. Then ever so slowly enquiries came back and today we are seeing transactions occurring. The volume is well below pre-pandemic but nevertheless sales are happening. So once again the destination is showing the core and underlying strength for investment.
What changes has it caused?
Greater focus on the financials behind owning property in a remote resort destination. Buyers are digging deeper into the numbers from utility costs to nightly rental rates.
What changes do you foresee in the real estate market once borders reopen?
Bull at a gate mentality! The pent-up demand is evidenced by the strong forward bookings we are taking from travellers who are desperate to come and investment will undoubtedly flow on from that with immediate effect.
Do you think the needs and wants of your clients have changed due to the pandemic?
Absolutely! Our bond with our clients has strengthened. We and our clients clearly understand that we are both suffering through this period, that we both have to be reasonable in order to survive and position best for the upkick once the pandemic is behind us.
What exciting charges are coming to Hokkaido in the next few years?
The top things that spring to mind would be:
- Summer - still underappreciated by many travelers, Hokkaido is an absolute gem in the summer months, especially when compared to the heat and humidity in most Asian countries and mainland Japan.
- New lift infrastructure - we've seen new lifts in all four resorts that make up Niseko United in the last few years and more to come with the proposed lifts from Hanazono out to Niseko Weiss that will open up a whole new ski field. Hopefully there will be more to come in other resorts too!
- Greater access via shinkansen and airlines - Sapporo's New Chitose Airport has a newly-expanded international terminal waiting to go after the pandemic and the bullet train will be here before we know it.
- New accommodations in many Hokkaido resorts - expanding beyond the traditional powerhouse of Niseko into areas like Furano, Rusutsu, Kiroro and more.
Your Tips For Investors
What are a few crucial things to consider for a foreigner looking to invest in Japan?
Shop the market and speak to many agents. Find an agent that you bond with and that listens to you and questions you carefully.
What are the mistakes to avoid when investing in Japan from abroad?
Always check the compliance of the building or land with local zonings or restrictions. Many of the older buildings have components never formally registered that may cause issues down the road.
If your aim is to rent the property to guests, make sure that it has a hotel license or can get one.
Do you have any properties available now that are particularly unique or exciting?
I would have to say The Vale Rusutsu, it is the first offering into that market and with a single owner of the ski resort the long term strategic development of the resort will see significant growth in all aspects including retail, F&B, hotels and skiable terrain.
Another is Intuition Niseko in Hirafu. Wow what a great building Zekkei delivered: great location, onsen on site and stunning interiors.
Any other tips or comments for people visiting UchiJapan.com?
As a buyer, the multi-listings shown on Uchi make it so much easier and quicker to access a broader window of properties on offer. This allows quick comparisons not only of an individual property but a wider market area. It also allows a buyer to consider many other areas not just focus on Niseko listings.