Craig Meikle has been in Niseko for almost 20 years and founded Niseko Realty 5 years ago having worked with several other companies.
Niseko Realty single handedly sold Skye Niseko and Intuition and Craig has been personally responsible for some of the biggest transactions in the Aspen of Asia. We sat down with him to discuss his favourite memories, the current market for real estate and where he sees the best opportunities for future investment.
Click here to view all the listings from Niseko Realty on UchiJapan.com or read the article to find out Craig's top tips for investors.
What is your background and experience in the real estate market in Japan?
I had 14 years working through other agencies as sales manager before starting Niseko Realty, but really I began by investing in New Zealand rental property at 22 years old. I built up a rental portfolio before venturing into resort property in the ski areas of New Zealand.
What’s your ‘story’?
I'm originally from the deep south of New Zealand and came to Japan to ski in 1997 after an introduction from good ski buddy back home. I did two years in Hakuba first then moved up for the perfect powder experience and have stayed here ever since! I am married to Ruri (who is originally from Tokyo) and have two kids who are both avid skiers. We have managed to settle down here in Niseko and Ruri has established her own housekeeping company called Poppins. We moved up from Tokyo for the quality of life for our kids and it has really paid off.
What do you love most about Niseko and the surrounding area?
Niseko is the seasons and the people. Winter is so consistent with snow and while it is obviously cold, it does not feel as cold as the winters back in New Zealand. Summer is long, beautiful and the temperature is really pleasant so we have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the various activities. The locals are the heart and soul of the town whether that is established families who live year-round, Japanese locals or seasonal workers who stay on to make the experience of living in Niseko just all that more special.
Lake Toya is another market where we are experiencing larger inquiry and sales volume. After having a lake house there for 3 years now I am personally a huge believer in this place in the long term. Summer on the lake is, simply put, stunning.
What qualities makes a good real estate agent?
That's easy: honesty, Integrity, punctuality and personality!
What has been your favourite selling experience or greatest project to work on?I have been involved in so many projects and land sales, both large and small, so it is hard to pick just one. The best experience is seeing how happy buyers are once they secure their first property in Niseko!! I was an integral part in selling The Vale Niseko, Niseko's first high-end ski-in ski-out property, in some very hard times post Lehman Shock, but we got it done. I get great satisfaction seeing a project through to completion with all the units sold to excited buyers.
What’s the hardest part about your job? And what is the easiest?
As a small company of only four people we have achieved so much in Niseko, but the hardest part is finding the balance between work and lifestyle. I want to keep the company small, efficient and personal and believe after 6 years Niseko Realty has managed this perfectly. My team are beyond excellent and without them what we have achieved would not have been possible.
Turning up to work every day is the easiest because I love what I do, and I would not change this for the world. I hope I can pass the business on to my kids one day.
What makes your market of Niseko attractive to investors?
The proximity to Asia and accessibility these days, it has changed a lot over the last 10-15 years. There is still lots of opportunity here in both real estate and also services. I see another good 10 years of growth, then hopefully we will see the market mature into more of a resale market vs new developments. Future expansions of infrastructure both on and off-mountain will occur and this will help to drive value for investors and satisfaction for visitors.
What is the most exciting thing coming to Niseko in the near future?
Potential expansion in Hanazono of the lifts to Weiss and the overall development of this area which will naturally link down to the main town of Kutchan. On top of that the younger generation coming into the area with various service ideas, all of which help the towns grow!
Where do the opportunities lie in Niseko at the moment?Land outside of the main Hirafu hub is still very reasonable on a price per square metre basis and we still find good deals. With a strong tie to the farming community, great deals do pop up on my radar and even if we do not have something listed on our site, we actively go out and find it for our clients. The same applies in Toya and the surrounding areas.
What needs and wants do your clients have that might differ from other areas of the world?
A big point of difference here is the management companies take care of the property and everything to do with it. In other countries you have to find your own accountants, lawyers and the list goes on. Most of our clients are extremely busy people so they entrust us to find them the best property option for them and then run the sale through to completion in an efficient and stress-free manner. We also help with recommendations and introductions to management.
The Next Few Years
How has the real estate market held up through the pandemic?
Volume has slowed down the last 2 years but we are seeing a very clear uptick in enquiries and sales this past summer. Clients can sense that once the pandemic levels off and borders open we will see a overwhelming amount of interest and sales once people are back in the resort.
What changes has it caused?
We are closing deals online these days. Also we have presence on the social media platforms presenting properties, so it is a different way of selling than having people in the office. These days buyers really rely more on our advice and experience in pointing them in the correct direction.
What changes do you foresee in the real estate market once borders reopen?
It will be incredibly busy!
Do you think the needs and wants of your clients have changed due to the pandemic?
As above, now they reply more on us to help them make the best decision on their behalf. That is why picking an experienced agency with a great track record is important.
What exciting charges are coming to Niseko in the next few years?There are a few more new developments coming to market in the next few years along with existing ones finishing construction. We do see more people now looking for the chalet/land investment option and are pleased to be the agents for Drift Niseko in Hirafu and Kaba Niseko in Hanazono. Both are stunning land subdivisions with onsen access, where buyers can realise their dream family chalet.
Your Tips For Investors
What are a few crucial things to consider for a foreigner looking to invest in Japan?
Pick an experienced agency! We are seeing more instances of unlicensed individuals advising clients on real estate here and often this ends in tears. Speak to a few agents, don’t just dive in with one and do not be afraid to get a few opinions before making the decision.
Do you have any properties available now that are particularly unique or exciting?
We have a good selection of land, development land, apartments and chalets available on our site. We are excited about our two onsen land subdivisions in Drift Niseko and Kaba Niseko.
We are also very excited to see the first guests staying in Intuition Niseko. We were the agent for this development and the developer Zekkei have done an exceptional job of delivering this stunning property. There are a few units left for purchase here and anticipate once borders open these will go quick.
The last one are the golf course chalets we have just listed in Rusutsu. These are unique in every sense from the perspective of year-round living: enjoy your powder snow experience in winter and golf course fun in summer. It is very rare to find a house on a land subdivision in Japan.
Any other tips or comments for people visiting UchiJapan.com?
The best thing is having lots of options from many different agents in one place. Look around at what is available, speak to a few agents rather than just one and then make the best decision from there.