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Beating the Condo Blues

Akiko Okamoto

Property developers in Japan are struggling with the rising cost of labor and materials. They say they've got no choice but to charge more for new condominiums. Some have come up with creative ways to attract more customers.

A 60-story condominium is being built in the heart of Tokyo. The developer is a major real estate company. The complex will have over 900 units, ranging from studios to 3-bedroom apartments with spacious living rooms. Prices start at around 270-thousand dollars. The most expensive unit will go for a whopping 3 million.

One major selling point is a large common area for the residents. It will include a cafe-like area with chairs and tables, a play-room for kids, and a park. A virtual reality headset allows visitors to envision how the space will look when it's complete. Using the controller, you can move forward and go out onto the balcony. When you turn your head towards the left, the scenery also changes and you can see the big park outside the condo and really feel the spacious environment.

Company officials say such innovative marketing approaches are essential if they're going to lure potential buyers.

Another company is transforming older properties into new homes. This condo is a few kilometers from the center of Tokyo. The building is 20 years old, but everything inside is brand new. The whole complex has undergone a major renovation. The developer hopes that it will increase the value of the property.

56-square-meter apartments start at about 250 thousand dollars. That's about 20 percent cheaper than a brand-new unit. One customer is pleasantly surprised. She says it's very clean and affordable, and hopes there will be more condos like this. An employee of the property developer says renovated properties are relatively inexpensive, and will offer customers more choice.

Despite recent trends, one real estate expert is optimistic. He expects the market for high-end condos in central Tokyo to remain strong. He explains that people who have made money in stocks are shopping for homes. The weaker yen is also making Japanese properties more attractive to foreign investors. He says the 2020 Olympics will also be a boon to condo development, as investors from around the world flock to Tokyo in pursuit of real estate gold.

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