A Tale of Two Toilets

We are approached often by developers who feel in addition to marketing their projects to the domestic market, they will also need to market the project to foreign buyers too. These developers ask us what we hear from buyers as common desires so they can incorporate these ideas into their designs to make the project more appealing.

The most common request we hear from buyers that we always relay back to developers is to build two toilets in each unit.

Despite repeating this request time and time again to developers, they are hesitant to incorporate two toilets into their designs. Mainly this is due to the perception that two toilets are seen as a luxury feature that would only take up space; space that could be allocated to some other feature that is perceived to help sell the units easier.

This waste-of-space mentality then extends to two full bathrooms in the same unit. This is seen as the utmost in luxury; a feature segmented only for the highest priced units. Contrast this with western markets where two full bathrooms are not considered the utmost in luxury but a baseline necessity.

Why does this matter?

If you are a buyer and you are requesting that your agent only show you units that have two toilets or two full bathrooms, then in essence you are eliminating a significant amount of inventory available at any given time.

Granted, there are some units with these features but from experience they tend to be units that were built in the 80’s and 90’s specifically for leasing to foreign tenants (think HOMAT properties).

Another option is to renovate a current property to your liking, however it is our mantra to buyers that when purchasing property, not only in Tokyo, but anywhere else, to keep one eye on the exit when selecting what to buy.

This means you purchase something that strikes a balance between what makes you happy and what can sold relatively efficiently for a price that satisfies.

Imagine you are searching for a property and are very set on having two full baths. You are shown many properties and come to the conclusion that renovation is the answer. You find a unit that is structurally set up to accommodate two toilets / bathrooms and you pull the trigger on both purchase and renovation.

One thing to remember is every condo has a finite area, that the space within any unit should be seen as a zero-sum game; an increase in one element must come at the cost of another element. In practical terms this means to accommodate two full bathrooms then the living room and bedrooms must be smaller for instance.

However, imagine all goes well and you are happy with the result of the renovation. You have lived in the unit for 10 years and now wish to sell. This point present another trap I see sellers fall into often regardless of being Japanese or foreign; that what they themselves found nice or convenient, buyers will too.

In reality, the next owner of your property, the person you will sell to, will most likely be Japanese and thus you need to appeal to Japanese taste whether you personally agree with it or not to maximize the price you can sell for.

This means you might wish to renovate the unit back to the original condition it was in when you purchased it. It seems counter intuitive but the unit was originally designed to appeal to Japanese taste so ergo you must too.

Japanese buyers might see your renovation as done well but still not make an offer as they do not see the need for two toilets / bathrooms as you see it. It might come across as a waste of space or something too luxurious for their needs

The need to renovate back to original condition should be made on a case-by-case basis but it is an idea that should be on explored when the time comes to sell your property.

Feel free to contact us for further consultation as extra plumbing is no laughing matter.

Editor’s Note: Shirley is Sales Director for Housing Japan. She has sold billions of yen of real estate and arguably has the highest client satisfaction rating in the industry. Shirley writes a weekly column for Housing Japan readers to help illustrate common challenges buyers and sellers have when trading Tokyo residential property.