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1. Cheap real estate

On the couple’s YouTube channel, Leika explains how she first heard of “akiyas” — vacant or abandoned homes in Japan that were also incredibly cheap. The duo started browsing properties in January of 2023 before closing on their new home in June.

While their farmhouse is just about 900 square feet, not very different from their Washington condo, it came with plenty of land — a major incentive for the Hansens, who are interested in dabbling in some farm work.

Between their mortgage and HOA fees, the couple say they shell out about $1,550 a month in Washington. In comparison, the farmhouse was worth about $2,500 or $3,000. The entire property, including the land, cost them $30,000 altogether.

“Real estate in Japan is a different vibe,” Leika told Business Insider, recounting Seattle’s frenzied bidding wars. “It has a first-come-first-served system, which we weren't used to.”

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2. Safety and walkability

The Hansens also made sure that their new home was situated in an ideal location — about 30 to 40 minutes outside the city of Okayama.

“We wanted to take advantage of Japan's public transportation and walkable lifestyle,” said Brandon, noting they wanted to avoid relying so much on cars, like they do in Washington. The farmhouse is roughly a mile from the nearest train station, and it’s a five-minute walk to the nearest bus stop.

The Hansens also had safety concerns while considering raising a family in Washington.

“As a woman — and now having a kid — I don't always feel safe in every situation in Washington,” said Leika, recounting when her car got broken into a couple years ago.

3. Retirement dreams

The couple also decided it was important for them to pursue their hobbies and interests — and get a jumpstart on their retirement goals, like buying farmland.

“I really want honeybees. I'm super passionate about pizza and having an outdoor pizza oven,” said Brandon. “These are things that we think of as retirement dreams.”

He explained that if they stayed in Seattle, it might have taken them a decade before they were able to start their hobby farm. “It was really about getting a head start on that timeline.”

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There are other options to invest

In the couple’s YouTube video, Leika noted the process of immigrating to Japan to live there full-time can be “pretty tough” — and it might be easier to purchase a vacation home to visit temporarily instead.

She said applicants have to demonstrate either a solid income or level of expertise in a high-demand job, get sponsored by an employer or have a spouse who is either a Japanese national or a permanent resident.

If you don’t have the funds, capacity or inclination to purchase foreign real estate or real estate here in the U.S., you can still invest in the sector without becoming a landlord.

You can add real estate investment trusts (REITs) to your portfolio to diversify it. Some platforms also let investors pool their assets to buy properties.

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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