Ja­pan law to boost home shar­ing

The National - News - Business - - The Life - Pavel Alpeyev

Ja­pan’s home-shar­ing mar­ket is poised to shift away from couch-surf­ing to­wards pro­fes­sional ser­vices af­ter the pass­ing of a law reg­u­lat­ing short-term rentals. The change will help HomeAway play to its strengths in the bat­tle against Airbnb, ac­cord­ing to Nat­suko Kimura, coun­try man­ager for Ex­pe­dia’s home-rental sub­sidiary.

En­acted this month, the bill lets peo­ple in Ja­pan rent out prop­erty with­out the risk of run­ning into reg­u­la­tory hur­dles.

The law lim­its total stays to 180 nights a year and re­quires that providers reg­is­ter with lo­cal gov­ern­ments. The reg­u­la­tions also in­crease over­sight of ab­sen­tee land­lords, re­quir­ing own­ers to out­source prop­erty man­age­ment to par­ties ca­pable of guar­an­tee­ing safety and hy­giene. While Airbnb has taken the lead in Ja­pan with 52,000 list­ings, HomeAway’s fo­cus on lux­ury holiday prop­er­ties gives the com­pany an ad­van­tage as the mar­ket ex­pands be­yond in­di­vid­u­als shar­ing spare rooms, ac­cord­ing to Ms Kimura. En­tire homes for rent al­ready ac­count for about 90 per cent of HomeAway’s less than 10,000 list­ings in the ar­chi­pel­ago, she says.

Ja­pan’s green light for home shar­ing has been ac­com­pa­nied by looser ho­tel reg­u­la­tions as the coun­try strug­gles to cope with an in­flux of over­seas vis­i­tors.

Re­lax­ing rules could help bring new prop­er­ties to the mar­ket where an age­ing pop­u­la­tion has re­sulted in about 8 mil­lion homes sit­ting empty. Over­seas com­pa­nies aren’t the only ones sens­ing an op­por­tu­nity. Ja­pan’s e-com­merce giant Rakuten and real es­tate list­ing op­er­a­tor Li­full last week an­nounced plans to en­ter the home-shar­ing busi­ness.

“The mar­ket is go­ing to change com­pletely,” Ms Kimura said. “Ma­jor real-es­tate com­pa­nies, for ex­am­ple, had to stay on the side­lines be­fore the le­gal­i­sa­tion. Now, cor­po­ra­tions can en­ter the mar­ket on the sup­ply side.”

More than 24 mil­lion tourists vis­ited Ja­pan last year, top­ping the record for a fourth straight year, ac­cord­ing to the na­tion’s tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion. HomeAway wants to in­crease its list­ings in Ja­pan to 100,000 by 2020, Ms Kimura said.

Toshi­fumi Ki­ta­mura / AFP

Ja­pan has reg­u­lated short-term home rentals.

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