Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post Reply
StockBeard
Regular
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:36 am

Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by StockBeard » Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:24 am

We're on the market for buying a house. We're a family of 5 so have some pretty unusual requirements in terms of size (we're thinking 100m2 at the very least), but are reasonably flexible in terms of location (the 23 wards of Tokyo would be great, some of the adjacent prefectures are ok as well. We like Chiba, Saitama is an option but I think my wife doesn't like it).

I've been impressed by what I read recently on retirejapan about passive houses, so we've been looking in the direction of buildings that do their best to handle energy properly. Passive house seems to be a bit of a stretch financially (although we haven't contacted any company that does passive houses yet), but there's one building company named ichijo that seems to be quite in line with what we're looking for, albeit not building fully "passive" houses.

(Edit: after typing this post I realize Ichijo is the same company that Ben was dealing with recently, see: http://www.retirejapan.info/blog/buildi ... in-japan-5. Given the price he was quoted for his house, that might be a deal breaker for us, as we're looking to pay roughly half of what he was quoted)

Some of my "needs", which I felt are pretty basic (double layered windows, reasonably insulated walls) already seem to put some companies out of the equation, as well as buying used (which was my initial goal).

We've listened to what ichijo had to say, but I have a few questions and it's difficult to find unbiased opinions on what these companies claim. wondering what people here think.

1) Just asking for what I consider to be "minimal" insulation (double layered windows and reasonable insulation in the walls) seems to not be very common here, although it is growing. We've been told multiple times that if we try to buy used houses we will be disappointed if what we're looking for is a reasonably insulated home. Of course, the people telling us that are house builders, so they have a conflict of interest. Is it true that houses built in Tokyo 10 or 20 years ago will have terrible insulation?

2) Ichijo install Solar panels on the house at no initial cost. Instead the owners of the house then pay for the solar panels by selling the generated electricity to ichijo instead of the regular electricity companies. I haven't seen the numbers. Is there a potential trick here?

2.1) They insisted that a full-roof solar panel was a great idea compared to just a few panels above the roof. I'm not sure I understood their explanation, besides the fact that it costs more but they pretend it costs less because of all the money we'll be rolling in by selling electricity. That seemed very suspicious (their infographic below) but I wanted to know if there are benefits to a full roof of solar panels.
Image

3) Is it better for us to look for the land individually, or let the building company find it for us? They claim that if they find it for us, they'll ensure they find a plot of land that works well for building a house, which will avoid a bad surprise. Thoughts on that?

4) They say they install triple layered glass in their houses instead of the current "standard" of double layered glass. Is that helping with insulation in a significant way, or are they selling me a "5 blades razor" gimmick?

5) They build houses with heating floors everywhere in the house. We had one of those a while ago, and using it cost so much in gas(or electricity, can't remember) that we reverted back to a combination of kotatsu + aircon. They claim that heating floors are not expensive to install, and more energy efficient than typical aircon, which is not my experience. What do people think?

6) They kept claiming that they are better than other companies in terms of insulation. They said that they appear to be more expensive than the competition on the surface, but that as soon as clients of their competition discover 1) that they pay much more in energy and 2) that a lot of the things they saw in model houses were actually expensive options, they realize that ichijo turns out to be actually less expensive in the long run. This sounded like a bad sales pitch but I'm wondering if there is any truth to it

7) We asked them if they had proof of their insulation claims, and they sent us this: https://www.towntv.co.jp/2009/11/cq.php
This basically states that they are number 1 in Japan when it comes to insulation, compared to other builders (and right after passive houses which is the reference "PR" in the table). Can we trust these numbers? What do they mean in term of our energy bill?

Thanks in advance for any insight, or experience feedback with that company, good or bad.

Tony
Regular
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 12:59 am

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by Tony » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:15 am

If you're looking to have a house maker build for you (instead of say an architect and building company), then Ichijo are probably the best when it comes to insulation and such.

The wife and I did some house looking a few months ago, with an eye to buy someday, and the 2 best we found were Sweden House and Ichijo, but when it came down to it, Ichijo would be the more efficient (on paper).

The numbers Ichijo are likely giving you are the numbers for their iSmart2 house, which is the most energy efficient. It is built to a spec that has the highest air tightness ratings.

Anyway, let's go buy the numbers of your questions.

1. Yes, it is likely you would be disappointed with houses built in Japan 10 or 20 years ago, especially when it comes to insulation. Even today, a lot of the houses thrown up have poor quality components when it comes to insulation.

2. What Ichijo is doing with the solar panels is loaning you the money, you then pay off that loan using the power generated by the panels, and after that you reap the money from the panels. The trick is likely that in the long run, you won't be profiting as much from your solar panels if you bought them outright, or included the cost in your home loan. I think I crunched the numbers, and figured it was better not to opt in on that, but it will cost you more upfront. (And that was based on electricity sale prices at the time)

2.1) The reason they are suggesting doing the whole roof, is that it would likely put you over the 10kw requirement for a 20 year contract with the electricity company. With a system under 10kw, you are can only sign up for a 10 year contract. But over 10kw you can get a 20 year contract. The reason you want a longer contract is that the price to sell back electricity is dropping every year. If you can lock in for 20 years at the current rate, that works out to more profit than 10 years at the current rate, then the next 10 years at the new (likely lower) rate.

3) This is up to you. You can look for land yourself, have it inspected and go with it, or you can go with land they find. Either way, I don't think you are locked into one option or the other until you sign a contract. So you can look for land, and have them look for land at the same time. It's likely that they have contacts in the real estate industry that will let them get info on good land before it becomes publicly available, so it's always worth asking them to look for you too.

4) Depending on where you are, triple glazing may be over speccing, from everything I've seen, triple glazing performs a lot better than double glazing.

5) The reason your heated floors cost a lot previously is possibly because of the lack of insulation in that apartment/home. Ichijo's homes are well insulated, and have few places for air to get in/escape, and they use a heat recovery system, which helps to keep the temperature stable, thus making the heated floor more efficient. Whether it is more efficient than a split system aircon or not is debatable. Personally I'd try and get a central heating/cooling system, but that can't be done with Ichijo.

6) Ichijo do indeed use the best insulation out of all the big house makers. Again, Sweden house is another one we were/are interested in, they also have fairly good insulation, but Ichijo is the top (by the numbers).

7) Since these are testable numbers, Ichijo can't really fuzz this. They will have (and have to to obtain certain tax deductions for you) your house's air tightness tested. Admittedly this is done before any outlets and such are put in, but I saw a blog where the guy had an i-smart house built and had the testers come back after all the work had been done to test the rating again, and it was fairly consistent. What this means for your energy consumption is anyone's guess as it depends on your usage habits, but it should theoretically mean cheaper bills as it won't take as long and cost as much to heat, and hold that temperature.

I would recommend taking them up on their offer of an overnight stay in one of the houses (if they offer it). My wife and I stayed at one in Hiroshima earlier this year, and it was great. It wasn't the latest model, but it had full house floor heating, and all the other amenities. They also had everything ready for us to make dinner (sukiyaki - which we chose from a list) and a fridge stocked full of beer, chuhai, and soft drinks. All for the low price of a conversation with the salesman.

RetireJapan
Site Admin
Posts: 414
Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:57 am
Location: Sendai
Contact:

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by RetireJapan » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:34 am

We did a stay too -they gave us something like 8,000 yen to buy food. Was good to experience the house at night, the bath, etc.

Ichijo was the best we found, and I would certainly consider them if we were going to build a house just for us without the compromises that scuppered the project this time :)

Lots of options for solar:

1. use and sell -domestic size
2. use and sell -commercial size
3. sell only -commercial size
4. lease (the one you are talking about)

The whole roof thing means less maintenance (?). Maybe.
English teacher and writer. RetireJapan founder. Avid reader.

tmj
Probation (posts moderated and no PMs)
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:59 am

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by tmj » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:45 am

Agree with the others, the site they gave you also mentions that Ichijo does measurements of the Q and C values, so I'm pretty sure you can trust the numbers.

One think you might want to check is how much history they have in building houses to their specs in Japan. They guarantee for 30 years, but can they show you an example of a 30 year old house of theirs, that with proper maintenance still performs well?

We went with Sweden House, which has similar levels of performance, but the part that influenced me the most was touring various ages of their existing customers' homes. With proper maintenance (that their after-care team does a pretty good job of advising you on), they seem to hold up well, and since they had been building for so long I figured they were likely to still be around in the future to continue helping with maintenance.

Having proper insulation makes a huge difference in energy bills. We lived in a mansion previously, that had floor heating in the living, double glazed windows (but with the aluminum frames..), etc. Compared to that our current energy bill is on average 10,000 yen cheaper. Which is huge considering that in the mansion that energy bill was mainly just to keep the living room heated/cool. With a properly insulated house the entire interior space is roughly the same temp.

It does look like Ichijo has more flexibility in designs, that's one of the trade offs with Sweden House. SH has relatively simple, basic designs, which are harder to modify because they use pre-fabricated wall panels for construction.

StockBeard
Regular
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:36 am

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by StockBeard » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:41 am

Thanks a lot for the answers so far, in particular Tony for the details.
I'll check Sweden House as well.

For some reason my wife has also been discussing with another company named kinoshita. Mostly because she wants to be able to compare, but I don't know why she chose them above other companies.

So far, I'm a bit worried that what we want will be more expensive than what we can afford. I'd compromise on size, except what we target is already a huge compromise from my perspective (in any other country, I think people would not believe you can fit a family of 5 in 100 square meters). We might have to compromise on the city, but I'd really like to be "not too far" from Tokyo, and not too far from a train station.

Oh well :)

tmj
Probation (posts moderated and no PMs)
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:59 am

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by tmj » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:01 am

Yes, unless you're fortunate enough that budget is not a worry, you'll end up compromising somewhere. We compromised on closeness to a station.

By moving about 2km out on a large bus line (if you are thinking about this check your company rulebook on how far you have to be for the company to cover a bus pass! I think around 2km/10min is common) we were able to find property that was affordable enough to allow us to spend more on the building and stay within our budget. Probably could have found something cheaper and closer in a different part of the city, but location was one of the items we chose not to compromise on.

I am curious what Ichijo's rate would be, anyone know? FYI Sweden House is probably between 75-100man per tsubo. The variation being dependent on how much you pay for the interior stuff like kitchen/bathrooms.

RetireJapan
Site Admin
Posts: 414
Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:57 am
Location: Sendai
Contact:

Re: Buying a house. What do people think of Ichijo?

Post by RetireJapan » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:09 am

tmj wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:01 am
I am curious what Ichijo's rate would be, anyone know? FYI Sweden House is probably between 75-100man per tsubo. The variation being dependent on how much you pay for the interior stuff like kitchen/bathrooms.
They tell you less, but our final quote was 46m on their top of the line product, tricked out as much as possible with no compromises, 45 tsubo:
http://www.retirejapan.info/blog/buildi ... in-japan-5
English teacher and writer. RetireJapan founder. Avid reader.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest