George has finally found his "Home Sweet Home" after 14 years of searching. George convinced Erika to move back to Japan, but it has been an uphill struggle. There are many problems that lie ahead for George and Erika before they can finally call Japan, "Home Sweet Home". Please join them as they face the difficulties and celebrate the successes. The journey promises to be entertaining as well as informative.
Summer in Tsukahara
Spring in Tsukahara
Friday, February 25, 2011
sink or swim
I wonder how our home in Tsukahara is doing? I know that I shouldn’t worry about it. The house has been there for 12 years and has been empty for 9 of those years. Most of the damage that has been done will not change during the 6 months that we are away. Erika’s relatives open the windows and mow the weeds every now and then. It’s hard having a home so far away and not knowing for sure if it is still standing.As I rolled down the storm windows and locked the front door before leaving our home in Tsukahara, my eyes welled up with tears knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see “her” again for 6 months. I know this is strange, but I felt like the house was sad to see us go. With the storm windows closed, the house appeared to be abandoned.
I quickly grew used to working around the house. From the moment we stepped into the house, we were either cleaning or repairing. I expect the same thing will be required when we visit in May. Honestly, I hate the house, but I love the property. The house is rundown, tired, and neglected. “She’s” only 12 years old, but she looks like 40. I know that with a lot of work, time, and money she can be restored to her former beauty. The problem will be finding the time and money. If we end up renting our house in Seattle ( Federal Way), then we would have to start working in Japan as soon as possible. I wouldn’t be able to afford the time or the money to fix the Tsukahara home. Speaking of renting our house, I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories. My coworker rented his house and found thatafter the house was abandoned, he found marijuana plants being grown in the back rooms and pit bulls being raised in the front rooms. EEK! I’ve only heard terrible stories about being a landlord. The best I can hope for is to find a reliable property manager who can find a great tenant. Imagine living overseas and totally depending on a property manager to take care of your home. My eyes are twitching just thinking about this. I really don’t know what other choices we have. If we were independently wealthy, we could leave the house empty. I have to ask, “If being a landlord is so bad, then why do so many people do it?” There must be a few good tenants out there, right?
Next is the question about taxes. I remember reading about if your home is not your primary residence and you have equity and you try to sell it, capital gains tax will eat you alive. I think this means that if we do not live in the house for 2 out of 5 years, the house is not considered our primary residence. So, we can be a landlord for 3 years, then either we sell or move back into it, or pay capital gains if we continue to be landlords. Let’s see…will the housing market improve by 2014? If not, then we’re stuck with another difficult decision…to sell or not to sell. At least during the 3 year period, we are establishing ourselves in Japan. Hopefully by that time, we will know if we will sink or swim.