When is the Niseko building season and how long does it take to build a house?
Generally-speaking, the building season is from Spring to late Autumn. That said, we have built houses through the Winter months – As long as the roof is on before snow starts falling regularly, there is no problem building during winter.
Regarding the duration of a build, it depends on the design of course, but generally speaking for a typical structure, allow 6 months. Ordinarily, work on the land begins in May and the house is ready for handover to the owner before Winter.
One way to advance the completion date, is to build the foundations before Winter; Once the snow has melted away, construction commences again in Spring. It is a considerable head-start, as foundations can’t be built on land that is absorbing all the water from the snow melt.
Since Hokkaido is a heavy snowfall area, is there any particular house design you would recommend?
The land itself will impact on the house design; A sloping lot will have implications on where the house will be built, the suitable foundations, water movement, entry/exit locations for vehicles, etc. Furthermore, it is always good policy, from the start of the design phase, to imagine the property in the midst of peak snow season – Where will the snow accumulate? Where can it be moved? Do you have snow-clearing services on hand? Where will the roof shed snow? Probably the biggest thing to get right, is the design of the roof, given what (if any) restrictions may be imposed by the land. On a narrow lot, it wouldn’t make sense to have a conventional gable roof, shedding all the snow to either side of the house (and over the land boundaries!). Mono-pitch roofs are fine if you want all the roof snow to drop to one side of the house, but you need the space there to handle the accumulation and the snow clearing services to take care of it. Floor to ceiling windows in a wall on the bottom floor where a mono-pitch roof drops all its snow would be inviting disaster. When it comes to roof design, simple is best; A complicated roof with several valleys where snow will get trapped is a bad idea.
What type of heating system is best for Hokkaido?
A lot will depend on the owner’s preferences for such as things as ease of operation, running costs and looks.
While, for example, a wood-burning stove offers a certain kind of warmth and ambiance that other heating options cannot, some find it troublesome to keep the stove supplied with wood; Do you have storage available for firewood? Where will you have to carry it from? Also, if you are planning to rent the property to people you don’t know, can you be certain they will use it properly? While a correctly installed wood-burning stove shouldn’t be dangerous, people who have never used one might be.
Many prefer electric panel heaters for their ease of operation. As there will be one or more individual heaters in each of the rooms, the distribution of heat tends to be more even.. and highly adjustable by the turn of a dial. An electric panel heating system will churn through the electricity, however, so the running costs will be relatively high. Although, if you are only using the property for a few weeks over Winter, that might be easy to stomach. A popular choice for heating system is a combination of a wood-burning stove in the main living space for ambiance, and individual electric panel heaters in the rooms.
In-floor heating is a good idea for any wet areas; Outfitting the whole house with in-floor heating might be a costly enterprise, but having it in the bathrooms and ski room is well worth it.
What is a typical payment schedule?
Ordinarily, 30% at the time of contract, 40% once the structural framing (including roof) is up, then the remaining 30% on completion.