One of the best opportunities for DIY buyers is actually buying property in Japan. I bought a house 1 hour from central Tokyo for $US30,000 five years ago, and property prices in this region are still cheap, and look like going lower in the current turmoil.
What is special about Japan is that foreclosed property is actually a bargain. Western buyers are more astute than in the Japan, so there is actually a significant discount (5-50%) depending on the area. eg. Fear of yakuza, not viewing the properties (even though Japanese courts offer photos).
Its actually a great way to stay in Japan. You can get a 90-day visa and just go to Korea for a weekend, and you have another 90-days. After 180-days, you can go to the Philippines and check out homes there, but the foreclosed opportunities are not so good there. I realised that the cheapest properties in the world are actually (paradoxically) in Japan.
Japan does not have the same DIY culture as Western countries, but they are catching on. There is a national chain of maga-hardware stores called Cainz Home which offer the same support. The extent of my DIY skills was changing light bulbs. I merely painted over old wallpaper, replaced the kitchen. I did find a Japanese project manager who spoke English at the pub, but I did not need his help even though my Japanese is terrible. Its amazing how you can stumble through with a few photos, gestures and actually many speak English, though they are shy to use it. You might even find a Japanese person who wants to help you for free to learn English.
My place was a holiday home, but my GF was able to rent her $40K house out for $600/mth so that was a handy 13% yield, and that's ungeared. The yields are worse in the CBD, so I recommend the rural fringes 1hour out. We bought in two under-loved valleys - Hanno, Saitama and Tokigawa, Saitama. They were 4 & 7km from the station. Close to shops, mountain river, bars & shopping mall. Really quiet idyllic.
I can't think of a better way of spending time in another country. Now we are going the same in NZ, which is also a great opportunity since the currency is low. Anyway I wrote a blog about my experiences. If you Google: "foreclosured.blogspot.com"
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