After you’ve made a trip to Japan once, it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with the country. From the diversity in landscapes to the people, to the culture, to the food, Japan has so much to offer foreigners that many are tempted to move there.
A more permanent stay might mean looking at Japanese real estate, but there are things to know before becoming too invested in a Japanese home.
Can A Foreigner Purchase A Home In Japan?
Anyone can buy a house in Japan, including foreigners. The process is pretty much the same when it comes to buying a property as it would be if you were native to Japan. Depending on your financial situation, you might find the process either comparable or a little bit more difficult since you’re not a native.
This is because getting a property loan in Japan is not an easy task for a foreigner. This doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically be denied; it just means that you might find it harder to get approval.
You’ll be charged the same types of taxes and fees as a Japanese citizen would be; you don’t pay more because you weren’t born in Japan.
The Intrigue Of Living In Japan
When comparing the prices of homes in Western or European countries to Japan, it’s easy to see that Japan is, for the most part, a much more affordable country to purchase a home in.
This will also depend on where in Japan you’d like to live. As to be expected, major cities and urban regions come with higher price points for homes and apartments.
Since foreigners can buy houses, land, apartments, or condos in Japan, many will jump on the opportunity to have a vacation home of sorts in the country where they can have a place to stay when they visit.
Regardless of whether you want to live in Japan full-time or not, you can still buy a property.
Recently, the Japanese government has been trying to encourage people to buy homes outside of major cities, which makes it the perfect time to consider buying a home in a less populated part of Japan.
Since the transportation system is so vast in the country, there’s no reason why you have to live in the heart of the city should you not want to.
That said, buying a home in Japan doesn’t mean you’ll get a visa or will have a fast-track route to permanent residency. You must go through the process of applying for a visa or residency despite owning a home in the country.
Home Prices In Japan
In 2020, purchasing an apartment in a building could be anywhere from 44.500,000 yen to 60,000,000 yen, depending on the location.
This would be equivalent to between $325,509 to $550,000 USD. Houses in more rural areas were going for much less in 2020. In these areas, you can find fixer-uppers to large houses for not much more than $75,000 USD.
Land Use Restriction Bill
One thing to be cognizant of if you’re starting to look at land or homes in Japan is the Land Use Restriction Bill. This bill was enacted in 2021 in an effort to reduce the number of foreigners that were buying land in older rural or resort areas like Hokkaido.
The intention of the bill isn’t to deter foreigners from wanting to purchase property or land in Japan but rather to protect the traditions of the communities in these smaller pockets of the country and allow them to keep some of their most important landmarks and ways of life.
Navigating Japanese Homes Online
If you want to start the process of browsing homes but can’t make it to Japan yet, there are ways to see what your options are online. The real estate market is structured a little bit differently in Japan in that it’s rare to see anyone selling their home on their own.
As such, finding properties online can help you see many options based on where you’re searching and your budget, among other factors.
One website often used by foreigners looking to purchase in Japan is Real Estate (realestate.co.jp), as you can read about properties listed in English.
Freehold Property In Japan
Freehold property in Japan is considered one where you own the entire home and the land the home sits on. In Japanese, this ownership process is called shoyuken.
It’s a pretty straightforward process when it comes to purchasing a freehold property, and of course, this type of property is the most expensive of the two ownership options.
Freehold properties will also require the owner to pay annual taxes. There are also some additional taxes associated with a freehold property.
When it comes time to sell a freehold property, there’s a chance you’ll see some potential profit. This is because land usually goes up in value. Your property may or may not go up in value depending on how you maintain it and if you do any renovations.
Leasehold Property In Japan
Despite what the term might imply, a leasehold doesn’t mean you don’t own the property you live in. A leasehold involves owning a condo or an apartment in a building while also owning a portion of the land the building has been built on.
Since you’re buying less land and less square footage, you’re not making as big of an investment in a leasehold property. You also don’t have to pay tax on the plot of land that your property sits on.
However, you pay a monthly rental fee to the person you’ve purchased the leasehold from.
Many property owners will buy one of these properties as an investment and rent it out. It can be a wise investment for someone who is smart with finances, but when it comes to selling, you won’t see as much of a profit.
What To Know Before Moving To Japan
Purchasing a home in Japan doesn’t mean you can immediately start living there. It’s not a way to bypass the visa process; you will still have to go forward with applying for one and getting it approved.
Even though your residency status won’t deter you from buying and owning a home in Japan, it will determine whether or not you can live in it long-term.
When you’re contacting real estate companies to find an agent, be sure you’re explaining your current situation, including your residency, what kind of property you’re interested in, and whether or not you want to live in the country full-time.
Be sure that the company has agents familiar with your situation as well as helping foreigners buy homes in Japan.
When you are in the process of searching for a home, there are a few things that will be required of you to have with you. You should have proper identification available, and be prepared to make some copies should you be asked for them.
You are also asked to submit an affidavit, which in Japan is a document containing proof of your current address that has been confirmed by a notary, though not one who has an official seal in Japan.
Getting Property Loans
As mentioned previously, there can be some difficulty getting a property loan in Japan if you are not a citizen born there. If you happen to be a permanent resident, you will have more luck on your side during the application process.
The same is true if you are married to a Japanese citizen, as well as if you have been living in Japan for a few years. All kinds of factors go into getting a property loan in Japan regardless of residency, so each application is considered individually.
If you can’t get a property loan, one solution is finding a bank where there’s a branch in Japan and your country of origin. If you’re able to get a financial agreement of some kind from a Japanese financial institution, you’ll have to choose between a variable or fixed interest loans.
The latter tends to be favorable as of late as interest rates are currently lower than usual in Japan.
In order to qualify for a mortgage or property loan in Japan, both foreigners and Japanese citizens have similar requirements to meet. For example, you are expected to be working full time or as a contractor for at least two or three years and are expected to be between 20 and 65 years old.
Your yearly income is also expected to fall between 3-5 million yen, though you can earn that amount in your own currency. As an example, this would be approximately 22,000 to 37,000 USD per year.
Purchasing A Home In Japan: Where To Start
Before you start looking for homes in Japan, you want to find a real estate agent with some experience working with foreigners. This person will be able to help you understand all the legal documents and paperwork that you’re going to be responsible for.
They can also help you navigate the country and the various cities or prefectures you’re interested in living in.
If you are having trouble finding a real estate agent, you can contact the Chamber of Commerce and be set up with one.
Be advised as well that Japanese real estate agents will charge a brokerage fee and commission, which is customary in other parts of the world as well.
Real estate agents can help set up appointments at open houses so you can get an idea of what kinds of homes fit into your budget.
You can also get a better sense of Japanese homes in general, as well as what you’re able to afford based on where you want to live. You can also look online and send your real estate agent some inspiration.
Setting Up Your Home Purchase
There are a couple of pieces of paperwork you’ll start with depending on if the property you’re interested in is a new build or a previously owned home.
A Letter of Intent is necessary if you’re buying a pre-owned property, and it is essentially just that; a letter explaining your interest in purchasing the property that the previous owner has for sale.
If the property you’re interested in has never been lived in, then you’ll have to fill out an Application for Purchase. This allows the real estate developer or company to gauge interest in the property.
Should there be an influx of applications, a lottery is usually held to pick the application that is accepted.
In Japanese, the Letter of Intent is called a kaitsuke shoumeisho, and the Application to Purchase is called a kounyuu moshikomisho. The letter acts as a way to start discussions with a property owner to purchase their property. The application may or may not get approved, and there is a fee for filling out the application.
Financing A Home
Earnest money, or tetsukekin, is the terminology used for a deposit or down payment on a home. At a minimum, the earnest money is required to be between five and ten percent of the total home price. This money isn’t paid until you finalize your purchase, and the earnest money is calculated into the whole price of the home.
Furthermore, you can apply for a property loan in Japan. As with any kind of property loan or mortgage, you will be required to present a host of financial data and personal records in order to get approved.
Permanent residents tend to have a much easier time applying for a Japanese property loan. You can still apply without this particular residency, but it’s extremely difficult to get approved.
Explanation Of Important Matters
Called the juuyoujikou setsumeisho in Japanese, this document will be presented to you after you have found a home to purchase. This will essentially be like a contract you sign to take ownership. It’s a legally binding document, so it needs to be read thoroughly before signing anything.
You should be given a lot of information that is crucial to know about a home you’re choosing to buy. For example, you can see the current mortgage(s) on the home, as well as any potential liens or financial issues associated with the ownership of the home. There will also be information about any existing issues with the neighbors.
Furthermore, this document will outline the management fee associated with buying the home, as well as any issues that exist internally or externally with the home. This might include items that need to be repaired or any recent renovations completed.
As can be expected, this is a very large and comprehensive document. It’s required by Japanese law that you are presented with this package and are given time to review it before you agree to buy the home.
You will have to submit a copy of your passport, a registration certificate, the value of the stamp duty, a seal, and a copy of an inspection report.
The Transfer Of Ownership
Once you review your juuyoujikou setsumeisho as explained above, if you agree to everything, you will go to your bank and meet with a shihoushoushi, or a judicial scrivener.
You will then pay anything owed to the seller at this point, and the property will be transferred to your name. Once you’re handed the keys and everything is signed, the home is yours.
Potential Taxes And Fees After Buying A Home
It’s very important that you know all costs associated with buying a home in Japan. While most countries have a series of taxes and fees to pay when it comes to home ownership, Japan has some that are different from other countries.
All of these fees and taxes should be understood and considered before you decide to buy a home so that no surprises come in the future and you know you can afford it.
One tax you’re expected to pay is the acquisition tax, which is essentially a tax that you pay one time shortly after the purchase of your home.
Typically, you’re expected to pay this two to three months after the purchase is finalized. The government will charge you this tax based on what they think the land is worth and what the residence is worth.
You are also expected to pay city planning tax and fixed asset tax. While it’s not the same thing, it’s similar to property taxes in Western countries as you have to pay them each year.
One fee to expect when buying a home is the brokerage fee, which is made up of 3% of the purchase price of the home, as well as 60,000 yen and consumption tax. You are also expected to purchase a registration license to buy a home, which is also taxed.
You must also pay a stamp duty when you register the title of the home, which is about 10,000 to 60,000 yen depending on the value of the property you’ve purchased. You also have to pay for your shihoushoushi, or your judicial scrivener.
How much you have to pay will depend on a few factors, such as if you have a mortgage to register and the type of property that you’ve purchased.
How Do You Pay For A Home Without Financial Ties In Japan?
If you don’t have a bank account established in Japan, there is a special process in place to allow you to pay for a home. This involves having the money deposited into an account that the real estate company will safely keep for you, often before you’ve found a home. This ensures that you’re not sending money overseas in an unsafe manner.
Once you’ve successfully found a home and the sale has been secured, the money will be taken from the real estate company’s account to pay for the home.
With this being the process, doing your research to make sure you deal with reputable companies that understand this type of home purchase is crucial.
What To Do After Purchasing A Home
Once everything is taken care of, such as paperwork, the transfer of finances, and contracts are signed, you have to fill out an Obligation of Notification. This form is expected of any person who isn’t a resident of Japan but has bought a home in the country.
The requirement is set in stone by the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Act. The purchase of a home by a foreigner is considered a capital transaction, and the Bank of Japan keeps a record of your name and the cost of acquiring your home.
You must submit this notification no more than 20 days after you have acquired the home.
There are some situations where you don’t want to complete this obligation form, so it’s worth discussing it with either your real estate company or contacting someone at the Bank of Japan to confirm.
What If You Rent Out Your Property In Japan?
If you buy a home in Japan, you are allowed to rent it out should you be looking to have it be an investment property. However, this has to be done appropriately by notifying the proper authorities. For instance, you should notify the local tax office in the area of Japan where you have the rental property.
You will have to pay tax on the income you make from renting the property and have to file a Japanese tax return every year.
It’s worth looking for a tax professional in Japan that has experience filing tax returns for people who earn rental income in Japan while living in another country.
You will be responsible for any taxes and fees on the property, including if the property you’ve purchased is in a building. You should also have yourself set up as a proper landlord, making sure you can financially take care of repairs and maintenance.