Best Foreigner-Friendly Real Estate Agencies in Tokyo

Tokyo’s vibrant energy and rich culture make it a dream destination for many. But navigating the real estate market, especially as a foreigner, can feel daunting.

Here’s a guide to some of the top real estate agencies in Tokyo that cater specifically to foreigners:

1. Blackship Realty

Blackship Realty is a frontrunner known for its extensive listings of high-end properties across Tokyo.

Our team of bilingual agents offers exceptional service, guiding you through every step of the process, from finding your ideal apartment or house to navigating the intricacies of securing a mortgage.

2. AtHearth

AtHearth caters specifically to the needs of foreign residents in Tokyo. They offer a variety of rental properties, from studios to family-sized apartments, and their multilingual staff provides exceptional support throughout the process.

3. Ken Corporation

Specializing in high-end properties, Ken Corporation caters to those seeking a luxurious lifestyle. They excel at understanding your needs and finding the perfect match, even if it means going beyond their listings. They can even assist you with finding international schools for your children.

4. Mitsui Fudosan Realty

As part of a renowned Japanese real estate conglomerate, Mitsui Fudosan Realty boasts a vast portfolio of properties across various budgets. Their multilingual staff provides expert guidance and access to exclusive listings, making them a reliable option for diverse needs.

5. Plaza Homes

If you’re seeking a luxurious and hassle-free relocation experience, Plaza Homes is an excellent choice. They specialize in upscale rentals and offer comprehensive relocation services, ensuring a smooth transition into your new Tokyo life.

6. Savills Japan

Looking for a tenant representation service to ensure your rental agreement aligns with your interests? Savills Japan is also another reputable choice. Their team of experienced agents negotiates on your behalf, ensuring you secure the best possible terms.

Factors to Consider Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Choosing the right real estate agency is crucial for a smooth and successful home search in Tokyo’s dynamic market. You should research and compare agencies to find the best one that suits your needs and budget.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Foreigner-Friendly Focus: Look for an agency with bilingual agents who understand the unique challenges foreigners face. This includes knowledge of visa requirements, navigating cultural nuances in the rental process, and ensuring clear communication throughout.
  • Market Expertise: Experience is key. Choose an agency with a proven track record and in-depth knowledge of different Tokyo neighborhoods. Their local insights are invaluable in helping you find a place that aligns with your lifestyle, budget, and commute needs.
  • Service Offerings: Look for an agency that offers comprehensive support, from the initial search and neighborhood orientation to application guidance and even post-move-in assistance.
  • Reputation and Reviews: Do your research! Read online reviews from previous clients and check an agency’s reputation through local forums or expat communities.
  • Communication Style: It is crucial to find an agency with a communication style that suits you. Some agencies offer a high-touch, personalized approach, while others are more streamlined and digital. Consider what works best for you.
  • Fees and Transparency: Don’t be afraid to ask about fees and how they are structured. Reputable agencies will be transparent about their pricing and ensure you understand any associated costs.
  • The Perfect Fit: Most agencies offer free consultations. This allows you to gauge their responsiveness, assess the agent’s personality, and determine if they are a good fit for your needs.

Can Foreigners Buy Property in Japan?

Unlike some countries, Japan allows foreigners to purchase property with (almost) no restrictions. This applies to both land and buildings.

There’s also no expiry on ownership rights, and you can freely buy, sell, or inherit property.

However, securing financing, especially a mortgage, can be challenging for foreigners.

Requirements to Buy Property in Japan (for Residents)

  • Valid Residence Card: You’ll need a gaikokujin toroku shomeisho (外国人登録証明書).
  • Registered Seal or Jitsuin (実印): Get a hanko (印鑑) officially registered at your local municipal office. This acts like a notarized signature.
  • Japanese Bank Account: Opening one can be tricky due to language barriers and strict regulations. Consider banks friendly to foreigners like Japan Post Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Bank, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Mizuho Bank, Seven Bank, Shinsei Bank, SMBC Prestia Bank, and Sony Bank (listed in alphabetical order).
  • Secured Loan (Optional): While not always required, getting a mortgage from a Japanese bank can be difficult. Prepare for stricter requirements and potentially needing a guarantor or as hoshonin (保証人).

Requirements to Buy Property in Japan (for Foreigners and Non-Residents)

Foreigners can invest in Japanese property (even from abroad). However, you’ll likely need a local real estate agent or attorney to navigate the legal and financial aspects.

Consider factors like:

1. Restrictions

  • Land Type: Foreigners generally cannot buy “forest” or “agricultural” land without government permission.
  • Foreigner Bans: Some condominiums might have “gaijin bans” (foreigner bans) on ownership.

2. Financing (Mortgages) for Foreigners

Obtaining a mortgage as a foreigner in Japan can be challenging due to stricter lending requirements by banks. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Valid Residence Status: Permanent residency or a visa is necessary.
  • Good Credit History: Both in Japan and your home country (demonstrated through credit reports). Building credit in Japan takes time (at least 6 months to a year).
  • Stable Income: Prove sufficient income to cover mortgage payments with pay stubs, tax returns, etc.
  • Down Payment: Expect a higher down payment (30% or more) compared to Japanese nationals.
  • Guarantor (Optional): Some banks might require a guarantor, a Japanese citizen who assures your loan repayment.
  • Japanese Language Ability: While not always mandatory, some banks might prefer you to understand loan terms in Japanese.

Costs to Consider When Buying

Purchase Price

Property prices vary depending on location, size, and age. Expect higher prices in major cities like Tokyo.

As a general guideline, the average price of a single-family home in Japan is around ¥30-50 million (approximately $190,000-$320,000 USD), although prices can be much higher in popular urban areas such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

Average Home Prices for a 70 ~ 80 m2 Apartment in a Central Location
City JPY USD
Tokyo 70.0 million JPY $450,000
Kyoto 62.2 million JPY $400,000
Yokohama 47.4 million JPY $300,000
Osaka 42.6 million JPY $275,000
Fukuoka 37.1 million JPY $240,000
Hiroshima 35.5 million JPY $230,000
Sapporo 35.3 million JPY $225,000
Sendai 34.2 million JPY $220,000

Depending upon numerous factors, a small apartment or condominium in Tokyo might cost around ¥50-100 million (approximately $320,000-$640,000 USD), while a larger single-family home in a desirable area might cost ¥100 million or more (approximately $640,000 USD or more).

Additional Costs: Real estate agent commissions (3% of purchase price), stamp duty (0.4%-4%), property registration fees (0.4%), and property taxes (1.4% annually).

Rental Yields (For Investors)

Average rental yields vary depending on location and property type. Here are some examples:

  • Tokyo: 4.4%
  • Osaka: 5.2%
  • Fukuoka: 5.6%

Things to Consider Before Buying

  • Location: Think about proximity to amenities, transportation, and future development. Rural areas offer lower prices but less convenience.
  • Size and Condition: Consider the property size, age, and potential repairs needed. Get a professional inspection before buying.
  • Freehold vs. Leasehold: Decide between owning the land and building (freehold) or just the building (leasehold with ground rent). Leaseholds are common in Japan, especially for apartments. The leasehold period for residential properties in Japan is typically around 30 years, although it can be longer or shorter depending on the specific property and agreement between the parties involved.
  • Financing: Explore mortgage options and factor in closing costs, taxes, and insurance.
  • Legal and Regulatory Issues: Be aware of zoning restrictions, building codes, and property rights.
  • Cultural Differences: Understand Japanese customs and etiquette when dealing with neighbors and others involved in the purchase.
  • Resale Potential: Consider the property’s potential resale value and marketability.

Steps to Purchase a Home/Property

  • Find a Property: Search online, through real estate agents, or at property auctions.
  • Make an Offer: Negotiate the price and terms with the seller through your real estate agent.
  • Secure Financing: Apply for a mortgage or loan from a Japanese bank if needed. Prepare documents proving your financial standing.
  • Conduct Due Diligence: Get a professional home inspection and review legal documents related to the property.
  • Close the Sale: Sign the contract, pay the deposit, and finalize the purchase once all terms are agreed upon.
  • Register the Property: Register with the local government office and pay any applicable taxes and fees.
  • Move In! Once the sale is complete, you can move into your new home or property.

While owning property in Japan offers many advantages, the process can seem complex for foreigners. Don’t be discouraged!

By partnering with a qualified real estate agent, attorney, and potentially a financial advisor experienced in foreign transactions, you can ensure a smooth and successful journey towards your dream property in Japan.

Their expertise will guide you through legalities, financing, and cultural nuances, allowing you to focus on finding the perfect place to call home.