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
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.