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Can foreigners buy housing in Tokyo?


8 Oct 2003
Hi people,

I know that a foreigner can find it very difficult to get a mortgage for a house without permanent residency. But does anyone know if we can actually buy a house if we just have a working visa?

I guess I'm planning to move over there long term, and it would probably be cheaper in the long run to buy a house, than rent.

And does anyone know the process on how to buy a house if we are allowed to? e.g.name seals, contracts, etc.

If you are flush with cash and can afford to hand over enough to pay in full, then yes, anyone can buy a house in Tokyo. It sounds like you think you will need a loan, in which case you will have a huge amount of trouble with only a working visa. But that is not all they look at.

I am no expert, but the bank wants to make sure you are noting going to skip the country if times get bad. It takes several years to get a permanent resident visa, so even on a work visa they will look at other factors to see if you qualify for a loan. These are some issues that come to mind my mind if I was looking at your application. I'm probably wrong, I might miss some, and I am not a bank officer (it's a slow day at the office so I'll take a crack at it anyway).

Do you have roots in Japan? Meaning do you have a job that looks like you will still be at for the next 30 years? What are your plans for the future. Do you have kids in the school system? Are you married to a Japanese person with no intention to return to the UK before you can pay off your loan? How is your credit history? Have you been in Japan for at least a few years (ie not going to get really home sick and split) and am comfortable living here? How good is your Japanese and are you working to improve it? How good do your references look? Why this house in particular?

Yes, you will need a bunch of documents which the bank can point you to. You will still need someone to act on your behalf (shoulding the loan if you default). So be really nice to everyone you meet!

Lastly, you might want to think about renting as the best option. In the long run it might turn out to be a better way to use your money unless you are a very smart real estate person. Japanese houses become basically worthless in ten years due to the construction market being tied to import restrictions on the stuff they can use to build a house. As a result, they are not insulated worth a darn, made largely out of plastic and don't stand the test of time well at all (IMHO Japan has some of the worst looking and performing modern domestic buildings I have ever seen, bells and gadgets aside). If you try and move, you will probably find that you won't recoup very much of the cash you paid out to get it. If you are confident you want to live in one place for the rest of your life, go ahead and buy a home. I would rent for a few years first, establish a line of credit and some street cred for the banks and then take a very long and hard look at investing in a home.

Good luck. If you read Japanese you can poke around www.century21.co.jp to sample the housing market.

Wow, thanks for the info!

I had no idea the quality of housing was that bad! I will definitely reconsider...perhaps I'll need to buy land instead...But yes, I was thinking of saving up money on this side of the pond first, before trying to buy a house there. And come to think of it, it may be better to build one's own house!

If you're thinking of buying land then you won't find it in Tokyo ("Can foreigners buy housing in Tokyo?") - there isn't any, unless you're a major corporation who can afford to build a 10+ floor block of apartments.

You'll find though that land isn't as expensive as people often claim, once you get out into the country. Parts of Hokkaido are particularly cheap (if you don't mind living in a frozen wasteland during the mid-winter!)

oh joy and jubilation...


It just doesn't get any better does it...

I am a real estate kind of guy, although not an expert...Would you suggest a flat /apartment instead of a house? I would probably purchase the property 2/3 years before actually moving to Tokyo. (the arctic wastelands don't sound too appealing...although I could steal a helicopter from a US airbase or something...)😊

I've recently found some possible options for capital...so that shouldn't be too much of a problem...hmm...if only I can convince him to build a 10-storey block of apartments (highly unlikely).

I guess a lot would depend on what you plan to do about working. Are you rich enough that you can just buy a house and not care about getting a job. If this is the case, then maybe it doesn't matter so much where you live.

If you need work, then as you'd expect, the Tokyo area is your best bet, however the house prices rise accordingly.

By the way, don't write off the arctic wasteland idea. Hokkaido is a beautiful place (I live there myself). Plus, we have some of the best skiing in the world.

As luck would have it, I actually went to look at a "showhome" with my girlfriend yesterday in a new apartment block. A decent 4LDK (a large apartment - think 4 bedrooms in UK terms) with all mod-cons was a little under 24,000,000 yen (roughly 120,000 British Pounds) for the first floor (or the "ground floor' in the UK) rising to about 29,000,000 for the 15th floor (identical apartment, but you kinda pay for the view you see). The building was on the edge of Sapporo in case you're wondering.

Oh! I checked the website of the company (Funakoshiya) whose apartments we went to see and they have a pretty decent website for the actual building we visited, so you can get an idea of what you might get for your money.

The link is:

If you use an English web browser you might need to download some stuff to view it properly.

Hope this helps

Thanks Tiger!

Both of you have been very helpful!

hmm...Cruiser Valley is a tempting offer...120K is disgustingly cheap compared to prices around my area. But, yes, I would eventually need a job...my cash won't last forever, sadly...

But Hokkaido would definitely a good option for investment! Thanks!
Good luck.

If you ever decide to move to Hokkaido (especially Sapporo) let me know and I'll show you around. Perhaps you could consider renting for a while to get an idea of what you like (apartments are reasonably priced - my 3LDK is 45,000 per month - about 240 British pounds) and comfortably accomodates myself and my girlfriend.

Actually if you look at the map on the website I mentioned above, go to the page showing the location of Cruiser Valley. Line number 7 (labelled as in Japanese as Daiei supermarket) basically points to my apartment (as I live next to it).

Thanks Tiger,

I'll keep that mind! Although, be careful, I usually do what I say I will. You might be surprised when you meet a strange long-haired 6ft2 guy in front of Dalei supermarket, asking you when we're going to go snowboarding...

back to your original visa question, if you are going to need a bank loan you may have a problem. I have two foreign friends both married to Japanese men whose banks did not allow them to put their name on the bank loan for their homes (along with the husbands name), because they did not have permanent residencey. both were still on 3 year spouse visas and had been married and living in Japan for close to 10 years..

And to give you an idea of prices closer to Tokyo, I live in a Tokyo/Yokohama suburb in a 3LDK (same at the person in Hokkaido) and pay 120, 000 yen a month AND I live 2 km from the nearest station, the same size in my area and a walkable distance to the station would run about 200,000 a month.
Oh! Is it me or is it London?


Thanks for the update torakris. Having calculated the UK equivalent, I'm surprised to see that Tokyo is probably cheaper than London!

I always assumed that Tokyo was the most expensive...but the figures you gave me worked out to 10% cheaper than some parts of a London 3LDK...although, it's probably 50% smaller in Tokyo too...

😏 So I guess it would be possible to buy it then... And for those who are interested, Mandylion's link can be translated by worldlingo.com, and here's the procedure for anyone else who wants to know:

Just copy and paste this into Worldlingo's machine translation, and it should be able to do it...although i still need to figure out what the messed up English means...
Just to compare with Torakris' place above (sorry this isn't meant to make him feel bad) my place is about a 1 minute walk from the nearest station, so in actual fact it's more expensive than some properties further away. This really gives you an idea of how much the price can drop when you get away from Tokyo. Although it has to be said, in Sapporo, the distance from the station is sometimes an even bigger factor in determining price. This is mainly because it's a nightmare walking to the station in mid-winter when it's -20 degrees outside and there's a snow blizzard. Basically, if you don't live near the station, you buy a car.

Wait let me get this right after 10 years your house is almost worthless? :confused:

If this is true then my plan of buying a 1k apartment then selling it getting my cash back and get a bigger apartment has been crushed.

About Hokkaido its cheaper there since its sorta cold and far from a major city right? This sounds like a pretty sweet deal for a poor person like myself.

I don't know much about Hokkaido is there schools there and some stores or is it really country side that the nearest store is 150 km away?
I'm amazed that you didn't ask if there are polar bears walking the streets. ^^ I live in Sweden and now and then people ask me if there are many polar bears in my area, if we really are nomads and if every swede has got his own reindeer. I think that Hokkaido's climate is quite similar to Sweden's, although in south west of Sweden where I live the temperature seldom goes below -10 degrees. In the north, however, it can go as low as -30 degrees.
Perhaps I'm not the right person to judge this since the largest city in Sweden, Stockholm, has got only a population of about 1,5 millions but I think Sapparo is quite big.
how about buy a simple house (just a kitchen and my room) and working in a simple job too.. like.. in a restaurant or store.. something like that..
is it possible ??
how about that situation in Hokkaido or Yokohama?
a lot of questions.. >_< sorry
how about buy a simple house (just a kitchen and my room) and working in a simple job too.. like.. in a restaurant or store.. something like that..
With a simple job? No. Housing is *expensive*. Especially in cities. You'd come closer with Hokkaido but probably still wouldn't be able to afford your own house with a low-end job. And with housing conditions in Japan you might be shelling out some big greens to get your home sweet home in working order. Also, the standard space of living in Japan is much less than in America, so your house would probably be small..But then again so would your apartment... But an apartment would definately be your best bet, and would likely come fully furnished and hopefully in not too bad of a condition. Especially if you don't have to pay the grantor/key rent.

But in case you're wondering how you could actually afford a house a university teaching position would probably do it (I'm thinking a small house in the inaka or a 3LDK in a city). However you'll definately need to fight for it. Or if you're able to elbow your way into something more profitable...

But anyhow I'll stop rambling..Good luck!
oh yeah .. i mean a apartment ^^'' a really simple apartment
thank u SacredBlue
maybe an apartment would be possible, yah?
the truth is.. to get a good job I will need more time.. and I really dont want to wait until my 22/23 years...
neither want to be rich.. even a car I dont care..

all I want is to save money until I finish the high school.. then move to Japan..
have my little-but-cool apartment and have a simple job
is it a hard dream? 😭

someone living in Japan want to adopt me? 😄
the truth is.. to get a good job I will need more time.. and I really dont want to wait until my 22/23 years...
The thing is, you need something called a Visa to be able to enter Japan. In order to get a visa you need at least a university degree. In order to get a halfway decent in job you also need a university degree. You may wish for a simple job but even a sales advertisement position would require extremely good Japanese (and a visa/degree). With a degree you'll get a good job, which will indeed get you an apartment.

But, if you really have your heart set on going to Japan early, there is a way. There's a massive English teaching corporation called NOVA that is known to send people to teach in Japan, even if they don't have a degree. NOVA will get your visa, and give you an apartment and a solid job. However there are many drawbacks..NOVA is notorious for working conditions and their sweatshop like hours. You'll be sharing your apartment with other teachers and paying for it (though at a reduced affordable rate). Remember NOVA hires everyone so you could very well be housed with unpleasent characters. One thing I can promise is you'll be working your butt off and the days off and vacations you get are close to nothing. The paycheck starts at minimum wage (for an English teacher), which is around 250,000 yen per month (~$2,350 US). Oh and no socializing with students (hanging out with, dating, etc), expect this rule to be overly enforced.

Most NOVA employees stay for a year or two and go home, thus leading to the high turnover rate and the massive hiring of unqualified teachers. However, your experience all depends on what branch you end up in. But remember if you take this job it might be the only job you can have in Japan because you don't have a degree. Also, if you decide to quit you need to pay a month's rent in advanced to NOVA, and due to the poor wages of NOVA employees and the high costs of rent this leaves many employees stuck working for NOVA or broke. You'd also need to find another new apartment which is very expensive. (Cheaper alternative: Get a Japanese girlfriend and stay with her).

I know there are people such as Iron Chef who are more knowledgable of Japan who say taking a job at NOVA is a good way to get your foot in the door, but the door really won't be open without that uni degree. So I highly reccomend you tough it out now for an easier life later.

Personally, if I were you (and convinced on moving to Japan after high school), I would play it smart. First off, save up alot of money. From your other posts it seems you're of Japanese background, do you have relatives that currently living in Japan? Got a very close pen pal in Japan that you trust? Apply for the job at NOVA, and when you get accepted bring your cash with you. Soon after arriving in Japan, announce to NOVA in advance you're quitting. Request a letter of release (required by law that they write you one). Once you're off the hook hightail it to your relative's or friend's place. This works because NOVA can't take away your visa, once you have it then it's yours to keep. So in the end, you're in Japan without a degree, but you have your visa, you have an apartment to stay at, and you have enough money to cover you until you find a job.

I hope I've been of some help in this lengthy post! :p

P.S. Many people have different experiences with NOVA and different viewpoints. I suggest you read up on what current employees think if you consider going that road.
Yeah I have relatives living in Japan.
But I think that NOVA don't have here in Brazil..
I think I finally found another (but very hard) way.. the Monbukagakusho.
then, I could use the same "tactic", but instead of the NOVA using the Monbukagakusho.
Thank you so much SacredBlue !
You are supporting me more than my mom :)
Originally posted by Tiger
If you're thinking of buying land then you won't find it in Tokyo ("Can foreigners buy housing in Tokyo?") - there isn't any, unless you're a major corporation who can afford to build a 10+ floor block of apartments.

Don't agree with that. It's hard to find, but not impossible. There are a few patches of unbuilt land full of weeds for sale in my neighbourhood in central Tokyo. More than half of Tokyo is actually individual houses, not apartment blocks. Compared to London, there are of course more flats in Tokyo, but no semi-detached or terraced houses at all. The reason is that Japanese laws impose to keep about 20cm between any building, even commercial ones.

What's more, if you want to buy land without a house, you could invest in a parking lot. It's easy to rent and it pays as much as renting a house (about 50.000yen per car, and you can easily built a metalic multiple-story parking, with a kind of lift).
Originally posted by Luc
Wait let me get this right after 10 years your house is almost worthless? :confused:

If this is true then my plan of buying a 1k apartment then selling it getting my cash back and get a bigger apartment has been crushed.

Exactly. But that's true mainly for the previously overpriced areas like Tokyo and Osaka. I don't think real estate prices have dropped so much anywhere else (especially in the countryside). I am only talking about land prices here, as houses get cheaper very quickly as they get older anywhere in Japan. To give you an idea, a 10 year old construction is considered old and a 30 year old is almost difficult to rent, as nobody wants to live in a shack. To give you an idea of the evolution of Japan, houses where about the same as what you' find in other Asian countries (like Thailand or China) just after WWII. Mostly wooden houses with corrugated iron. Have a look at the pics I have taken in a typical neighbourhood of central Tokyo. About 15% of all houses are like that, with higher concentration in older shitamachi areas than in high-rise appartment blocks, of course.

About Hokkaido its cheaper there since its sorta cold and far from a major city right?

Hokkaido is not a city, but an island the size of Scotland. It's largest city, Sapporo (1,8 million inhabitants), is Japan's 4th largest.

The weather in Hokkaido varied a lot depending on the location. The Eastern part is notably colder than the west, where most people live.
Winters are especially cold, but summers are very pleasant - and basically the only liveable place in Japan if you can't bear 35 degree with an extremely unconfortable humidity level, day and night, from late June to mid-September.

But if you want to escape the cost of Tokyo, the Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto...) is already cheaper, and if you go to other big cities like Hiroshima, Fukuoka or Sendai, prices will be closer to Sapporo than Tokyo, and the weather more similar to Tokyo or warmer (Sendai is colder, but nothing like Hokkaido). All these cities have more than 1 million people, so they aren't isolated backwaters.
Originally posted by Kaminoko

I know that a foreigner can find it very difficult to get a mortgage for a house without permanent residency. But does anyone know if we can actually buy a house if we just have a working visa?

Most Japanese banks are very reluctant to grant mortgages (even to Japanese) nowadays because they have had too many bad loans (from big corporations, not individuals, but whatever), which has put them on the edge of bankruptcy. Any of the 4 major banks (Mizuho, UFJ, Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Mitsui-Sumitomo) could close any day now. For ex., Mizuho, the world's largest bank, has seen its shares went down by 70% last year. They are all insolvent by Western standard (but the government keeps the laws lenient to avoid having to nationalise them all).

This situation explains why few Japanese consider buying their home compared to the UK (whereby world standard, the very high proportion of the people absolutely want to own their house). Rather than banks, it would be best if you asked a 住宅金融公庫 (juutaku kinyuu kouko, Public Housing Loan Corporation), which specialise in mortgages.

BTW, Tokyo used to be more expensive than London 10 or 15 years ago. Still, as prices have plummeted by 50% since then and skyrocketed in London's past few years, London's real estate market is now, on average, twice more expensive than Tokyo. Tokyo's prices are more comparable to Paris now. Another big difference is that Tokyo's prices don't vary according to the area's standing, as it all looks the same anywhere, and safety isn't an issue.

London and Paris are very sensitive to the neighbourhood's quality (including the beauty of the architecture, peacefulness, proximity of parks, prestige, etc.). In Tokyo, the only 2 things that matter are the proximity to the (underground/train) station and the age of the building (the newer, the more expensive, contrarily to the European feeling that old is prestigious).

Whereas there are more up-market districts in London (Kensington, Mayfair, Hampstead, Richmond...) and Paris (6th, 7th, 16th arrondissement), and also poorer or more working-class or immigrant ones (Brixton, most of S-E and East London; Goutte-d'Or, 19th and 20th arrondissement in Paris), such things don't really exist in Tokyo or Japanese cities in general, so that prices are just a matter of distance from the centre.
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