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Zeit Geist: Home Sweet Uchi


17 Jan 2004
Lots of people all over the world are moving to Japan. Here's an article by the Japan Times on whether buying a house in Japan is better than renting one, or vice versa.

As of Dec 31, 2002, a total of 1,851,758 foreigners were registered with immigration authorities in Japan. That's about 1.5 percent of this country's population. But it's an exceptionally diverse group and comprehensive information on their housing conditions is difficult, if not impossible, to come by.
One thing for certain is that misconceptions on the topic of home ownership by foreigners abound.

Take visa status. Despite beliefs to the contrary, you don't need permanent resident status to buy, or even obtain a loan -- although it helps. In fact, as long as you can come up with the funds, there's nothing to stop you from buying property in Japan on a short-term visitor's visa.

Japan Times
Nothing legal to stop you maybe, but in practice, unless you have a bucket full of cash, don't expect a bank to lend you any cash. Just because there are no laws against lending to short-term residents doesn't mean a bank must take you on as a liability. Chances are, they won't. And who can blame them?

The problem is when you have been living in Japan for years and banks still won't lend to you.
By "bucket of cash," you mean at least $10,000 U.S. dollars or more? Or way more than that?
To rent, that might be okay. Not to buy or as collateral on a loan.

Almost anyone can rent, as long as the landlord doesn't discriminate. Buying is a different story.

I think David Arudo, a long-term resident up in Hokkaido, still had to have a co-signer on a lease even though he had been in Japan a long time, had a family, a good job, and did not appear to be high risk. He had settled and put down roots. However, because by the very fact he was foreign, and could thus pick up and flee the country very easily never to return, the bank wanted a Japanese national to sing too, so they would have at least someone to get money from if he defaulted. I think it is all on his website.
Yeah, there are a lot of informal barriers to purchasing a home for most foreigners. Hell, I've even found just renting a place to be a major headache.

Personally unless you are planning on living here the rest of your life I don't think buying a house in Japan is at all a good idea. As they alluded to in the article, most of the houses built in Japan only have a lifespan of 20 years so they aren't much of an investment. A couple years back they had another article (kind of a horror story)in the Japan Times about an elderly couple who had used their entire life savings to build their dream house a decade earlier. But because it was so shoddily built they were forced to have it torn down after only a little more than a decade of living in it. It ruined them, they had to sell the property and move into a small apartment to live out the rest of their years. Yikes.
So, from what I'm getting, it's generally better to rent a home in Japan rather than buying it? In spite of an unpredictable landlord, it's better than having to have your bought house fall to pieces. I can imagine that, and it would be a nightmare. 😊
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