I recently bought a house in Yokohama, Japan. I don’t have any other experience to compare it with, but thought I’d make some notes on the processs in-case some finds it helpful.
We had moved from the US to Japan in January 2017 and were renting a 2LDK Terrace House in Fujisawa. For 2 people and a dog it was more than enough, but adding a third person to the mix and it quickly became a bit cramped and so we started to think about getting a bit bigger place.
When we first started thinking about buying a home, we weren’t decided on a mansion (condo) or a standalone house. I was heavily in the mansion camp because it would allow us to live closer to major stations, which makes communiting easier and offers more variety when eating out.
We considered buying a used masion, but prices weren’t much different than buying new in our area. The used houses we saw online on [Summo](https://suumo.jp/) all needed a lot of work to become workable for us, which would probably make the cost comparable to buying new in the first place.
TL;DR We bought a 3LDK Prebuilt house.
### Buying Proccess
Unlike in America used-houses aren’t as much of a thing here. Usually when people buy a used house it’s just for the land underneith it and they promptly tear it down and build a new one in its place. As such it’s helpful to think about buying a house as two different purchases: one of land and one for the house.
* 耐震等級 (taishin toukyuu or taishin-kyuu) Earthquake resistance level
A formal qualification for the resilience of the structure to an earthquake and a scale of 1 – 3, 3 being the most resistant. Besides being important because Japan has earthquakes and you’d like your house to not collapse, having a higher grade house will result in cheaper, manditory earthquake insurance.
In order to build a house you’ll of course need land. Unlike most countries, in Japan houses lose their value quite quickly and land retains it’s value.
A trap you can fall into is to over-spend on your house and under-spend on your land. Even if you build a fantastic house, it will be worth “nothing” in a couple of years.
Typically in Japan you want to spend less house than land. This is easy in Tokyo where a 8000万円 house will be 6500万円 land and 1500万 house. In surrounding prefectures or further in the country side it would be easy to bring the prices of land and house closer together. 60%/40% land/house is right around where I’d be most comfortable. Your own risk tollerance may be different.
#### Custom Build
For a while we had our hearts set on getting a house from [Muji](https://www.muji.net/ie/), the “no name brand”, that designs and sells minimal goods. Building a muji-house is more expensive than some other makers, but not the most expensive.
One unique point of Muji Houses is that their no-pressure sales and that their prices are openly listed. As it’s a custom house though, the prices are only base and don’t include any “customizations”, like a toilet on the second floor.
We attended a couple of tours of muji houses, one new and one older. Both houses were nice, but ultimately too expensive and the default layouts sub-optimal for our needs.
#### Prebuilt (建売）
Prebuild houses are quite common in Japan. Their interiors finishes and exteriors are quite similar but as each parcel of land is a different shape aand size, and the maximum legal land/house ratio is different per city each house is unique.
The quality of the house can vary dramatically. Naturally quality is not as high as a fully custom house. Most pre-built houses are cerified level-2 (of 3) for eathquake resistence, but finding a level-3 house (like you’d get with a custom build) is possible. Our prebuilt house is level-3 certified.
### Financing / Mortgages
#### How to get
Rather than 30 year loans as is regular in the states, 35 year loans seem to be the most prevealant. Interest rates are dirt cheap in Japan.
Two types of loans: variable and fixed. You can also mix and match throughout the life of the loan e.g. 5/10 year-fixed and variable after that.
#### Requirements as a foreigner
The ultimate requirements depend on the bank that you get a loan from, but generally speaking you’ll need either a Spouse-visa or Permanent Residency. When we initially applied for pre-approval on a loan, I was on a spouse-visa. Having only a spouse-visa will severly limit your choices in banks.
The bank offered me a 0.65% rate. A couple weeks later I got PR and applied to another bank and was able to get loan at 0.495%.
You can get a loan with a souse-visa but waiting until you have PR will save you a lot of money in the long run.
## Moving and Additional Costs
### Additional Construction
Even buying a buying a pre-built house they not move-in ready without some additional purchases. The construction company has thought about this and will provide you with a catalog for common needs e.g. dishwasher, light fixtures, AC units, additional kitchen storage / cabinets, solar panels, curtain rails, curtain rods, blinds, storm shutters, and so forth.
Depending on what you’re bringing with you from your previous living arrangement it can be quite handy and save you some decision making and time. We opted for the following options since we already had some AC units and most of the light fixtures in our apartment.
* Window Screens (90万）
* Dishwasher （150万）
* Curtain rails （4万）
### AC Units
As central cooling / heating isn’t common in Japan, you’ll likely need to supply an AC unit per room. Since it is a large expense it’s tempting to opt for cheaper units to save a bit up front, however the cheaper units aren’t as engery efficient and will end up costing you more in the long run.
Think about which rooms you’ll be spending the most time in and make those the most efficeint and opt for cheaper ones in your less used-rooms. Buying multiple units at the same time from the same vendor will also usually get you a 25,000円 ($250) discount as well.