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Ebisu, Tokyo

Real Estate in Japan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 05, 2023

Summary: An expat looking to buy a home in Japan should start by researching the different areas of the country and deciding which one best suits their needs. They should also research the local real estate market and look for properties that fit their budget and lifestyle. Foreigners are allowed to own property in Japan, but there are some restrictions. For example, foreigners are not allowed to own land, but they can own buildings and apartments. Houses in Japan typically include amenities such as air conditioning, heating, and hot water. Many homes also have modern appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and microwaves. Some homes may also include a garden or balcony.

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How do I find a place to live in Japan?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"It is recommended to research and contact real estate agents for information about local rental options in Japan. Visiting the area in person is a great way to get a feel for different neighborhoods and available rentals. You may also ask trusted friends and family for recommendations, or contact local universities or companies to ask about housing options. Additionally, there are local housing websites and apps that list available housing and provide helpful advice. Considerations to keep in mind when looking for a place to live include the area's cost of living, access to transportation, and how long the lease will be," remarked another member in Japan.

"I chose my neighborhood based on my commute to work. I found something that only took one train and was under 30 minutes. I specifically found my apartment with the help of a real estate agent, which is the norm here. I told him my preferences and sent him some listings that interested me. He responded by showing me some of the listings I found and some other similar places he had found," explained one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Japan?

"Expat homes and apartments in Japan vary greatly depending on the city. Generally they tend to be modern, well-furnished, and fully-equipped with appliances. Most include air conditioning, heating, Wifi/internet, and other modern amenities. Expat apartments are typically rented unfurnished, so it is common to find expats buying or bringing furniture from their home countries. Many expat-friendly complexes offer weekly cleaning services, shared common areas and a variety of amenities such as gyms and pools. It is also common for expats to find housing with longer-term leases, allowing for more privacy and greater flexibility," remarked another foreigner who made the move to Japan.

"I live in a "mansion" apartment, meaning it's in a high-rise building. It is normal for most people in the city to live in one. Expats might live in sharehouses or pre-furnished apartments for the lower costs and convenience, respectively," explained one person living in Tokyo, Japan.

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What is the average cost of housing in Japan?

If you are thinking about moving to Japan, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The cost of housing in Japan varies depending on location and type of accommodation, but generally it is high in comparison to other countries. Prices for buying and renting property tend to be higher in cities and urban areas, with rental prices being further increased due to the size of the apartments being very small," added another expat who made the move to Japan.

"Housing costs are much higher than in the US. Housing has around the same cost as New York City, though a little lower. A 20 square meter apartment here can cost $600-$1,500 a month depending on the part of the city and distance from public transportation. In Texas, apartments can be the same price for triple the space," explained one foreigner living in Tokyo, Japan.

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Should I buy or rent a home in Japan?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Japan, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"Buying a home in Japan can be a good investment, as home prices are generally quite stable. However, due to its high cost of living, many people opt to rent a home instead. Renting in Japan can be convenient, as most apartments come fully furnished with appliances, kitchenware and other amenities. If you are planning on staying in one place for a long time, buying a home could be a better option. However, if you are moving around a lot or are not yet ready to commit to a longer-term housing situation, renting a home in Japan may be preferable," said another expat in Japan.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Ebisu, Tokyo

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