Q5. How to buy real estate in Japan

A5. Foreigners are not particularly restricted from acquiring real estate in Japan.

The purchase of real estate usually follow the following four steps:
1 Research on the real property;
2 Execution of a sale and purchase agreement (and payment of a deposit);
3 Closing of the transaction; and
4 Registration of title to the property.

A purchaser of a real estate will usually retain a real estate agent and a judicial scrivener who will jointly work to assist their common client achieve the purpose of acquiring real estate. A real estate agent will lead the client in steps 1 to 3 above and advise the client on important matters concerning the property such as legal restrictions attached to the property. A real estate agent will also make necessary arrangement for the closing of the transaction such as requesting the seller to provide all documents necessary for registering title in exchange of payment of the purchase price. A judicial scrivener will assist the client in step 4 above and prepare and file documents for title registration.

Lawyers are also often involved to assist foreign clients prepare or review sale and purchase contracts. While Japanese contracts are relatively short compared to English contracts, the seller and the buyer quite often find difficulty in agreeing on such clauses as defect clauses. In case the purchaser is overseas, the payment method also often becomes an issue.

In case a non-resident of Japan acquires real estate in Japan, a post-closing reporting requirement (under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law) may be triggered.

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