You can gain insight and advise into the Tokyo house-hunting situation during the Covid-19 pandemic in our perspective article HERE.
The focus of this Property Search and Viewing guide is to help you through the process in normal conditions.
Identifying your Property of Interest Location
Our Area Guides provide a starting point with which to start narrowing your chosen locations to start the property search. Our guides cover:
What types of property are available?
Information regarding the differences between Freehold and Leasehold can be found HERE.
The types of property available for purchase in Japan can be summarized into 4 main categories:
Using a Real Estate Search Site you can start to investigate what properties are available, but there are a couple of things to know first.
Abbreviations of the property layout
Especially for apartments you may see a combination of the letters L, D, and K. These refer to Living area, Dining area, and Kitchen Area. By referring to the floor plan in the property listing you can see if these areas are separate areas/rooms or shared areas e.g. a shared Kitchen and Dining area.
The "J" shown in the Floor Plan
Referring to the floor plan below it can seen that the letter J is used – e.g. 13.7 J for the Master Bedroom. But what does the J mean?
The J (or Jyou) refers to the number of traditional tatami (畳) mats that would cover the floor (see the image below the floor plan). A tatami mat is approximately 1.6m2, so the floor area of the Master Bedroom in the example is 13.7 x 1.65 = 22.6m2. Do note the "J" does not mean that tatami mats will be present in the property, it is an area measurement unit that is used.
It should also be noted that tatami mat size can differ by region in Japan, so where the traditional size may be 1.6m2, in Tokyo they may be smaller at 1.55m2.
Typical Floor Plan
Property Viewing Process and Questions
Nothing beats visiting the area or areas where your interested property is located to experience the amenities and transport links. Also, it can be advisable to visit properties first-hand to appreciate the layout, size, and condition. Also the access is very important in Tokyo as road widths vary considerably. Some roads can be so narrow as to be a challenge to drive down. Similarly the neighborhood quality can vary. Very old or decrepit housing or buildings can be found practically anywhere, even on expensive real estate, and be a detriment to nearby property values. So it is always important to visit.
It is also useful to have a good real estate agent working for you to ask the right questions and do background checks on the property. Don’t just focus on the property itself but ask what are the potential problems that may be faced. For example, if you plan to purchase an apartment or condominium you will be responsible for payments into the reserve fund that is used for the repairs and general upkeep of the building’s fabric and common areas. If the reserve fund is healthy you will avoid unexpected ‘top-ups’ if major renovation/repair works are needed in the future.
Other historical checks that are wise to carry out are to check if there have been any accidents in the property and/or unit in the past and whether the property has been sold multiple times in the recent past. These could reveal that it is best to avoid the purchase.
Looking into the future is also a wise move and by checking if there are any upcoming projects in the area that may negatively impact the value of the property. However, if the upcoming project improves the amenities or transport links it may point to a rosier investment potential.