Top 5 places where foreigners are looking to buy homes in Japan, outside Tokyo – June 2021

This month on Real Estate Japan, we’ve seen a significant uptick in inquiries for For Sale properties throughout the country.

The majority of buyer interest is focused on Tokyo, but there was also a noticeable increase in inquiries to other parts of Japan.

This month, here are the Top 5 places, other than Tokyo, receiving inquiries for For Sale properties:

  1. Tied for #1 Hokkaido
  2. Tied for #1 Osaka
  3. Kyoto
  4. Kanagawa
  5. Fukuoka

Below we focus on factors driving Hokkaido’s popularity and give examples of properties currently on the market in Niseko, one of the prefecture’s most sought after locations for international property buyers.

Tied for #1 Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands and the second largest by land area.

Low population density

With about 5.22 million (2020) people spread out over an area of 83,454 square-km (32,222 square-mi), it is also the prefecture with lowest population density, at 62.5 people per square-km. This is about 0.97% of Tokyo’s population density of 6,411 people/sq-km (2020).

For some homebuyers, the lack of crowds and beautiful wide-open natural spaces is one of the northern island’s main attractions.

Agriculture plays a large role in Hokkaido’s economy, with a quarter of Japan’s arable land located on the island. Hokkaido is also home to 22% of Japan’s forests and wildlife, such as deer and bear, is abundant. It is also not uncommon to see road signs warning drivers about the presence of deer and bears passing nearby.

While much of the island is occupied by farmland, mountains, and undeveloped forests, Hokkaido does have a major metropolitan area, Sapporo, the prefectural capital, with a population of 1.97 million (2020).

Nearby New Chitose Airport is Hokkaido’s biggest airport and Japan’s fifth busiest (2018). The Sapporo–Tokyo Haneda route is also the second busiest air route in the world (2018-Wikipedia).

On Real Estate Japan, we generally see an equal level of interest in city-center properties in Sapporo and those in rural locations, including ski resort destinations.

Climate, natural beauty and world-class ski resorts

Hokkaido is, of course, known for its breathtaking natural beauty, hot springs and ski resorts. Japan’s northernmost prefecture is also notable for its climate, which is extremely cold and snowy in winter and relatively mild in summer; this makes it an outlier compared to Japan’s other regions.

The average August temperature ranges from 17 to 22 °C (62.6 to 71.6 °F), while the average January temperature ranges from −12 to −4 °C (10.4 to 24.8 °F), in both cases depending on elevation and distance from the ocean, though temperatures on the western side of the island tend to be a little warmer than on the eastern (Wikipedia).

The cost of living is also generally lower in Hokkaido than the rest of Japan.

These qualities are a major draw for many residents of Tokyo, Osaka, and overseas, who are looking for a second home or vacation home.

Hokkaido is also home to Niseko, one of the world’s premiere ski destinations and the most popular international ski destination in Japan.

High-end travelers to Niseko and other Hokkaido ski resorts hail mainly from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, but also from emerging markets like Thailand. Niseko is also rising as a destination for European tourists.

Niseko and Kutchan

On Real Estate Japan, we consistently see interest from domestic and overseas buyers viewing and inquiring about properties in Niseko and nearby Kutchan, the town located just north of Niseko.

In 2020,  the pandemic stalled the growth in land prices linked to inbound tourism, but as of 2019, commercial and residential land plots in Kutchan notched the nation’s highest rate of price growth in the annual Standard Land Price survey. In the 2019 survey, a particular plot of residential land in Kutchan grew 50.0% in price year-on-year and was assessed at ¥75,000 per square meter, or approximately ¥6,968 per square foot. The indications are that demand for land in and around Niseko is likely to continue post-COVID.

What types of properties are available in Niseko and Kutchan?

Condominiums in high-end ski-in ski-out developments

Condominiums in ski-in ski-out resorts are one of the most sought-after properties among high-end buyers. Here are a few examples of what is currently on the market in Niseko:

Ki Niseko bills itself as Niseko’s premier ski-in ski-out location, adjacent to the Hirafu high-speed gondola and Holiday Pair lift, providing ideal access to the slopes. All units in Ki Niseko boast beautiful scenic views to either Mt.Yotei or the Hirafu ski field.

4LDK (4-bedroom) penthouse apartment for sale in the Ki Niseko ski-in ski-out resort. List price is ¥620 million. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to contact the agent, Tokyu Resort Corporation. Image: Tokyu Resort

The Vale Rusutsu, located in the village of Rusutsu (just southwest of Niseko), is a recent entrant in the ski-in ski-out segment. This is a “hotel condominium” development that enjoys a prime location on the West Mountain, the hub of Rutsutsu’s hotel and and entertainment facilities, as well as offering true ski-in ski-out access to West Mountain ski runs. It is fully integrated with the existing resort and connects to the resort’s brand-new designer spa, baths, and health center.

The Vale Rusutsu. Image: Tokyu Resort

3LDK (3-bedroom) penthouse apartment for sale in The Vale Rusutsu. List price is ¥250,000,000. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to send an inquiry to the agent. Image: Tokyu Resort

Newly-constructed single-family homes

Niseko is also a family destination, and at least a few developers have taken notice.

A good example is the Foxwood Niseko development. “Consisting of 7 Housing Sites with 3, 4 and 5 bedroom options, Foxwood Niseko Higashiyama Homes is the first master-planned luxury housing development to hit the increasingly popular Niseko Higashiyama area. Features include underground power, masterplanned landscaping, Mount Yotei and ski-hill views plus walking path and kids’ bike track.” (Source: Foxwood Niseko)

3LDK (3-bedroom) house for sale in the Foxwood Niseko development. List price is ¥152,500,000. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to send an inquiry to the agent. Image: SOLID Real Estate

Previously-owned properties

One of the emerging trends coming out of the pandemic is the shift in willingness among buyers in Japan to consider previously-owned homes.

In Niseko and in other towns and villages around Hokkaido, you can find a range of properties in this segment, from log cabin-style homes to small hotels and ryokan (traditional-style inns).

Here is an example of a log cabin-style home for sale in the village of Kutchan:

2LDK log cabin-style house for sale in the North Hills area of Kutchan. This property sits on a 1,166-sqm lot. List price is ¥98,000,000. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to send an inquiry to the agent. Image: Tokyu Resort

Another option is to buy a previously-owned property that is currently being run as a small hotel or ryokan.

Here is a good example:

4LDK hotel/ryokan for sale in Kutchan, Hokkaido. This is a 120-sqm 2-story building with a list price of ¥70 million ($632,000). Please click on the photo for the full listing and to send an inquiry to the agent. Image: Tokyu Resort

Please click to see all properties currently available for For Sale in Hokkaido.

FAQs About Buying Property in Japan

Can a foreigner buy property in Japan?

Yes. You can buy property in Japan regardless of your nationality or country of origin. There are also no residency requirements for buying real estate in Japan. Securing financing as a resident foreigner is more complicated. For info on financing, please see Basic Requirements for Getting a Mortgage as a Foreigner in Japan

Seminars on Buying Property in Japan

Please see our seminar page for a current list of seminars on: how to buy a home in Japaninvesting in Japanese real estate for beginnershow to apply for permanent residency in Japanhow to sell property in Japan, and much more.

How do I get a property loan as a foreigner in Japan?

Please see this article for information on: Getting a property loan as a foreigner in Japan

What is the process for buying a property in Japan?

Please see our step-by-step guide: Guide to Buying Property in Japan

See how much you can borrow and your monthly payments in yen: Yen Mortgage Loan Calculator

For information about purchase and brokerage fees: Breakdown of real estate purchase fees and taxes in Japan

Need to know: Earthquake building codes and technology in Japan

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How much is my property worth?

Real Estate Japan is pleased to offer free, no obligation appraisals for owners of property in Japan. Please click here and fill out the form: How much is my property worth?

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Sources: Sources are cited inline in the article

Lead image: Sunrise over Mt. Yotei, Niseko via iStock 1281598962