Buying Property in Japan

What restrictions are there on foreigners buying a home in Japan compared to other countries?

There are no restrictions or special taxes on non-resident foreigners wishing to buy property in Japan, compared to many countries and territories around the world that restrict the ownership of residences by non-citizens.

Can a foreigner buy property in Japan?

There are no legal restrictions on buying property in Japan for foreigners. Foreigners are only responsible for providing a written notification to the Bank of Japan within 20 days of purchase of real property.

There is no need to have citizenship or even a residence visa to buy a house in Japan. However, buying property in Japan does not entitle the purchaser to receive a Japan residence visa. If you do not have a permanent residence visa, are not married to a Japanese citizen, and/or are not at least resident in Japan with an established work history, it can be exceedingly difficult to find financing to purchase a Japanese property.

Below is a brief summary of how some countries and territories have sought to restrict property purchases by foreigners

New Zealand

This month the New Zealand government voted in a new law preventing the sale of all existing homes or residential land to non-resident foreigners (other than to Australians and Singaporeans). The aim of this restriction is to combat the skyrocketing housing prices some New Zealand politicians feel has been exacerbated by foreigners speculating in the New Zealand property market over the last decade. According to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, residential prices in Auckland have leapt nearly 70 percent in just five years.

British Columbia, Canada

Joining New Zealand is the province of British Colombia in Canada. British Colombia is home to Vancouver, a favorite destination of many foreigners, especially Asians, wishing to buy a home abroad. However, foreign purchasers of residential properties in the province will be subject to a special 15% transfer tax beginning this month. This change comes after a Canadian government study on property deals in the Greater Vancouver area found foreign purchasers accounted for over one billion Canadian dollars in transactions in the months of June and July alone this year!

Thailand

Foreigners may not purchase or own land in Thailand. Accordingly, most foreigners choose to simply buy a condominium or apartment in Thailand. However, a foreigner can only purchase and own a condominium in the event more than 50% of the building is already owned by Thai nationals.

United States

Foreigners selling a residence in the United States are generally subject to a special 15% tax under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax of 1980 (FIRPTA) unless one of its exceptions applies.

Australia

Like New Zealand, Australia restricts non-resident foreigners from buying an existing home in the country, and has even forced some foreign owners to sell properties that do not qualify under its new rules. Nevertheless, it is possible for non-resident foreigners to buy vacant land or have a home built, provided the foreigner receives advance permission from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board. At the territory level, it should be noted that there is a 7% surcharge on foreign homebuyers in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia (from January 1, 2019).

Great Britain

In 2016 Great Britain increased the stamp duty on purchases of investment properties by adding 3% to the existing tax. In addition, the UK government closed a loophole that gave foreign property owners an advantage over domestic buyers. The government now requires all investors to pay capital gains tax (up to 28%) on houses they sell that they are not using as main residences. Previously, only British taxpayers had to pay the capital gains tax.

Singapore

Since 2013 there has been a special ‘foreigner’ tax (an extra 15% tax) when buying a residence in Singapore, and Singapore has long made it difficult for foreigners to buy any real estate other than a high-rise condominium. In the last few years, the government has also enacted measures to cool property prices such as imposing extra taxes on buyers who sell in less than 4 years, and charging extra fees when acquiring a second home.

Hong Kong

In 2012 Hong Kong introduced a new 15% tax on house purchases by non-permanent residents and corporations. Further, purchasers who sell within three years pay an extra penalty of up to 20%.

People’s Republic of China

Foreigners are barred from buying houses in certain parts of the main cities. Foreigners must spend at least a year in the country before being permitted to purchase real estate, and are limited to one house only until they become permanent residents.

Switzerland

In 2013 Switzerland imposed restrictions on property investment, limiting the number of properties deemed to be second homes to 20% of the residences in any community. There are also tight restrictions on the number of houses foreign investors from outside the European Union may buy in the country.

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