Due Diligence for Buying Japanese Property
The phrase the devil’s in the details effectively summarizes the importance of researching a property in the Japanese countryside. Buying property anywhere in Japan can be exciting, but there are several things you should check before closing. The following is an overview of the due diligence process that all but guarantees you’re making the right purchase.
Due Diligence 101
Accurately assessing a property of interest prior to making an offer is extremely important in your dream home search.
This can involve a number of activities. You should make visits, obtain relevant documents, commission surveys, and potentially more depending on the property. This might seem like a pain, but trust us, this will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. With just a bit of patience the process quickly ends. Soon enough, you’ll be confidently on your way to an exciting journey in the Japanese countryside!
Real Estate Registration in Japan
Japan’s real estate registration system treats buildings and land separately, each with their own documents. Smaller, single plots are easy enough to register. However, larger properties tend to be spread out over several parcels, each with their own documentation. In either case, you’ll want to secure each of these unless you want to argue with neighbors over property lines.
Curiously, Japanese law does not require building registration. That being said, building registration needs to take place as a prerequisite to purchasing real estate in order to ensure a secure transfer of ownership.
For plots with multiple buildings, each standing structure often has its own registration documents. It is also common for newer additions or sometimes entire buildings to be unregistered. Conversely, sometimes buildings that have been demolished still retain registration. As you can see, this can easily become quite complex.
There are several documents required for building registration. Confirmed building surveys, verified construction documents, certificates confirming build approvals, and more can all be part of the puzzle. Collecting these documents and starting the registration process may take weeks, or months, but is very much worth it.
It is highly important to clarify a property’s registration status, especially if you want to secure financing. Banks will not approve finance for properties without the required documentation, making your only option a cash transaction. That being said, the buyer can leverage any insufficient documentation that is uncovered to negotiate price.
While Japan also issues deeds, the national real estate registration system is the primary source of ownership confirmation. Thus, to ascertain available avenues for secure ownership transfer, you must first determine current registration, and then rectify any discrepancies.
Surveying & Research
Usually, real estate sales are conducted based on the official size noted in the registration documents. However, it is often the case that the survey was done using analog methods, resulting in imprecise records. For this reason, you should consider asking the owner for a confirmed survey as a condition of selling their property.
This is especially important if you plan on new builds for the property. A confirmed survey includes obtaining the approval of all owners of adjacent properties, reducing the risk for subsequent disputes.
You should also research the surrounding area. Local municipalities publish maps of natural disaster-prone areas, historical preservation areas, and other information. Local travel and business associations publish listings of activities and opportunities. If you take these steps before making a purchase decision, you can eliminate problems so that you can enjoy your new property.
Case Study: Purchasing Property in Rural Saitama
While conducting due diligence for a Saitama property recently, the draft contract we received for approval wasn’t up to snuff. Especially since rural real estate is inexpensive, real estate agents tend to be lax in their due diligence. However, we take extra steps to review, scrutinize, and cross-reference shared information before moving to closing. Thank goodness!
Upon visiting the local government’s historical preservation section, we quickly discovered that the building was located within the outer boundary of an archaeological preservation area. It was an area where artifacts have been uncovered dating to the Jomon Period, to be specific. This information was added to the contract, as any new construction will require approval by the local government authority. It also has the potential to necessitate a site survey by historical preservation experts.
Additionally, we visited a local construction approval records office, where we obtained the original approval for the original build. Finding these documents required extra work, and in this case necessitated a trip to another bureau 30 minutes away. In the end, however, the peace of mind was more than worth it.
This is just one example, but we take great pride in providing our clients with such a high level of service.
Saving Time & Money
As you can see, there are many details to be considered to successfully transfer ownership of property in Japan. With a team of experts and passionate due diligence, we help our clients make well informed decisions about rural Japanese real estate. Our ultimate goal is to leave you with the peace of mind to pursue the wonders of inaka!