Nippon Tradings International is making Japan’s property market more accessible to foreigners.
Founder of Nippon Tradings international Ziv Nakajima-Magen is helping foreigners navigate Japan’s property market. Born in Israel, Ziv spent time in Australia before learning about Japan and visiting the country regularly. He broke into the real estate industry and now lives and works in Fukuoka full time.
In 2011 we started looking to invest in property in Japan. We did some research to narrow our focus on cities that were up and coming, and provided good financial returns. Fukuoka immediately revealed itself to be all of these things and more. We started coming here on a regular basis to look at potential deals, meet local professionals and so forth. After the second or third visit we realised we had fallen in love with Fukuoka. We decided to move to Japan on a semi-permanent basis in 2013, it was a no-brainer really.
Fukuoka prices have risen significantly since 2011, and while the city is still an attractive investment destination, there are now many different cities in Japan our clients are more active in. That said, Fukuoka is still the best city I’ve ever lived in and I have no intention of ever leaving it.
I had some real estate experience in Australia, some funds to invest, and a desire to live and work in Japan. I started purchasing investment properties in Japan with the help of my wife, Chikako. Shortly after we bought our first few properties, we realised the challenge foreigners had with purchasing, selling and managing their properties. That is why we established Nippon Tradings International (NTI) – a buyers’ agency and portfolio management firm. Assisting investors, holiday home owners, and anyone interested in Japan’s property market to research, negotiate, conduct due diligence on, purchase, and manage properties countrywide.
It really depends on your history and status here. Japan is still not very welcoming for foreigners, unfortunately. The less time you have spent here, the less Japanese you speak and read, and the less less financial history you have, the harder it is. Although recently it has gotten slightly easier – for a fee. There are now 2-3 guarantee and property management companies out there who provide English support and do cater to foreigners, but whose rates can be significantly higher than their Japanese counterparts.
The short answer is “fear”.
It can be interpreted as a fear of foreigners. However, I prefer to think of it as the Japanese fear of conflict and change. I’m sure anyone who has lived here for a while has experienced this. It is not just the landlords but agents and property management companies too. Some of them are terrified of the potential “trouble” that may occur while working with foreigners.
In our experience, as representatives of foreign landlords, there is no anti-foreigner discrimination.
We regularly have non-Japanese tenants move into our clients’ properties. While a small number of foreigners abscond back to their home country, leaving debt and damage behind, it’s not worse than incidents that can occur when renting to Japanese.
For example renting a property to an elderly Japanese gentleman or hikikomori (individuals not participating in society). It happens that they never contacts their property manager to let them know when something is broken, never open the windows, or even die in the property without anyone being aware of it for weeks. (Boy, have we got some horror stories!)
In short, problems can occur with any tenant, regardless of nationality.
This one is obvious – it is an awesome city! Fukuoka is the perfect balance of urban convenience and laid-back lifestyle.
There is phenomenal food, amazing beaches and nature, at a lower cost of living (at least compared to Tokyo). It is one of the youngest and most vibrant cities that Japan has to offer.
Fukuoka is also conveniently located just a hop and a skip from other Asian countries with a fully functional international airport only 10-15 minutes from the city centre. Recently, Fukuoka began to position itself as a start-up hub that caters to entrepreneurs (although, sadly, that seems to be a bit more lip-service than reality, at least as far as non-Japanese entrepreneurs are concerned).
As in all official matters in Japan, language is the biggest hurdle.
Followed by finding a guarantor and demonstrable Japanese income. Without those, you will often only be able to rent pricier properties, with up to 12 months in rent payable in advance, such as from UR or similar foreigner-oriented rental solutions.
Unless you are very fluent in Japanese and well settled/established in Japan, your best bet is to contact one of the English-friendly foreign tenant support/guarantee companies.
For example the GTN (Global Trust Network).
Their services cost usually far less than it would to rent one of the “foreigner friendly” apartments or work directly with one of the “foreigner friendly” property rental companies. Signing up with them enables non-Japanese speakers to get access to standard rental properties and pay standard rental prices, by the month, instead of six-to-twelve months in advance.
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