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Japanese Vocabulary for Buying a Home in Japan

How to properly purchase property.

By 4 min read

Recently, my wife and I signed our names on the lease for our new home. The paperwork that explained all the ins-and-outs was thick enough to stop a bullet. It felt like such an adult thing to do.

There is just something about owning property that makes you feel more mature. You’ve made a statement about the next significant portion of your life on neatly spaced A4 paper.

Unfortunately, my dreams of owning a home in the middle of Kansai included the reality of getting my finances in order—a final boss before the happy ending. Here’s a guide to the steps you’ll have to take if you want to buy a house in Japan.

Create a budget

“Honey, we need to talk about your Puzzles and Dragons addiction.”

The first thing that I had to do was head to the bank and show that I didn’t have any outstanding debts or a history of dodging payment. Some people may even have to contact a credit agency, which will dig deep into your credit history and highlight any problems.

If it feels at all like a daunting task, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

The next step was to do what guys like me who enjoy nights out and delicious food hate doing: create a budget (物件購入予算) and save for that down payment (頭金). While the banks can help you with this, the responsibility to make sure that everything is how you want it ultimately rests with you.

English Japanese Romaji
Credit bureau in Japan 全国銀行協会個人信用情報センター Zenkoku ginkou kyoukai kojin shin you jouhou sentaa
Property Budget 物件購入予算 Bukken konyuu yosan
Downpayment 頭金 Atama kin
A house-buying loan 住宅ローン Jyuutaku roun

House hunting

“No, I said a tidy house!”

Now that the most challenging part was out of the way, it was time to go house hunting. Armed with our budget and a steely don’t-even-think-about-giving-us-a-bad-price demeanor, we searched for a good 不動産業者 (real estate agent), and asked to see their 分譲 (places for sale) list.

For a big decision like this, don’t be afraid to talk to multiple agents, or even play them against each other. After all, most agents make a little more than 3% of the value of your house in commission for their efforts.

The landlord casually shrugged his shoulders at one million yen like we were discussing who pays for the coffee.

Always look a little bit outside of your price range. You may be surprised how flexible some homeowners can be.

Also, if you are currently renting a place that you really love, see if the current owner is willing to sell it to you. After all, it will save them having to renovate it, so you might get it cheaper than you were expecting.

English Japanese Romaji
Real estate agent 不動産業者 Fudosan gyosha
A property 物件 Bukken
House Ie
 A (separated) house 一戸建て Ikko-date
Apartment (more than 2-floor building) マンション Manshon
Maisonette メゾネット Mezonetto

Different rooms

“Finally. A room for my cardboard box collection.”

While those living in Japan alone may be used to living in a single-room apartment, especially in a crowded city such as Tokyo, those starting families or planning to stay in Japan indefinitely will probably want a bigger home. Buying a home is a big step.

It’s important to make sure it has what you want. If you have a studious personality or work from home, you may need an office or a study (書斎). If you like hosting friends from back home, you may want an extra bedroom (寝室).

English Japanese Romaji
Bedrooms 寝室
Shinshitsu
Japanese-style rooms, typically with tatami flooring 和室
Washitsu
Western-style rooms with wooden flooring 洋室
Youshitsu
6J 六畳
Rokujyou
Meters squared (A common measurement) 平方メートル/平米
Heihou meetoru/Heibei
Kitchen 台所
Daidokoro
Living room 居間 Ima
Dining room ダイニング
Dainingu
Storage room 納戸/物置
Nando/Mono-oki
Study 書斎
Shosai
Washroom 洗面所
Senmenjyo
Bathroom 浴室
Yokushitsu
Toilet お手洗い
Otearai

Money talks

“This should cover changing the locks, I guess.”

Along the way to homeownership, I learned a lot of new words just by desperately trying to understand what was going on. I knew I’d entered the Twilight Zone when the landlord casually shrugged his shoulders at one million yen like we were discussing who pays for the coffee. 

I also learned how to negotiate and haggle until you feel that you can’t haggle anymore. The difference can be huge. Even with a semi-friendly negotiation, we managed to get ¥3,500,000 off. To this day, my wife still scolds me for not holding out for ¥4,000,000.

I’ve talked before about the joys of haggling, but as you enter into the negotiation, listen for the terms below.

English Japanese Romaji
Deposit 手付金 Tetsukekin
Buyer’s certificate 買付証明書 Kaitsukeshomeisho
Written application of intent to buy 購入申込書 Konyu moshikomisho
Reform-included リフォームあり Rifomu ari
Home inspection インスペクション/建物状況調査 Insupekushon/Tatemono jokyo chosa
Repairs 修繕 Shuzen

The last thing to do is to make sure that everything is in working order. You don’t want to open the door to your new home only to find a wasps’ nest, bad plumbing, or something worse.

If it feels at all like a daunting task, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Buying a house isn’t easy, but if you follow my advice, you should at least laugh at rather than be competing in next year’s “crappiest apartments” competition.

Happy hunting!

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