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Monday, November 18, 2013

Buying Real Estate in Japan - Signing the Loan Contract


My partner and I are a foreign couple who have just purchased a brand new apartment in Tokyo from a major real estate developer. The building is virtually finished and we are due to move in next month.

We paid the first half of our deposit at the end of last year, and are due to pay the remainder by our move in date next month. In the meantime, last week we had to sign the contract for the loan we had been approved for.

We had to be at the Contract Room of the real estate company at one afternoon last week to sign the loan contract and attend to other bits and pieces.

We got there just a couple of minutes after the due time, and were the second to last people there. We were sat down in the middle row at the back of the room at our numbered table.

What immediately struck me was the contrast between the gloss and glitz of the publicity material for the property and the mousy drabness—even dowdiness in some cases—of the real estate company staff, not to mention the other assembled contractees.

The first guy to speak, who addressed everyone from the podium, lacked even a shred of suaveness or charisma, and, while adequate, was unengaging in style, and he gabbled. The guy from the bank was a guileless, styleless good-hearted bumpkin type who no doubt makes an ideal dad, but had awful breath which hit us the moment he started talking and which kept wafting over. We had to open an account with the bank for the purpose of repaying the loan. It was a bank I never see advertising for, and when I asked what kind of bank it was, he explained, with an embarrassed laugh (and a gale of bad breath) that it was “for rich people.”

He took us through the most important procedure of the session: signing the contract. The performance that took center stage was my partner’s filling in of the forms with our address in kanji—he painstakingly, I and the bank guy with our breath held (“if only!” in his case). Any mistakes had to be double-crossed out and have his inkan affixed. My partner's “1”s were also subject to correction when he gave them a horizontal base stroke: another no-no. The form in its final state was a splotchy red mess.

Of the five or six women we dealt with, one or two were pained, insecure, brittle haughty types; one was a dismissive bitch; one was a quivering, quavering little nelly; one (who peddled us water filter replacements) spoke with a thin curtain over her weirdness; and the last one was chirpy, sweet and charming, with blingy nails. The best-for-last rule applied to the men, too, and we finished up with a very able and thoroughly amicable guy who even went so far as to take us through filling out a mail redirect application form for the post office.

As for the other soon-to-be residents, there wasn’t a whiff of style, smartness or sass in the room. There were a couple of young couples with a baby, who looked like they might hold the promise of some brief but buoyant conversation in front of an elevator some day, but the rest were sensible-shoed brownclothed middle-aged types (or clearly heading that way) who at a glance, at least, seemed to personify plodding insularity.

One of the dozen or so people who sat down to take us through something was a woman from NHK. After a short introduction, when she asked if we would have a TV signal receiving device my partner gave an outright “no,” while I slightly dithered, which he reiterated when she sought confirmation. (Even if we actually will have a TV set, we have never even once used the TV function in the four years we have been together.) She was powerless in the face of it and quickly moved on—to quiet applause from me for my partner's clean, decisive victory.

A guy from a legal office spoke to us about the procedures required for transferring ownership of the property to our name. It's fairly simple from our end: supplying him with our new juminhyo (residency certificate issued by the ward office) within five days of being given the key.

It is a matter of only weeks now before we move in. There is a room-viewing session coming up when we check that the specifications are what we ordered and that everything looks shipshape, and another session a week later (if necessary) to check that any requested repairs were adequately carried out. We then pay the appropriate property taxes and maintenance fees (2.7 million yen alone!) plus the remainder of our deposit. The key is then handed over to us three weeks later when we will officially become Tokyo landowners.

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