Buying a home is likely to be the single largest financial commitment that any of us make. Purchasing a property in a foreign country—where the laws, customs, and language are different and securing a bank loan can often be a significant barrier—adds layers of complication to an already difficult transaction.
By far the best approach is to work with a trusted real estate expert, someone who knows the local market inside out, offers honest, unbiased advice, and goes that extra mile to secure a client’s perfect new home, to do the heavy lifting.
And critical to a successful transaction, says award-winning English-speaking real estate agent Aki Shimizu, is communication.
“For me, it is so important to be able to communicate with my clients and to always have their best interests in the front of my mind,” said Shimizu, a licensed agent based in Tokyo with the Japan office of US property firm RE/MAX Amistad.
“I always make sure that a client understands every step of the procedures involved in purchasing or selling a property, and the only way to do that is through clear and effective communication,” she told GoConnect.
English-Speaking Realtor in Japan for International Residents
Originally from Tokyo, Shimizu lived in New York City for 14 years and worked as a real estate agent before returning to her hometown. As well as helping her to perfect her English language skills, time spent in the US broadened her cultural awareness and gave her a greater understanding of the requirements of foreigners who want to buy a home in Japan.
“Buying or selling property in Japan can be challenging for foreigners, but with the proper information and professional assistance, it can be much easier and smoother,” she said. “I believe my extensive knowledge of the property market in Japan and my experience of working with foreigners can be a great help to anyone who is looking to buy or sell a home in Japan.”
Shimizu has helped clients from the US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and a number of European countries to complete purchases and sell homes in Japan.
Her awards underline her achievements: In her debut year as a RE/MAX agent, she was number one in Japan for number of transactions in Japan in 2019 and received the 100% Club Award from the US head office the same year. In 2022, she was top in Japan for sales transaction volume and took the Platinum Club Award from the parent firm the same year.
Buying a Home in Japan as a Foreigner
The hurdles to owning property in Japan can be daunting, Shimizu admits, meaning that even many long-term residents choose to rent, often for many years.
However, as mortgage rates are very attractive for buyers in Japan, purchasing a property can be a wise financial decision, and one that's worth the extra effort.
And that is particularly the case given that land prices in Japan’s major cities have started to rise again—making a purchase an astute investment—and exchange rates against a basket of foreign currencies make transferring money into Japan from abroad very appealing.
Deciding to take advantage of the favorable market is the first step, Shimizu points out, and is where she comes in.
Japanese-Language Support for Homebuyers
“Most foreign buyers cannot read real estate agents’ flyers giving details of properties, so I can help explain all about each one in writing,” she said. “I speak with them in detail about what they expect from the home they want to buy and explain current market conditions.
“If their expectations do not match the existing market conditions, then we can discuss adjusting their criteria or a different approach.”
Another critical element of the transaction will be applying to a bank to secure a loan, a time-consuming and complicated process that requires the completion of numerous legal documents, in Japanese. Shimizu is happy to step in to smooth and speed up that process as much as possible, she said.
Realtor Assisting International Residents
Shimizu also feels that her responsibilities do not end with the deal being sealed and the new owner moving in. She is on hand to help with any problems that might crop up down the line and can provide details on trusted contractors, from builders to carry out renovation work to plumbers, electricians, interior designers, and cleaners.
The aim, she says, is to leave the customer satisfied. And that philosophy is paying off.
In a recent testimonial posted on the company’s website, a client stated, “Aki goes above and beyond for the client in every way. Aki is without doubt the best real estate agent you will find.”
Another declared, “Her knowledge and experience have made the process run very smoothly and she goes above and beyond to help non-Japanese speakers traverse the bureaucratic process here in Japan.”
Shimizu is not, however, resting on her laurels and is constantly looking to provide a better service to a greater number of foreign clients through a more in-depth understanding of Japan’s property market.