Mention Japan and real estate and the next word that springs to mind is usually “expensive”. But two decades of deflation have seen steady declines in Japanese land values, with prices in Tokyo falling 11.3 per cent in 2009 alone. And the rapid economic development of neighbouring countries has also made Japanese property more affordable in relative terms.
“If you avoid the expat residential areas, a detached house in central Tokyo is significantly cheaper than the equivalent in New York, Paris or London,” says Frank Sylvian, a financial services executive who recently bought a house in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward.
“不算那些外籍人士居民区，在东京市中心买一套独立式住宅比纽约、巴黎或伦敦的同类型住宅明显要便宜得多，”某金融服务主管弗兰克•席尔维恩(Frank Sylvian)如是说，他最近刚在东京的新宿区(Shinjuku ward)购置了一套住房。
As in other markets, location plays a key role in property prices. Homes in Tokyo generally cost more than comparable dwellings in other parts of Japan, with prices kept high by students, job hunters, businesspeople and even retirees migrating to the capital from secondary cities and rural areas. The Tokyo Metropolitan Area, which includes neighbouring Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, gained more than 117,000 residents in 2009.
和其它国家一样，地段在房价中占有举足轻重的地位。东京住房的价格通常要比日本其它地方同类住宅要贵，而且由于学生、求职者、商人、甚至从日本二线城市和农村地区移居至首都的退休人员而维持在高位。包括周围千叶、神奈川和琦玉县(Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama )在内的整个东京都地区(The Tokyo Metropolitan Area)，仅2009年一年就新增了11万7千名居民。
Employment is one of Tokyo’s main attractions. But there are others, such as galleries stocked with Monets, Picassos and Rothkos, and the record 11 restaurants that received Michelin’s coveted three-star designation last year. The city’s parks are another draw, says John Kirch, an American who custom-built a family home in the Shimouma district of Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku. “Shimouma has more than 10 parks within a 10-minute bicycle ride,” notes Kirch, who also likes the neighbourhood’s proximity to Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s main transport hubs.
东京的主要吸引力就是找工作相对容易。但收藏莫奈(Monet)、毕加索(Picasso)和罗斯科(Rothkos)名作的画廊以及11家获米其林(Michelin)三星级殊荣的餐馆（此举创造了一项纪录）同样也是其重要看点。鳞次栉比的公园是东京的另一大看点，美国人约翰•基尔希(John Kirch)如是说，他在东京世田谷区(setagaya ku)的下马住宅区(the Shimouma district)定制了一套家居住宅。“整个下马住宅区有十几个公园，到其中任何一个公园骑自行车只需10分钟，“基尔希说，他也喜欢涩谷(Shibuya)附近的住宅区，涩谷是东京主要的交通枢纽。
The egalitarian nature of Japanese society and the country’s extensive, reliable rail network means nearly everyone uses public transport. As a result, homes with convenient access to important hubs, such as Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ueno stations in Tokyo, command a premium. Properties inside the Yamanote train line, which circles central Tokyo, are also popular.
日本社会崇尚平等，四通八达、安全舒适的铁路运营网线意味着几乎每人都可以使用公共交通系统。如此一来，临近东京池袋、品川、新宿和上野(Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ueno)这些重要交通枢纽车站的房屋，通常会有较大的溢价。环绕东京市中心的山手铁路环线(Yamanote train line)内的房产也大受置业者青睐。
Another influence on a home’s price is the distance to the nearest train or subway station. A 2007 study by the Centre for Spatial Information and Science at the University of Tokyo noted that values for pre-owned condominiums in the Tokyo area fell when a home was more than 12 minutes’ walk from a station. Prices fell again at the 17-minute mark, the point at which most people take a bus, bicycle or car to the station.
另一个影响房价的因素取决于至最近火车及地铁车站的距离。2007年东京大学空间信息与科学中心(Centre for Spatial Information and Science at the University of Tokyo)的一项研究表明：在东京地区，当住所到车站的步行时间超过12分钟时，二手公寓房的价格就会出现下跌。当步行时间超过17分钟时，房价又会下跌，因为此时多数人会改乘巴士、骑自行车或自己开车去上班。
Anyone living in a Japanese city must choose between a small, expensive home near the centre and a larger, less costly one further out. For example, Y28m (£213,618) will buy you a 40 sq metre condominium in Higashi Ginza, near the Tsukiji fish market and 14 minutes from Tokyo Station. For Y5m more, you can own a 78 sq metre condominium in suburban Tachikawa, an hour from Tokyo Station. Both units were completed in 2004, feature a balcony and southern exposure, and include land ownership rights.
Those rights are important because land and buildings are separate legal entities, and houses and condominiums are often built on leased land and then sold without land rights. “My wife and I were looking for an investment property in Tokyo,” says David Armitage, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur. “We were surprised to learn that one condo we were considering didn’t include land rights. Without those rights, the deal was a non-starter. In the end, we walked away.”
In Japan leasehold properties are undesirable because land retains its value and buildings depreciate quickly. Land leases usually have a 50-year term, not 999 years as is common in Britain and many Commonwealth countries, making it harder to resell these homes. Purchasers of leasehold property might also have difficulty arranging financing, exacerbating a long-standing frustration for non-Japanese buyers.
“Foreigners buying residential and investment properties are a small part of the overall Japanese mortgage market, so domestic banks have largely ignored them,” notes Richard Harris, general manager, Japan, for Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which offers mortgages to Japanese and foreign home buyers, including non-residents.
“购置自住房和投资性住房的外国买家只占整个日本抵押贷款市场的很小份额，因此日本本国银行通常不太在意这些买家，”理查德•哈里斯(Richard Harris)指出，他是澳大利亚联邦银行(Commonwealth Bank of Australia)日本分行的总经理，该行向日本及外国置业者，包括非常住居民提供抵押贷款。
National Australia Bank also targets this market with foreigner-friendly products and English-language application forms, as do mid-size local lenders such as Shinsei Bank and Suruga Bank. There are even signs that the nation’s mega-banks are becoming more welcoming to non-Japanese home buyers, who can purchase land and homes in Japan without restriction.
澳大利亚国家银行(National Australia Bank) 推出向外国买家倾斜的信贷产品和英语语言申请表，也把目光瞄准了该市场，日本国内的新生银行(Shinsei Bank)及骏河银行(Suruga Bank)等中型贷款银行也是专做这块市场。甚至有迹象表明：日本的大银行越来越受外国置业者的青睐，他们可以无限制在日本置地和购房。
That’s good news if you are looking for a new or used house or condominium in the Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya areas. But anyone buying a less conventional property will need access to cash. Banks rarely provide mortgages for the purchase of repossessed homes and it is difficult to obtain financing for dwellings outside big cities, for recreational property or for rural land, which sells for as little as Y4m per acre.
对于想在东京(Tokyo)、横滨(Yokohama)、大阪(Osaka)和名古屋(Nagoya areas)购置新房或二手房的买家，这无疑是个好消息。但是，购买非常规房产需要向银行借贷现金。而银行很少发放二手房(repossessed homes)的抵押贷款，所以对于非大城市的住房，康乐型物业以及农村的土地（通常每英亩土地只需4百万日元），通常较难获得融资。
However, banks will provide financing for income properties, such as centrally located, 15-30 sq metre apartments in Tokyo. These homes are often spartan, comprising a single room, a kitchenette and a tiny bathroom. “With prices starting at about Y4m, older apartments in gritty areas like Adachi-ku and Katsushika-ku can generate gross yields of 12 per cent. They aren’t pretty but they can be profitable,” says Erik Oskamp, president of Akasaka Real Estate in Tokyo.
但银行却愿意为收益性房产提供贷款，如地处东京市中心、面积15-30平米的公寓。这些住房通常很简单，由一居室、一间小厨房和一个小卫生间构成。“建于立足区(Adachi-ku)和葛饰区(Katsushika-ku)沙砾地上的老式公寓房起步价约为4百万日元，毛收益能达到12%。它们并不美观，但收益相当不错，”东京赤坂房地产公司(Akasaka Real Estate)总裁艾里克•奥斯坎普(Erik Oskamp)如是说。
Whether you are buying for your own use or as an investment, a home’s construction date can provide useful clues about its ability to withstand a major earthquake. Seismic retrofitting is optional, so structures built before construction standards were tightened in 1981 might be vulnerable. Standards were raised again in 2000, when the Housing Quality Assurance Act (HQAA) took effect.
购房者不管是自住，还是用于投资，房屋能否抵御大地震，建造日期就能提供有益线索。抗震加固(Seismic retrofitting)并非强制规定，在1981年建筑标准提高前建造的房屋可能容易因地震损坏。2000年《住宅质量保证法》(Housing Quality Assurance Act, HQAA)生效后，该标准再次被提高。
The introduction of the HQAA, which included mandatory warranties for new homes and uniform standards for measuring building performance and energy efficiency, was a turning point for Japan’s construction industry. Previously, homes were seen as consumable goods with a typical lifespan of 30 years, compared with 55 years in the US and 77 years in Britain.
The government is now encouraging the construction of long-life homes that can be refurbished as a way of reducing CO2 emissions and demand for landfill space. This has been matched with subsidies and tax breaks for the installation of photovoltaic panels and other energy-saving measures.
After years of being draughty and poorly insulated, new Japanese homes are among the most environmentally friendly. “Today, urban residents are demanding – and getting – high-performance buildings that meet global clean-energy standards,” says Jared Braiterman, the founder of Tokyo Green Space, an urban ecology consultancy.
日本的新建住宅在克服了最初几年的漏风及绝缘效果差等问题后，现在已是最环保的住宅。“如今，城市居民不断要求，而且不断获得能满足全球清洁能源标准的高性能住房，”都市生态咨询机构东京绿色空间(Tokyo Green Space)的创始人贾里德•布莱特曼(Jared Braiterman)说。
Akasaka Real Estate, tel: +813 6379 9175, www.akasakarealestate.com;
赤坂房地产公司电话：+813 6379 9175，网址：www.akasakarealestate.com；
Coldwell Banker Tokyo, tel: +813 5771 1411, www.coldwellbankertokyo.com
东京科威国际不动产(Coldwell Banker Tokyo)电话：+813 5771 1411，网址：www.coldwellbankertokyo.com
Christopher Dillon is the author of ‘Landed: The guide to buying property in Japan’, www.landedbook.com
克里斯托弗•狄龙是《有房一族：置业日本指南》(Landed: The guide to buying property in Japan)的作者，网址：www.landedbook.com。
● Prices are reasonable.
● No restrictions on foreign ownership.
● Mortgages available from international lenders.
● Excellent public transport.
● All sales documents in Japanese.
● Yen now at a 15-year high versus the US dollar.
● Limited supply of older homes.
● Earthquakes common.
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