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Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006

LIFELINES

How can I get a mortgage in Japan?


F. wants to know if there are any banks that will give home ownership loans to foreigners who do not have permanent residence status.

F. is very frustrated since he has a salary that would allow him to cover monthly payments, but feels like he has to sit and wait for years until he's eligible for permanent residency in order to get a loan.

In the meantime, he feels he's throwing money down the drain by paying rent.

There are several sources from which funding is available -- though some require permanent residency at the very least.

First, there are the regular Japanese banks. There are several difficulties here, as historically Japanese banks have not given loans to non-Japanese. Those who want to try their luck here can go in with a Japanese friend and should have all their documents in order. With permanent residency, these days a limited home loan is possible.

Second, there are a number of banks here with majority foreign ownership, like Shinsei Bank, Tokyo Star Bank and Aozora Bank.

Terrie Lloyd recently addressed the issue in his Japan Inc. magazine ( www.japaninc.com/ ).

He says Canadian Darryl Knopp, the new homeloans chief at Shinsei Bank's retail arm in Tokyo, has been making waves in in the foreign community with a recently introduced scheme to provide homeloans to foreigners who do not yet have permanent residence status -- the PowerSmart Home Mortgage. Information is available through www.shinseibank.com

Each of the foreign-owned banks has various requirements, but if you are a non-Japanese, have a good job and a valid visa, you stand a good chance of getting a loan.

The third group that may provide loans is the a larger body of finance companies, many of them set up with foreign ownership. Interest rates are generally higher -- you have to be careful you know who you are dealing with -- but they will often provide you a loan without permanent residency as long as you are a legal resident.

One longtime Tokyo resident, Ernie Olsen, works with a company called New City Mortgage just to address the issue of mortgages for non-Japanese, and lends to foreigners even without permanent residency.

New City Mortgage, based in Roppongi, can be reached through www.nccmortgage.co.jp

Olsen says that this month, the company will be launching a sponsored "education" site for home loans. He says his company's market research has shown that the level of financial literacy about home loans is very low in Japan, even for people who have a mortgage.

Do any of our readers have good or bad experiences in getting a loan here in Japan? Let us know.

Ken Joseph Jr. directs The Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or (0570) 000-911

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp



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