So, I am always looking for new blogging topics, so I decided to buy a house, since that is something that I have never done in Japan. Just kidding—but not about it being something that I have never done. During this four-month marathon process, during which I have found that I have spoken little English and Japanese has become my default mode of communication, I have learned so much about the process of buying of house here. I wish that I could compare it buying a house in America, but much like having a baby, that is an experience that I have never had in the U.S., so I feel unqualified for the task. But I do know a thing or two now about buying a house in Japan, and much of it may shock my American friends–much like it shocked me.
1) First of all, the requirements for getting a bank loan are amazingly few. In the case of foreigners, in most cases you have to have permanent residency, most likely to ensure that you will not skip the country and default on your loan. That being said, it is just as likely a Japanese person will skip the country and default on the loan. Second, if you have a salary of like 20,000 a year, you will probably be approved for the loan, although the amount may be limited. Seemed like a crazy low salary to me to get a loan.
2) Most bank loans require you to buy loan insurance. This insurance, which only costs like $5000, protects your family against financial loss if you happen to die before the loan is paid off. In other words, if I die in the next 30 years, Riz and the girls can keep the house and the loan is cancelled. Not only that, if you pay an extra ten or twenty bucks a month, you can add other health issues like cancer, strokes, etc, meaning if you get cancer, even if you survive it, the loan is cancelled then, too. Unfortunately, like in my case, if you have any kind of pre-existing condition or chronic illness, you may not be approved, or may undergo a rigorous vetting process. I was finally approved after my GI wrote a medical document assuring the insurance company I am doing just fine and probably not going to die anytime soon. In my case, since I am a public employee, I don’t even have to pay the $5000. What a deal!
3) The interest rate on bank loans is crazy low. The adjustable rate is like 0.9%, and it will only go up a percentage or two at most. The fixed rate that we chose was like 1.15% for the duration of the 30-year loan. In addition, I get a 1% tax break for ten years, meaning the loan is almost interest-free for the first ten years.
4) The loan is taking ridiculously long, although I am being assured it will be finalized in the next week or too. That being said, I was told by both the bank and the realtor that the loan is a sure thing, so we have gotten the key, started moving our stuff, and started on the renovations—all before actually getting the money to pay the owner. I have just a teeny weeny bit of trepidation about that, but well, that wallpaper is going up, so, oh well.
5) The wallpaper guy and the realtor keep bringing us food, although they are the ones who are going out of their way to help us. They both usually come to our home at crazy hours, even though it is far from where they work.
6) I am pretty sure the wallpaper guy is working at like midnight to finish our walls before we move next Friday.
7) I am getting a gym built with a rock climbing wall. That has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post; I just really wanted to brag about it.
Anyway, that about does it. While buying a house has been maddening here, it seems I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could have gotten it all done during spring break when I actually had some free time, but oh well, there is a reason for everything. So here I am. I am talking with the bank, the realtor, the contractors, the wallpaper guy, and the moving company, all the while trying to figure out classes I have never taught at work, taking my kids back and forth to gymnastics, karate, dance, and piano, learning how to cook, doing ministry at church, taking Mia to the dermatologist regularly to figure out a mysterious rash, getting ready to teach on online course, and making plans to join a missions agency. Somewhere in there, I am trying to find time to pack up my house for the move by next Friday. It is the busiest time of my life, but don’t feel sorry for me. I am a blessed woman, and very thankful for all the great things I have in my life to be stressed out about. And if I get too stressed, I’ll just take it out on the punching bag in my new gym.