How to Find a Hokkaido Real Estate Agent
As you consider buying property in Hokkaido, one of the most important steps is finding a local Hokkaido real estate agent that represents your interests and has the experience to help you make a smart purchase. This can be even more of a challenge (and even more vital) if you’re buying property in Japan as an expat or a foreigner.
In this guide, we’ll give you a strategy to help you to be more prepared and to find a real estate agent you can trust.
Below we’ll give you everything you need to find a Hokkaido agent, to understand their fees, and to have plan to work together toward one of the most important purchases of your life.
Before You Talk to an Agent
Some consideration of time and timing are important as you begin your search to find an experienced real estate agent in Hokkaido.
To begin with, put yourself in the position of the agent: They work on commission. While almost every seller that puts their house on the market is fully committed to selling it, not every buyer will make a purchase. Agents have to be careful where they invest their time. There are several things you can do that will help you to be prepared to work with an agent and make the best purchase for your budget.
You should start with a timeline for buying a home in Hokkaido. How fast do you need to buy something? Are you organized and motivated enough to buy something in a realistic period of perhaps 30 – 90 days? Do you have your purchase funds secured and have a clear estimated budget for what you can afford? If not, you can begin to create a relationship with an agent, but probably aren’t ready to see property until you have put more thought and effort into that kind of planning.
Working with clients (especially foreign buyers in Hokkaido) can take up a lot of an agent’s time. Being as prepared as possibly will not only bring you closer to your goal, but will make it easier for local agents to want to do their best for you.
Before you begin your search for an agent, take some time to determine:
- The location of where you want to live
- How much you can spend
- Your timeline for buying a property in Hokkaido
Finding a Local Agent is Important
All real estate is “local” by nature, and while many agents in Hokkaido will have the experience to walk you through the basic process, a local agent can provide the best details and insights for decisions about a specific purchase.
You will have a better experience if you first determine where you want to live, and then look for a very experienced agent in that area (we can help – more below). A local agent can provide the most accurate knowledge about Hokkaido real estate prices, trends in real estate and city planning, unusual hazards or benefits of one neighborhood versus another, and much more.
At Find Hokkaido Agents we have relationships with hundreds of pre-screened real agents. We can provide you with personalized recommendations for not only a given city in Hokkaido, but for specific neighborhoods (or wards) as well. Contact us and we’ll be glad to help.
Don’t Work With the Seller’s Agent (Avoid Dual-Agency)
We know of several stories where a buyer was interested in new construction or a found a property for sale and began talking to the seller’s agent. Those agents will often try to convince you to use them to represent you as well.
Even if you think you know the property you want to buy, it is important to have your own real estate agent that represents you as the buyer. If you already have a piece of property in mind, it is a good idea to tell the seller’s agent that you plan to use your own agent. After that, you don’t need to give that agent many details about yourself (this could negatively impact future negotiations). Tell the seller’s agent that you’ll have your agent contact them later.
While it is not illegal in Japan for one agent to represent both parties in a real estate transaction (and there could be promises of reduced fees and commissions), dual agency presents an obvious conflict of interests – the seller’s agent cannot possibly fight for the best deal for both you and the seller at the same time. The seller’s agent has an incentive to sell that particular property. As the buyer, you want to buy something that meets your needs, and you will likely have a choice between several properties. Having your own agent will mean you’re not pressured to buy a property that helps the seller and the seller’s agent, but that isn’t the best choice for you.
Hiring an agent you trust will help you more objectively evaluate the purchase price and to find choices that will help you realize your options as a buyer. The experience and representation you gain from having your own agent could save you substantial money in the long run and help you avoid an unwise purchase.
Interview Several Agents
Once you have planned out the location of where you want to live, your timeline, and your budget, you are ready to look for an agent that is experienced enough to do the job and one that makes you will feel comfortable as the sale proceeds.
There are three standard criteria for evaluating agents:
- The agent’s experience with the kind of property you want
- Their work ethic
- And how comfortable you feel talking with them or trusting them to take care of you
As you talk with agents, you’ll want to ask questions like: How long they have been selling in the area? How much experience do they have with the type of house you want to buy? Have they recently helped many clients buy property in your price range? You’ll also want to gauge their interest in putting in the effort to help you thoroughly research your options and take you to see properties. Will they work hard for you? Finally, how much do you enjoy talking to them? Do they help make your choices easier to understand? Do they follow up on your questions? Do they reach out to you, and communicate easily and comfortably? Do they have the time to give you the attention you need?
As you talk to agents, keep those questions in mind. After you have talked to a few available agents, answers to those questions will help you decide the best agent for your needs. You can also use this time to ask some basic questions about real estate in Hokkaido or other questions that will help you plan.
A final criteria that is especially important to foreign buyers or expats in Hokkaido is finding real estate agents that speak English. Having an agent that understands your culture, or at very least, speaks your language, can make you more comfortable and help you avoid confusion and mistakes as you make an investment or purchase property.
Take your time with this part of the process so you can make a decision that makes you feel confident. A good relationship with an agent will help you with all the other steps to buy a house in Hokkaido.
How To Find Real Estate Agents in Hokkaido
Find Hokkaido Agents is focused on finding local, experienced agents that speak English and other languages. We have the largest database of pre-screened agents in Hokkaido, and can make person-to-person recommendation for agents that speak English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Russian and other languages.
We have already done the research. We have hundreds of relationships in Sapporo and other cites. Contact us, we make it easy for you.
Trying to sort through Japanese websites and other resources is time consuming. Many foreign buyers report that they send email that are unanswered. Making phone calls often leads you to a real estate company where you can’t understand the person that answers the phone. It is common to find local Hokkaido agents that are relucted to work with foreigners.
We save you time and provide better options by matching you to pre-screened real estate agents in Sapporo, Niseko, Asahikawa, Otaro, or any populated area in Hokkaido. We have helped clients from all around the world to buy property in Hokkaido. We’re happy to help. We will provide you with several qualified agents to so you can get started.
Meeting With a Hokkaido Real Estate Agent
Take your time deciding which agent feels like the best choice to help you with your purchase. Once you feel like you have made a decision, make a commitment to work with your agent and give them the attention they need to help you find property you will love.
Working with your agent often begins with some detailed questions about what you want or need in a house, how long you plan on living there, and your goals for how you’ll use the property. Your agent may guide you through a checklist of questions about bedrooms, the kind of kitchen you need, your interest in a having a yard, what kind of parking might be available, if a view is important, how close you need to be to the train station, and other factors that will affect your quality of life.
You agent will use this information to search for available houses for sale in Hokkaido in the REINS property database. REINS is the multiple listing service for Japan, and most property for sale in Hokkaido will be listed in REINS. Only licensed real estate companies can access these listings, and your agent will work with your available choices and present you with several options. You’ll want to review these choices online, look at pictures, see where the individual properties are located on the map (compared to common destinations like work or school), and then choose some properties to visit in person.
These early conversations also give you some time with the agent regarding questions you have about the process and more detail on why a particular property is a good buy for current marketplace conditions.
There are typically two agents for each property for sale in Hokkaido – representing the buyer and the seller respectively. Total commissions paid to the real estate agents in Hokkaido are typically 6%; 3% paid to each agent. Unlike countries like the United States (where the seller pays all the commissions for the agents), in Hokkaido the buyer pays the 3% to their agent at closing.
The 3% you paid to the buyer’s agent is a good investment, as your agent will help you to find more deals, negotiate a better price, and avoid mistakes that could cost you much more in the long run.
Almost all property owners in Japan hire a seller’s agent to manage the sale and to list their properties in Hokkaido on REINS, so bypassing agents and working directly with the seller is very unlikely.
There are properties sold by management companies or directly from a builder that will be listed as “zero fees.” In all cases, you can look at the fees as a part of the total price you pay for the transaction. If a seller charges “zero fees,” but sells at a higher price, you may not be saving any money at all.
While the maximum fee per broker is set by the Japanese government at 3%, it is possible to pay less. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate (although you may lose some top-quality agents by trying to avoid paying commissions). In any case, it is always a good idea to make an agreement about the real estate agent’s fees before work begins, so there are no surprises and your relationship with your agent will be a good one.
For foreigners or expats buying property in Hokkaido, having a buyer’s agent is often even more important. Finding real estate agents that speak English (or your preferred language) can be very important so you can communicate what you want, work with sellers and the legal system, and ensure you understand the details of the transaction.
At Find Hokkaido Agents, we specialize in finding local agents that speak English. We have extensive relationships with Hokkaido real estate agents that speak English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Russian, French, and many other languages. Contact us and we can help you choose from multiple agents.
Communication and Setting Expectations
As you choose an agent to work with, you should agree about how you’ll communicate and the details of the process of finding a home to buy in Hokkaido.
Your agent should be able to give you clear guidance about the “next steps” that happen as the process begins: When will you hear from your agent again? What information do they need from you to continue the process? How can you be clear about the money you have to spend, and how you’ll transfer that money for the down payment and at the time of closing? When will you see properties online? How many properties do you expect to visit in person? Will you meet at the property, the agent’s office, or travel together? How do you prefer to communicate (phone/email/Line App/etc). Good communication can make you more comfortable as you buy a house in Hokkaido.
Along the way, talk to your agent. Let them know what you like and what you’re unhappy about.
Finding an agent is an important part of the steps to buy a house in Hokkaido. With the items in this guide in mind, you’ll be better prepared to make a considered decision, and find a Hokkaido agent that can advise you with the rest of the process.
We work for you, not the real estate companies.
We provide person-to-person introductions to prescreened agents that help you sell, buy, lease, or rent property in Hokkaido. We search our custom database to connect you to real estate professionals that speak your language, address your needs and are available now to help you find what you want.
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