The Japanese Look at U.S. Real Estate

Article excerpt

THE JAPANESE LOOK AT U.S. REAL ESTATE

A group of Japanese real estate executives, touring the United States to research its residential real estate business, found the impact of dual-income couples on the housing market to be the most significant difference between the real estate business in Japan and the U.S., according to Merrill Lynch Realty's Relocation Management Division (MLRM).

The group of nine real estate executives, who met with industry experts in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco, explained that American companies wishing to relocate managers must address issues that do not arise in Japan. For instance, Japanese families usually do not move when the father is relocated. Instead, relocated executives move to the new city alone and live in company-owned, dormitory-style housing. The company then pays its employees expenses to return home and visit their families for two weekends per month.

Another difference in housing needs is that many Japanese howeowners obtain mortgages from the husband's employer at interest rates of about 2 to 3 percent, well below rates offered by traditional lending institutions. Therefore, Japanese families do not "trade up" their homes every few years as many Americans do, because of the difficulty in finding comparable housing and financing.

The biggest difference in home purchases between Japan and the U.S., according to the visitors, is the role a wife's income can play in buying a home. In Japan, a second income is rarely a factor because there are still relatively few working wives and mothers. In the U.S., dual-income couples are a significant segment of those buying homes.

For many American couples two incomes are essential to purchasing a home, according to Joseph Sassano, MLRM's vice-president of marketing. …