Before you read this blog, for a general overview of house buying in Taiwan, check out the buying a house in Taiwan FAQ article here.
You can also see our experience renting houses before we started considering buying in this blog.
Buying a house was easy, once I had enough money. Can I stop there?
Okay first let me explain I am a middle aged American married to a Taiwanese national. I have lived in Taiwan about eight years already.
Why buy a house in Taiwan? 爲什麽在台灣買房子？
Buying a house never really crossed my mind for the first six years I lived in Taiwan. I was fine being able to afford rent and live month to month, happy for the opportunity just to be in Taiwan.
However after years and years of renting with a steady job and income, helping to pay my landlord's mortgage instead of my own, and wanting certain changes done to the house that I could not do without paying for the landlord's renovations, buying a house became a very attractive choice.
In addition, buying a house is usually a good investment. It usually beats inflation over time.
Applying for a loan can be scary, especially if you don't have a steady income. But I thought to myself I will be paying a monthly rental fee for the rest of my life anyway, why not make it a monthly loan payment and have an investment instead of paying my landlord.
Let me clarify, I believe you should only buy a house in Taiwan if you intend to live in it. Buying houses for investment will just inflate housing prices and make it even more difficult for young Taiwanese people to afford a house.
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Budgeting for a House 爲了買房子設定預算
I started off as an English teacher at a cram school making the minimum wage for foreign white collar workers, 48,000 NT per month. Once rent and life expenses were gone, we had very little money to save. On a good month we could save about 20,000 NT. For the house I now own, that monthly savings would have taken me only 6 years to save up for the down payment and 35 years to pay off. But my salary has increased since that time.
We first seriously considered buying a house about three years ago in 2019. Three years ago houses were cheaper, and so our budget was lower. We set a budget for a down payment for a house around Nangang, Taipei (where I work) for about 1.5 million NT (54,300 USD). This was based on the assumption that we could get a 20% down payment on a 7.5 million NT house (272,000 USD) with at least two bedrooms. At the time we had only asked one bank about home loans, which was Shanghai Commercial and Savings bank. Basically their policy for houses in greater Taipei is as follows: for houses 35 years or newer the down payment is 20%, but for houses 36 years or older the down payment is 25-30%. More on banks later.
A year and a half later in September 2020, we reached the 1.5 million NT savings goal (54,300 USD). At that time, we seriously began looking at a lot of houses in person instead of just looking at online postings. But by mid-2020 housing prices had risen about 15%, partly thanks to the pandemic. Also, we quickly realized there were other costs involved besides just a down payment. There would also be taxes, lawyer fees, and realtor fees, as well as renovation fees depending on how bad the house was. So in 2020 we revised our savings goal for buying a house to 2 million NT (72,300 USD).
Looking Online for a House to buy 在網路上先找房:
As we saved our money for the down payment, we looked online mainly using 591.com for used houses (中古屋) in Neihu, Xizhi, Nangang, Songshan, Xinyi, Shenkeng, and thought about even commuting from Keelung, Yilan, or Taoyuan. 591 is a great resource, and you can search via map, number of rooms, price, house age, etc. There are other websites you can search too, but most all listings are on www.591.com.tw. We looked through hundreds of listings for about two years before we had saved up the 1.5 million NT we thought we needed for a down payment. Then we decided to go out and look for houses in person.
After years of looking for rentals and houses to buy, we finally narrowed down the area to Nangang, Neihu, and Xizhi, and we began looking for houses in person.
Finding a good Realtor 找對的房屋中介:
If you want to actually go see a house, it usually means you need to go visit a realtor. There are many different chain realtors in Taiwan. In my experience, it really doesn’t matter which brand you choose, all that matters is who the realtor is as a person, their communication skills, whether or not they understand your needs, or if they are just wasting your time. Usually if you walk into one of their offices, they will sit you down, offer you water, and show you their listings. Usually they cannot speak English, so if you do not speak Chinese, you may want to find a translator. Below is a brief summary of each realtor we worked with.
U-trust 有巢氏房屋– They were nice, friendly, and helpful, and we found a house we wanted, but in the end they could not help to talk the owner down on price.
Xinyi 信義房屋– We visited their office twice and all of their listings were out of our budget. It seems they were only interested in selling expensive luxury apartments.
Yongching 永慶房屋– They seemed to have good service, such as a warranty for leaks, but I imagine their service fees are also expensive. All of their listings were over our budget.
Taiwan Realty 台灣房屋- The best. They were the best because of the lady in charge of our case. She was the nicest and most helpful to us, and in the end she talked down the owner to a super low price and we bought. My only regret is that we found her last. But after finding her, our search finally ended.
China Trust 中信房屋– They were okay, but all of their houses again were out of our budget range.
Zhushang 住商不動產– We had the worst experience with them. They were very helpful, but many of their tactics wasted our time and eroded our trust. We found a house we wanted, but they could not talk the owner down on price and tried to force us to cough up more money, wasting our time in the process.
New houses and pre-sale houses 新房子、預售屋– Most new houses will have their own sales team to sell the houses off. Be wary of getting scammed with these houses, although you can bargain them down on price. They are definitely making a commission. Pre-sale houses may never be finished, so be wary.
Century 21 21世紀– They had lots of good listings, and are an international chain, but in the end we never visited them in person.
Other small realtors 其他小的房地中介– We never visited any small independent realtors because frankly we were afraid of getting scammed.
Legal Auction houses 法拍屋– I approached one company specializing in selling legally auctioned houses, houses where the owner defaults on their loan and the house is auctioned by the bank. In the end they never found a house in the area we wanted. And we also learned that if you buy one of these houses it can be hard to get a loan (40% down payment) even though the price will be up to half of what a normal house would be. The biggest problem is the original owner may still be squatting in the house and it may be impossible to get them to move out.
Owner selling themselves 自售 - If the owner is selling by themselves, you may be able to skip out on realtor fees, but this may mean that there is a bigger possibility of getting scammed and you may have to do lots of extra homework and paperwork on your own.
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Looking at houses in Person 親自找房子:
After visiting a few realtors, we decided to look at houses with Zhushang first. They showed us two houses on our first real day of house hunting that were close to our budget and needs.
I like riding my bicycle to work, and we like the convenience of being close to my office, so we decided to look for houses closer to Nangang, because a short commute and coming home for my lunch break was worth it.
First House: Heshun Street 和順街
The first house we ever went to look at to consider purchasing was an older house in Nangang on Heshun Road, in September 2020. After visiting Zhushang Realty, they showed us this house and we agreed to look. It was raining that day, as it did most days that we looked at houses in person (this is a good thing because if there are leaks in the roof it will be easy to tell).
Pros: It was close to our budget and in Nangang.
Cons: The house is on a very narrow alley with no parking at all (we have a car, so parking would be an issue. We would probably have to rent a space somewhere). Inside, it was clear the house needed a lot of work. All the rooms were separated by thin wooden boards, the floor was old, and the ceiling was falling apart. The house was in between two other apartments, so there was no airflow except from the front and back windows, and the inner rooms did not have windows. The price, 9.8 million, was out of our budget. It was a 40+ year old house. For an older house, we expected to pay 30% down payment (294,000 NT), which we did not have. Plus we would need extra money for renovations. So we passed up the Hushen Street house.
Second House: Zhumeng 築夢
The second house we looked at was Zhumeng. It is a new complex in Nangang, but did not sell very well. The same Zhushang Realty showed this house to us on the same day as the Heshun Street house.
Pros: The price was high for a two bedroom apartment, more than 9 million, but they said we could get a loan with a 15% down payment (1.5 million down payment). Despite this, we did not like the house.
Cons: Inside was small. It claimed to have two bedrooms, but it was a split level house with super small rooms. It was smaller than the house we were renting at the time. Also we had to pay a management fee and there was no parking. In addition, there was public space at the first floor to pay for, but much less than a normal new house. Needless to say, we passed on this house.
Third House: Kangning Street 康寧街
Next for the third house we called up U-trust and looked at a house in Neihu on Kanging Road.
Pros: The price was in our budget, and it had two bedrooms and a huge living room. It also had a roof space and a rusty Pidgeon coop on the roof. The price was in our budget, and it was right next to an elementary school.
Cons: There was no natural gas lines, and it was right next to a busy highway. Also, there was no where to park a car there without renting a space. It was also a little farther from work than we were comfortable with. Also it was on the fifth floor with no elevator. In the end we decided to pass.
Although looking back we could have totally lived here, I am glad we did not because it was a little far, there was no parking, and there was no natural gas.
Fourth House: Hushi Langyue 胡適朗閱
After visiting the second house, Zhumeng, the option of a 15% down payment on a new house piqued our interest. So we visited another new apartment complex, Hushi Langyue in Xizhi. We ended up visiting twice.
Pros: We were interested in the two bedroom apartment with had a price of under 10 million NT, with an opportunity to get a 20% down payment.
Cons: Parking space would be needed to be rented or bought for extra. The complex was on a steep hill and it would be hard to bike to and from work. We liked it, but after visiting the second time we decided it was just too inconvenient to live there up on that hill. There was a shuttle bus that would only come every hour or so, and my wife does not drive a scooter. Getting kids to school would be hard. We almost put money down for it but we did not in the end.
After we turned down the offer, the lady told us that the couple after us bought the last house that we wanted. I think that was a sales technique to try to get us to bite again. It was a good decision on our part though. Last year the construction company could not renew their building license, so no one that bought a presale house there could move in. Everyone was given a refund, and the future of this complex remains up in the air. We saved lots of money, time, and trouble turning that house down. We dodged a bullet.
People often warn you about buying cheap pre-sale homes from small construction companies, and this is a prime example.
Fifth House: Dongfang Dazhen 東方大鎮
Next Zhushang reached out to us again for an apartment in an industrial zone next to Costco, Dongfang Dazhen. Originally he didn't want to show it to use because it was an industrial zone and most banks require a 40% down payment for such houses. We visited and we liked it.
Pros: It was only 25 years old, had an elevator, and there was possible free parking nearby. Also, in the future there will be a elevated train built right in front of the house, but it might take ten years to finish. There was also a nice bike path behind the house which I could use to bike to work quickly. The bank also confirmed that we could get a 20% down payment on the house, but that the house was only worth at most 7.5 million.
Cons: The house was in okay shape but needed some renovations. Also, the house was in an industrial area near Costco with lots of factories and big trucks passing by. Also the nearest elementary school was out of walking distance. Public transportation was not good either. Originally the house was asking for 9.8 million, which was out of our budget at the time, so we passed.
About three months later they called us again and said the owner had a change of heart and could maybe go down to 7 million. So we put down earnest money for the house.
Getting Serious: Putting down earnest money 下斡旋金
Once you want to put down an offer on a house, you also need to put down some earnest money. Usually this is 50,000-100,000 NTD. What is the difference between these amounts? Well, after you put earnest money down, no one else can bid for 1-2 weeks. During that time, if the house is sold to someone else, the owner needs to pay that amount to you. If you are able to come to an agreement with the owner, that money goes towards the price of the house or the realtor fee. During the time, the realtor will try to bring both parties to a reasonable price that both parties can agree on. Note that most houses are priced up 10-20% from what the owner considers the least amount they would like to sell. So they expect you to bargain with them.
Fifth House Continued: Getting fooled 被騙
We originally put down 50,000 NT in earnest money and offered 6.9 million NT for the house. The realtor said that other “investor clients 投資客” had offered roughly in that ballpark, so that’s what we offered. The owner then after two weeks and asked to meet us. We showed up at Zhushang and waited half an hour. At the time we had a babysitter and didn’t have a lot of time. After half an hour, the owner’s friend showed up who was a plumber and offered to redo our floors for cheap. It was just a big joke. At the same time, the realtor said that another realtor that the owner chose had received an offer for 7.8 million. We thought, "Fine! We don’t have the budget for that high of a payment, give the house to them." But later we figured out they were lying to our faces. There was no other buyer, it was a ruse to squeeze out money from our pockets. I was stupid and agreed to offer another 100,000, to raise our offer to 7 million exactly.
After two weeks, they called us in again. The owner did not show up again. They said the owner could go down to 7.5 million, final offer. By that time, we had weighed the pros and cons of the house and my wife really didn’t like it. We decided it was not worth it to raise our price, it was only worth it if we could get a good deal as the realtor told us to begin with. Also we felt betrayed and lied to by the realtor from last time, and by the owner who wasted our time and made us wait. After the two weeks were over, I went back to their office and took the 50,000 NT back, and said it was because my wife really didn’t like the area, which was true.
Later we found the house did sell for a higher price, which was a win for the owner, but we had already realized it was good we did not buy that house. If we did, we would be totally out of money and have nothing left for renovations. We decided to take a long break after that from house finding to continue saving money. The Zhushang Realtor didn’t bother us any more because he realized we were really poor and had no way to come up with more money, and that we were not going to borrow from our parents.
Sixth House: Zhongyan A+ 中研A+
The sixth house we visited was Zhongyan A+ in Xizhi. It is a new development that sits on a mountain overlooking Nangang, as seen from the only photo I have of the house above.
Pros: It was a new house, and after looking at house number four, we liked the a idea of a lower down payment for a new house. The price of the house was about 9 million NT. The complex had a guard, public kitchen, child playroom, and guest space on the first floor.
Cons: This visit was ain March 2021 when interest rates were increased, so the monthly payment for the house was over our budget (as I recall monthly payment would be like 30,000 NT). The house that we could afford was a small two bedroom, and 30% of the value of the house was in public space. Also, there was no parking there unless we were to purchase a space. Also the house is on a giant hill which means I could not ride my bike up to it and walking to the convenience store was not an option. Also there is only like one bus that goes there every half an hour. Did I mention it’s on top of a giant steep hill?
In the end, we passed, and we kind of gave up looking at houses in Taipei after that.
Giving up on Taipei and Considering Kenting 放棄臺北，考慮墾丁
We did a round island trip in about March 2021. At that time we decided we liked Kenting the best out of any place in Taiwan. We decided to look for houses in Kenting, because the real estate there is so cheap compared to Taipei.
In May 2021 we were back to Kenting and seriously looked for houses.
We visited one of the only two main realtors in Kenting, U-trust. The other one was Yongching, which in our experience has just overpriced houses. We visited the U-trust office and the lady there showed us some houses. The same day, we went and looked at the houses in Kenting that we were interested in.
Seventh House: Kenting Apartment #1 墾丁公寓一
The seventh house we visited was an apartment complex in Kenting within walking distance from an elementary school. It was on the fifth floor and there was an elevator, but no one paid for the elevator maintenance so it was broken indefinitely.
Pros: As with most places in Kenting there was free parking. The views were nice, it had enough space, and it was well priced: 2.9 million for a three bedroom apartment.
Cons: The elevator was broken, and we soon found out that the house was under renovation. We visited and the renovation workers told us the house was no longer for sale, which was awkward. It turned out the old guard had privately sold off the public parking in the underground garage. As a result no one had parking and the management had been fired, so there was no management at the building.
We decided there was too much fishy going on with this house, so we passed.
Eighth House: Kenting Apartment #2 墾丁公寓二
The eigth house we visited was another apartment complex near the middle school.
Pros: The elevator worked and people paid to upkeep it. The house was about 25 years old. The interior was in good shape, it had a big balcony and three bedrooms.
Cons: As we discovered, all houses in Kenting do not have piped gas. There is no gas pipeline that goes to Kenting, so everyone uses canned gas. Also, the price was a bit high: 3.8 million NT. We searched the recent house transactions in the area using government website (實價登錄, which we also used for other houses, and also it is what the banks use for appraisals, so take advantage of this resource) and asked the only two banks there in Hengchun: First bank and Changhua bank. We asked both if they could give an estimate. Their estimate was 1.8-2.3 million, and they we would have to pay a 30% loan at best, so the down payment would be similar to buying a house in Taipei.
Despite this, we liked the house and put down earnest money.
Overpriced house in Kenting 太貴的墾丁公寓
After putting down 50,000 NT in earnest money remotely for an offer of 2.3 million, we waited two weeks. The owner was not willing to go below 3 million. He would not budge. His house was nowhere near worth that amount, even with renovations. My guess is he bought the house with cash and had no idea what the banks or housing prices were like. Housing prices in Kenting have stayed pretty much stagnant for the past 20 years, unlike Taipei which has seen like 300% growth in housing prices in the same period. We learned the owner lives in Taipei. Anyway, we were not going to overpay for a house so we turned it down.
Ninth House: Empty farmland 農地
The ninth “house” we saw was in Kenting and it was just a plot of farmland. The realtor said we could build our own house there. Even though it was illegal to build a house there, she said it was outside of Kenting National Park and the authorities there didn’t really care, and would turn a blind eye if we built a house there. The price was about 2 million for the land not including the house.
Pros: We could build our own house in the country:
Cons: We did not have the money to buy the land, and we could not take out a loan for either the land or for building a new house on our own. We also did not like the fact that it would be an illegal structure. To make it legal, we would have to actually grow crops there for a few years and make money. It was really just a crazy suggestion by the realtor who was trying to make some money. It didn’t take us long to reject this spot of land.
That being said, I do have a foreigner friend who with his wife bought a spot of farmland in Taitung and planted fruit trees, and in the end was able to build a small one bedroom house on the land.
Tenth House: Kenting Townhouse 墾丁別墅
We found another realtor in Kaohsiung, Taiching 台慶 that works with Yongqing. It was a vacation house out in the sticks in Kenting. We originally wanted to visit in May but because of the pandemic we couldn’t go down south. We eventually visited in August.
Pros: It was huge, three stories and four bedrooms. There was free parking. There was a backyard. It was close to the ocean.
Cons: The price was okay: 4.9 million, and but it would be hard to afford a down payment of 30% with the banks down there. Also like all Kenting, no gas pipelines. We were considering renting it out and retiring there, but there were so many stairs to get to the top floor. When we were old and feeble, this would not be a good option. Also it has some leaks and the siding was falling off. And it was in the middle of nowhere with no public transportation to speak of. We ended up passing on this house.
Giving up Kenting for Taipei 放棄墾丁，考慮臺北
Kenting was far away and we could not drive there every weekend from Taipei. Originally I thought maybe I could get a remote job and work in Kentng. But I had no prospects. During COVID, I worked from home for three months and liked it. But after COVID was over, my boss called me back into the office immediately. So I looked for remote work. I interviewed for one, and was turned down. I also turned down going to graduate school. My current job gave me more and more money and huge bonuses in 2021. Suddenly we had a huge savings out of nowhere. Then my tax refund of about 14,000 USD came from the IRS. We had enough money to look for a house in Taipei. We decided to give up the Kenting dream until retirement or until I found another remote work opportunity many many years in the future. We decided to look for houses in Taipei again.
Eleventh House: Current Rental in Taipei 先前租的公寓
I will add an 11th house as our current rental at the time. We considered buying it, and asked the landlord their price. She said they purchased it for a pretty large amount recently and had also added money for renovations. In the end, it would be out of our budget. In addition, our current rental was kind of small and did not have any balconies, which are really nice for doing laundry, washing stuff, barbequing, or doing anything that you would want to do in the outdoors instead of an enclosed space. In the end we passed it up and looked for bigger and better things.
Twelfth and final house 最後一次看房子
After the summer of Kenting Dreams were smashed, we quietly went back to Nangang and pretty much stopped looking for houses. A few months later I saw an ad for a house that looked like an okay price, about 37,000 NT per ping. The average price in that part of Nangang is about 40-50,000 NT per ping. But the total price was still a little expensive, so I let it slide. Then about a month after that, I noticed the house was still listed. I checked online and sure enough it was still there. I called the number and set up a time to see the house.
The house was obviously old (44 years) and needed some serious renovations, especially the kitchen and the bathroom, but the area was nice, we liked to rooftop space, and the views were great. It was also bigger than our current apartment, had a guard, and was closer to the community pool and gym. Also there was plenty of parking available nearby for both scooters and cars. The house was also within walking distance of our current rental, and we could walk our kids to and from elementary school.
What really pushed us to buy was the fact that the realtor told us we could get a 20% down payment on the house because it was in Taipei City. Normally for older houses over 35 years I expected the bank would only give a down payment of 25% or 30%. I put her theory to the test and immediately called three banks: E. Sun, Fubon, and Taichung banks to get a quote. They all said that they could give me a 20% down payment. So that sealed the deal, and we decided to put down an offer.
Finally finding the right house 終於找到對的房子
I put down what we thought was a very low offer of just over 31,000 per ping (over 8 million total price) and 100,000 NT in earnest money. My offer was close to what the landlord had told us that the homeowner had rejected before, but a little higher than that. Soon the real estate agent told us the home owner was thinking seriously about it and it looked good. We fully expected from previous experience for the homeowner to continue to bargain their way up, but that did not happen. Our initial offer was accepted, the third time we had put down an offer on a house. It shocked us. The house had problems. If we were to back out then, our 100,000 NT earnest money would be gone.
We immediately looked for repairmen, before we signed the contract. But renovations are a story for another time. The real estate agent set up a meeting with us and the homeowner that Friday, so there was not a lot of time to contemplate or back out. We knew the house needed repairs, but we had a budget for that, even if it was just a small one. We felt we had enough money for the down payment and repairs without taking out any further loans, but at the very worst we could take out a loan for renovations. So we went ahead and signed the contract with the homeowner, who actually turned out to be two people: a mother and daughter who had inherited the house. It turned out they had some inheritance taxes to pay, which worked in our favor. They were nice and the paper signing went smoothly. I also had to pay a 2% agent fee to the realtor on that day, and it was a pretty penny: 167,000 NT.
Also at the time of signing, we had to pay 10% of the price of the home into a trust account set up by the lawyer up front. It was a big amount, nearly 1 million NT, and for that payment we had to go to the bank to get a check (本票), and then give that to the lawyer. The lawyer was brought in to complete the contract signing, tax payments, registrations, and other fees. We also paid the lawyer 50,000 NT up front, and he gave us back 12,000 NT after the registration was complete, which was extra money not spent.
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Finding a bank and getting a loan 找到對的銀行，辦理貸款
After signing, we immediately looked for banks. Getting a loan was the most important step for us, most all our house buying decisions hinged on this one process. Most banks will only give an official mortgage rate and down payment percentage until after they have seen the signed purchase contract (but if you push them they will give you an estimate before you sign). My company had three banks that we worked with, and the realtor introduced another three. To see how much they could offer, I had to provide basic information such as my current job and yearly salary, age, and showing my withholding and non-withholding income tax form. They will also do an appraisal of the house value. Our asking price was much lower than all of their appraisals, and Fubon’s appraisal was even more than the house’s asking price. Here is the story for each bank:
Shanghai Bank 上海銀行: Shanghai bank was the earliest bank that I worked with. My company has a partnership with them, and I have one of their credit cards. I relied on their advice most of the time until this house. In the past they said for houses 35 years or older, the best down payment they could do was 25-30%, and a Taiwanese guarantor was needed. I confirmed this with them again, and so they were crossed off the list. There were banks that could offer better.
Fubon Bank 富邦銀行: From the get go, Fubon bank had the best customer service. They said it was no problem I was a foreigner, and no guarantor was needed as long as I can speak Chinese. He offered me a 20% down payment and he made good on that promise. We put it on the final list of three banks that we chose to quote. He even drove to my office to let me sign papers, saving me time. However in the end the best interest rate they could offer was 1.5%, which was one of the highest that I heard of.
E. Sun Bank 玉山銀行: The next bank we tried was E. Sun. My wife has an account there with quite a lot of money. From the beginning they said they could offer a 20% down payment. We chose them as one of the final three banks. However they made us go to their bank and sign papers, which took over an hour. Part of that included asking my wife to write a hand-written letter in Chinese that she agreed to act as guarantor, which I thought was way over the top. Later they asked us to come back and re-sign a form. But by that time they had indicated that the best interest rate they could offer was 1.4%, and there was a bank with a better offer out there.
CTBC Bank 中國信托銀行: My company also has a good relationship with CTBC bank, and my salary is paid by them. Despite this, they were just not willing to give a down payment of 20% or less. Therefore, they did not make our finalist list.
Hsin Kong Bank 新光銀行: This bank said they could offer a 20% down payment, but they were flaky when it came to when that would happen. They said at the end of the year there would be a limited number of spots for buying houses and we would have to wait in line. That just plain scared us away.
Taichung Commercial Bank 臺中商業銀行: I called Taichung commercial bank and they said that they could offer a 20% down payment, but their interest rates were much higher, from 1.47-1.8% which was the highest interest rate we heard of. There were better offers out there so we passed them up.
Changhua Bank 彰化銀行: Changhua bank was actually one of the first banks I called. My company also works closely with them. My initial call was well received and the lady was very helpful. The second call I forgot to state which company I was from, and they told me for an older house, the best down payment they could do was 25%, so I held off. But after our offer was accepted, I decided to call a third time because of the warm reception I got on the first call. Once they knew my company, they immediately became warm and friendly again. They said they would try to get my home loan down to a 15% down payment and 1.31% interest rate, which were both the best I ever heard of. However a Taiwanese guarantor would be needed, but my wife could fill that role even without any income. Turns out my boss has a very good relationship with them and they were very hungry for business. This bank turned out to be the most promising.
We ended up choosing three banks to proceed: Fubon, Changhua, and E. Sun. The reason we chose three was just in case one or the other did not offer the 20% down payment, we could have a backup, because without the 20% down payment we would be broke. They recommend not choosing more than three, because the banks can see on the government website how many other banks are searching your credit history information, and if there are too many the bank may get scared away and think you do not have a good credit record (there are no credit scores in Taiwan, but this information is still available to banks). If we wanted to back down at this point, we would still have to pay half the price of the house according to the contract. We asked all three banks for an official quote and waited. In the end, Changhua had the best rate of 1.31% interest rate and a 15% down payment. We chose Changhua, and turned down the other banks, none of which could match what Changhua was offering.
I’m not saying Changhua is the best bank. If it were not for my relationship with my boss, we would have turned them down from the start and gone with Fubon or E. Sun. Guanxi is king in Taiwan.
We visited Changhua Bank three times in person. The first time was to apply for a loan and open a bank account, the second time was to finalize papers and get homeowners insurance, and the third time was to wire the mortgage to the previous homeowner. They gave me a card and my wife signed her life away as the Taiwanese guarantor. It was slow and everything was done with paper, nothing electronic.
Foreigner laws 外國人的程序
Foreigners can only buy real estate in Taiwan if their home country or state has reciprocal laws.
Most foreigners in Taiwan buy a house under their Taiwanese spouse’s name. This saves about 15 days out of the whole process.
It took me an especially long time because I did not have a valid driver’s license.
Because I am a US citizen, I needed to prove which state I lived in, because not all states have reciprocal laws with Taiwan. The birth city on my passport was not enough, however the lawyer thought it was. A few weeks into the process he said the application for home ownership was rejected and I needed to provide more documents.
After the application was rejected from the government, I had to prove which state I was a resident of. I gave them everything I had, but I had no current driver’s license, and my diplomas and mail from my parent’s house in my name and everything else was not enough to prove my residency in a state. The only thing that saved me was that I was a registered voter in Washington. I showed them a printed and translated screenshot of the voter registration website with my name on it, and that was good enough. So, if you plan on buying realty in Taiwan, make sure you have a valid driver’s license in your home state, or you have voter registration in your home state, and make sure your home country or state has a reciprocal agreement with Taiwan.
Here is a list of reciprocal agreements with Taiwan: file:///D:/Documents%20and%20Settings/User/Downloads/list+of+reciprocal+nations+for+foreigners+acquiring+land+in+tawain.pdf
Finalizing the Ownership 最後的程序
After this hurdle was cleared, the lawyer moved on with the approval for the ownership papers for the land and the house itself.
Normally you have to wait until the bank wires in the mortgage amount before you can finish the transfer of ownership process. However because we wanted to move in early and start renovations as soon as possible to finish before Chinese New Year, and the house was just sitting there empty, the homeowner agreed to give us the keys early.
During the second meeting with the old house owner, basically we just signed an agreement that said she would give me the keys early, and the house was basically mine.
After I received the keys, it took about three days for us to sell off our index funds and make the remaining 5% down payment (over 500,000 NT) to the trust account.
A few days after that, the bank gave approval, the Lawyer could then go ahead with the home owner registration change.
The ownership papers (所有權狀) were received by the Lawyer soon after. We received one for the house itself and one for the land. This is known as transfer of ownership (過戶). Three days later we set up the last meeting with the home owner to do the final handover of the house (交屋). At that time, the homeowner gave me some leftover keys, utility bills, and showed me some photos of the house after it was just built. It was a good experience, and I left the realtor that night as a homeowner with all the official papers.
Registering as a residence for self use 辦理自用住宅
Right after we received the ownership document above, we went ahead and registered the residence for self use. This is important because if you want to sell the house later (which we had no plan for, but you never know) you will be able to use a 10% tax rate after six years of ownership, and have a 4 million NT deduction on profits, so pretty much for most people that would mean paying little to no tax after selling your house (you can only register for once such house at a time). So it is definitely worth it to do this step.
Before you register your house you need to change the address on your ARC to the address on the ownership documents, or if you are married to a Taiwanese national they can complete house registration first. Because it takes 10 days to change the ARC address, we first had my wife complete household registration and use that for the basis of the residence registered for self use.
The official letter stating that the registration had been completed came back a few days later.
Timeline For Buying a House 買屋時程表：
10/19/2020 First time seeing houses in person, the Heshun house 第一次去看和順街的房子
10/19 Saw house #2
10/29 Saw house #3
11/15 Saw house #4
11/20 Saw house #5
3/19/2021 Saw house #6
5/10 Saw houses #7, #8, and #9
8/301 Saw house #10
10/9 First time seeing the house we eventually bought 第一次去看我們買的房子
10/14 Asked around a few banks, and 20% down payment seemed doable. 問了三家銀行都能貸8成
10/14 Originally going to put down earnest money but lost my bank card 本來下班就要付斡旋金蛋提款卡不見
10/15 Went to the bank to get a new ATM card and put down 100,000 NT in earnest money. 去銀行辦新的提款卡，之後馬上下斡旋金10萬
10/19 The realtor told us the homeowner accepted our offer. We set up a meeting for the next day to sign papers. 房仲通知說屋主接受了我們的價錢，約隔天晚上去簽約
10/19 Went with a contractor to look at the house 跟汐止工程師去看房子
10/20 Went to the bank to get a check for 1 million NT 去銀行開本票100萬
10/20 Signed the home purchase agreement that night. 晚上簽約了
10/20 Paid realtor fee of 167,000 NT (the earnest money of 100,000 NT already counted, so I paid another 67,000 NT. 付清仲介費 167400（本來已經付了10萬，付剩下6萬多）
10/20 Also paid 50,000 NT to the lawyer as a retainer fee 預付5萬塊給代書
10/25 Set up a meeting with Fubon Bank for a loan quote, took only ten minutes 跟富邦銀行見面只花10分鐘
10/27 Set up a meeting with E. Sun bank for a loan quite, took an hour 去玉山銀行簽文件花了一個小時
10/27 Set up a meeting with Chuanghua Bank, it took an hour and a half but they also set up a new account for me. They said they would try to give me a 15% down payment and 1.31% interest rate. 去彰化銀行花了一個半小時簽文件跑預估，開戶，預估8.5成1.31利率，晚上白跑去新房子
11/2 Changhua Bank Confirmed they would give me a 15% down payment and 1.31% interest rate, with three year deferred principal payments. 彰化銀行確定可以貸8.5成，利率1.31，3年寬限期
11/10 After getting my state of residency sorted, the lawyer told us to wire 10% to him, but we didn't want to because we had a better down payment percentage. 代書說要匯款88萬給他，但我們不想要先付這個因為可以貸8.5成
11/12 Received the keys to the apartment early from the previous owner to being renovations early. Paid the remaining 5% nonpayment. 提早拿到鑰匙，為了裝修，之後幾天付了剩下的5%頭期款
11/18 We made the payment for the reaming 5% down payment 5%, or 500,000 NT 尾款匯錢50萬
11/24 We went and signed the official loan contract with Changhua Bank, bought house insurance 去彰化銀行簽約, 對保
12/01 Received House Insurance Papers拿到房屋保險
12/07 Received the House Ownership Certificate 拿到所有權狀，過戶了
12/10 Signed the last papers at Changhua Bank who sent me nearly 8 million NT, I wired this to the trust account for the homeowner 跟銀行簽約了貸款800萬，馬上匯錢800萬給履約保障戶
12/10 Changed the name for the electric bill 台電過戶了
12/10 Last time meeting the previous homeowner, gave us the rest of the keys, and the lawyer gave us back 9000 NT. 跟屋主見面，交屋了，代書退我9000塊，拿到信箱的鑰匙
12/20 Applied for house registration for my wife, and self use house for tax purposes 辦戶籍，申請自用住宅
12/22 Self use house registration complete 辦好自用住宅
12/24 Changed driver's license and APRC at DMV and immigration office 去監理所辦地址變更，去移民署辦新的居留證
1/20 Renovations complete 整修完成
1/29 Moved in to the newly renovated house. 搬進去了
2/14 Gave back the keys to our old apartment to our landlord 跟房東點交
Total time spent from looking for the first house in person to buying our house: 14 months
Total time spent from first look at our house to move in: 112 days
Total time spent from signing the contract to receiving the ownership papers: 52 days (originally was supposed to be 60 days, for most Taiwanese people it is 45 day)
Total fees spent (besides the 10% payment in the first meeting (1 million) + 5% in the second meeting (500,000) for a total 15% down payment): 167,400 realtor fee + 38,351 lawyer fee and legal/tax fees = 205,751 NT
Above is the receipt for the Realtor fee.
Above is the receipt for the lawyer fees, which included some taxes. This is also known as transfer of ownership fees (過戶費).
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Renovation Fees 裝修費用
Let me just say you need to save at least another 300,000 to 3 million NT or more for renovations, new appliances, and new furniture, depending on the state of the original house. If you do not have this money up front, you can take out another renovation loan from the bank which also has a low interest rate, but it is better to have the money up front so you are not paying two loan payments at once.
Because we got the 15% down payment, we had extra money for renovations. Our house needed a lot of work, such as new floors, plumbing, electricity, windows and we wanted to add an extra bedroom, so it took two months to finish before we could move.
For more details on our experience renovating our house, check out our blog here.
Buying a house was not that hard. It was just a matter of time, money, and paperwork, lots of trips to the bank, money, meetings with the realtor, and most of all money. Contrary to my previous beliefs, I learned that getting a loan and buying a house is not that hard, and it can be achievable especially if you have good connections with a bank and you have saved money up front.
Next in this three part blog series is renovating a house in Taiwan, which you can check out here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.