Depending on where you live, you can have a very different experience when looking for housing. It could be as simple as looking at pictures and getting a detailed rundown of the apartment before putting money on it. These things usually come with their own little quirks, and Japan in no different. There are certain things that you will need to know before you start looking, or while you are looking, at new places to live.
Always Request a Walkthrough
Even though most people in Japan are trustworthy and generally nice people, there are still those who don’t follow the straight and narrow. Most landlords who post listing of their vacancies keep it with up to date photos and information. Some don’t do this and use old photos or lie about the condition of the places being rented. The only way to get past this is request a walkthrough, or to be shown the room. If they refuse or deny you the ability to do so, it is best to look elsewhere. You will need to do your due diligence in this area and be firm with the landlords. There have been times where people had been shown pictures and videos of places, only to show up to less than stellar housing. Most realty companies that have an English department will have this service available to potential renters. Make sure you take advantage of it and get the best place for you.
Use Multiple Sources When Apartment Hunting
There are a few very popular sites to use when looking for housing, and the one that is recommended the most is the website GaijinPots. Even though it may be the biggest forum to use when looking, you should try to see if there are any local places you can use. Because the site is so big, it may not have all the best listings possible in the area you are looking for. The thing that it does is guarantee that you will have English assistance of some kind when you go to look and rent a place. If you have a little Japanese ability you can go find even cheaper and better housing options. Always have different sources when looking for your potential new home.
Be Ready for Extra Charges
There are quite a few small to large charges you will come across when looking at renting an apartment. The first being key money, which is an extra month rent that goes directly to the landlord. It is viewed more as a thank you to the landlord for allowing you to rent the apartment. There are a lot of places that don’t do it, but there are far more that do it. It has become a cultural thing, so it won’t be going anywhere. There is also a fire insurance fee for any place that you go to rent. It is a requirement for any new occupancy and is enforced throughout the country. There can be maintenance costs for different things that can come with an apartment. If you have a furnished apartment there will be a maintenance fee for all the items, you will be using. There can be other charges as well so make sure to check the contract for anything other than the base rent.
Check the Distance
Distance from the train station will drastically affect the pricing of any apartment. It can even impact the kind of housing that would be available to you. The amount of time from your house to the station will change the price of an apartment from 30,000 to 90,000 yen. It will be advantageous to you to look for places that are from 10 to 20 minutes from the station. It keeps the commute reasonable and reduces the price of the apartment to a more manageable level. The surrounding conveniences will impact price as well. If there are a lot of department stores, malls, and convenience stores, it will increase the price of the apartment. Trying to keep a well-rounded distance from all the amenities will give you the place for a good price.
Check the Surroundings
The kind of city will impact the kind of apartments that will meet your standards. There are a lot of cities you can choose from to find that perfect apartment. The closer to the center of the city will tend to be more expensive. The cities that make up center tend to be high income areas, or very popular tourist attractions. Places like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Meguro can all end up being very expensive. If you are looking for something that is still in Tokyo, but not in the expensive parts, you can look at the cities at the outer edges of Tokyo. Places like Machida, Tama ward, and Aoba ward. You can still have access to all the popular areas of Tokyo, but the cost of living can be much more manageable.
In Japan, to get into an apartment you will need a guarantor. If you are a foreigner looking for an apartment you will need a native resident, or your employer to be a guarantor on the contract. The landlords do this to avoid people from signing a contract and breaking it early to go back to their home country. It has happened so much that it is a requirement for foreigners to have this done. If you don’t have a company that can do this, or Japanese friends or family that is willing to sign, you hire a guarantor company to sign for you. These businesses act as guarantors for a fee, which is usually the equivalent of a month rent. They are necessary if you don’t have anyone to turn to for help. There are usually guarantors attached to listings for foreigners so make sure to read through them thoroughly.
It can be a shock to find all these extra charges and cultural differences. They can sneak up on you if you don’t look carefully at the contract. Take your time when looking, and don’t move to quickly on an apartment. It would be best to check out online forums and try to connect with people who are already living in the country. It will benefit you in the long run, and make your stay in Japan much more enjoyable.