The right timing for apartment hunting in Japan

One of the first things we always tell those who inquire is that most property owners and property management companies in Japan will only accept your application if you’re ready to start your lease in the next two to three weeks. Sometimes it might be up to four weeks, but you get the idea. In many other countries, including where I’m from, it’s not uncommon to be searching months or even whole seasons ahead of time. But here, that’s not the case.

I’ve been on and off doing my own apartment searching for the last month or so, trying to focus on properties that can be moved into around the end of May or beginning of June. It’s been a very stressful experience. If you’re looking for an apartment more than a month out, you basically have to rule out 90% of the options, as almost every listing is usually available soon. And if the listing is available soon, the owner will want it filled up again as soon as possible. Someone applying and then wanting to start their lease later is a risk, as technically that person could still cancel their application up until the lease starts.

Even if you find a property that is available in the right time frame, there’s a lot of awkwardness. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the option to apply and secure the unit, then view and make a final decision after the current tenant moves out. However, a lot of the time, if you don’t want to lose the apartment, you’ll just have to apply and be stuck with the unit without viewing. There are a lot of people that do this too, as it’s not uncommon for units that are still occupied but opening up in the coming months to get taken. Not viewing always comes with some risk though, and in my case, I definitely want to view first. 

If you try to search early you might get lucky and find something that works out perfectly. That’s what I’ve been hoping for awhile, but after seeing every apartment I liked get snapped up, I decided to put my own search on hold until May, when I will be able to apply for anything available without worrying about the timing. Personally, the time that went into constantly looking for new options that only have a slim chance of working out got too tiring.

In summary, while searching for an apartment more than a month ahead of when you want to start your lease isn’t impossible, the benefits are rarely worth the cost of your time and effort. I’d say three to four weeks ahead of time is the sweet spot, as if you’re looking to move next week for example, that might be too tight! 

One thing to note though is that while looking for specific apartments ahead of time isn’t very fruitful, it wouldn’t hurt to  Japan Room Finder to get your foot in the door. Usually what we do when someone inquires too early is reply and explain the timing situation, then set a date on our system to follow up closer to the desired move in date. That way, you can know that when the right time to search approaches, we’ll be ready to help you out!

By Nathan

Nathan works for the Japan Room Finder, helping foreigners find their home in Japan. He’s American and has lived in Japan for about three years. Read Nathan’s self-intro to find out what brought him here!

Japan Room Finder

Finding somewhere to live in Japan can be tough, but our Room Finder makes it easy.


Simply provide us with your location and size preferences and we’ll find you potential properties.

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We then match you up with an English-speaking real estate agent who can get you moved in.

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Lead photo: iStock image

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Lead photo: iStock 1087668810. Taken December 11, 2018 (apartments available for rent signs in Tokyo), Credit: TkKurikawa

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