Local Agent Insight

How to Find a Good Real Estate Agent in Tokyo: Interview with Local Agent — FREA

Real Estate Japan recently sat down with FREA, a bilingual Tokyo real estate brokerage, to ask for their insight and advice to foreigners who are looking to rent property in Japan.

Q1. What do you think about the overall process for securing a rental property in Japan for foreign clients?

In general, it’s complicated and rather ambiguous. There are so many factors that come into play during the application process. A property may require a specific guarantor company, and the screening procedures for each company will vary. Ultimately, even if you meet all the objective requirements, whether your application for an apartment will be accepted also depends heavily on the decision of the property manager or landlord.

Clients will often ask what they can do to ensure their application is accepted, but there isn’t really a clear-cut way to guarantee this. It’s certainly a sensitive issue for foreigners.

However, the situation is gradually improving over time, and I hope that Real Estate Japan can continue to put out more information about Japanese real estate practices to its readership.

Q2. What should foreigners look for when choosing a real estate agent?

You should choose an agent who responds quickly and can anticipate your questions. They should be proactive in researching the property ahead of time and be well-prepared to give you additional information as it pertains to your needs. For example, it is common that clients are concerned about the quality of natural light in the room, so an agent should readily have information on what direction the property faces.

Q3. What kind of reasons are usually given when a tenant has not been approved for an apartment application? What are the most frequent reasons for rejection?

Quite frequently, the level of language ability can be an issue. Many landlords and property managers would prefer that you are able to communicate in Japanese at a conversational level. Cases of applicants being rejected due to their income level are pretty uncommon since most people are well-aware of the general earning criteria: your monthly rent should not be more than a third of your monthly income.

There are also a number of cases where an applicant struggles to provide a Japanese emergency contact (a standard requirement). The emergency contact must reside in Japan permanently, but they don’t necessarily need to be a Japanese native: you can also provide the name of someone who has acquired Japanese citizenship.

Q4. Do guarantor companies disclose the reason(s) an applicant failed the screening?

As a policy, guarantor companies do not disclose the reason or reasons why an applicant is rejected in a tenancy screening. If you do fail an application, the guarantor company will, in fact, keep your record on file for at least several years, which means it is not really viable to re-apply to the same company.

Not knowing what exactly caused a client to fail the screening can make it tricky to proceed. There have also been cases where an applicant failed a screening for a large company and then subsequently failed screenings at guarantor companies. As such, we definitely recommend that clients approach guarantor companies with a level of caution.

Q5. What are some important things that you should always check during a room viewing?

Many people tend to overlook this, but we highly recommend that you check the garbage disposal area (or room) to see if the current tenants in the building follow the rules and that the common-use areas are well-looked after. Another point is to test the air conditioner in the room (if there is one installed). Check to see if it is working properly and if there are any strange smells or noises caused by the outside unit.

Another important but easily forgotten detail is being aware of the general level of outside noise in the immediate area (such as passing trains from nearby lines, highway traffic, etc.), rather than be unpleasantly surprised upon move-in.

Q6. In general do you think that foreigners are treated unfairly by people in the Japanese real estate industry?

I do think that on a certain level, foreigners are still treated unfairly. In some cases this may be due to owners or property management companies having had negative past experiences with foreigners. For example, leaving the country without prior notice or with unpaid bills, failing to follow the garbage disposal rules or making excessive noise, to name a few.

In many cases, what is perceived as unfair treatment stems from miscommunication between tenants and landlords, so it’s important to make rules and information clear in advance, before a tenant moves into a property. The lack of English-speaking staff in most property management companies is a factor that can cause difficulties for foreign clients.

Q7. Do you have any more advice for our readers?

During the application process, some foreign applicants prepare a Japanese version of their employment certification, but there are cases where a specific template or format is required. Japan is a very paperwork-focused country, which many foreign applicants may not be accustomed to. It’s best to check with your agent beforehand, so that you can collect all the required documents and submit them correctly.

I’d also like to tell readers of Real Estate Japan that FREA has begun offering a furniture leasing service as of April this year. If you are residing in Japan for the short-term and are having difficulty securing temporary furnishings for your housing, we can assist you!

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