Questions your real estate agent will ask when you’re renting an apartment in Japan

When you rent an apartment in Japan, you’ll have to have a lot of information on hand even before you step inside for your first room viewing.

Here are the questions you should prepare for!

Questions about yourself

These are basic and to be expected.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Current address
  • Contact phone number / email address
  • Name and age(s) of anyone who will be living in the property with you
  • To document these, you’ll be asked to provide:
    • Passport
    • Residence Card
    • Certificate of Eligibility (COE) if you haven’t yet received a visa and don’t yet have a Residence Card

You’ll also be asked the following and to fill out the info in the rental application:

  • What is your occupation?
    • Checkboxes usually include: company employee, self-employed, student, other
    • Some property managers are hesitant to rent to self-employed or freelance workers because they are concerned about the tenant’s ability to pay the rent in case there is a drop in income, but depending on the property and property manager, this is not necessarily a dealbreaker.
  • What is your form of employment?
    • Checkboxes usually include: permanent employee, contract employee, temporary employee, part-time employee, other
    • For the same reason as above, “permanent employees” and contract employees who can show that their contracts have been consistently renewed tend to be viewed as having lower risk in terms of being able to pay their rent.
  • What is your salary?
    • To see if you make enough money to reasonably be able to pay the rent.
  • To document your employment and income, you may be asked to provide some or all of the following:
    • Certificate of employment / Offer letter (for working people) with salary details
    • Tax withholding slip (gensen choushuu hyou, 源泉徴収票)
    • Bank account statements for last two or three months
    • For students:
      • Student ID and admission letter

You may also be asked:

  • Can you speak Japanese? If so, how well?
  • Can you read Japanese? If so, how well?
  • Agents often ask these questions because some landlords are concerned about having to communicate with tenants who cannot speak Japanese.

Questions about your housing requirements

1. How much can you afford for your total monthly housing costs?

This is one of the first thing you’ll want to ask yourself, before you even consult with a real estate agent.

In Japan, your total monthly housing costs will include the stated monthly rent, but you may also be required to pay common area or building management charges. Common area or building management fees are collected to pay for maintenance of common areas in a condominium building, for example elevator maintenance, cleaning the lobby, hallways and stairwells. However, not all buildings require this fee. On Real Estate Japan, we indicate the monthly “Rent” and “Maintenance Fee” as separate items, then as a total, called the “Total Monthly Cost”.

On Real Estate Japan, we indicate the Rent and Maintenance Fee as separate line items and also show a Total Monthly Cost. Image: Real Estate Japan

— Can you afford to pay the Total Move-in Fees?

This is not a question that your real estate agent will explicitly ask you, but it’s important to know the answer so that you have enough funds to cover your move-in costs.

The upfront costs of renting an apartment in Japan are much higher than in most countries. For a typical apartment, the various fees average between five and six months’ rent.

Let’s assume you’re looking to move into an apartment where the advertised rent is ¥60,000. You will also have to budget the following for move-in costs in this hypothetical case:

First month’s rent = ¥60,000
Deposit (one month’s rent) = ¥60,000
Key money (one month’s rent) = ¥60,000
Agent’s commission (one month’s rent + tax) = ¥66,000
Guarantor company fee (one month’s rent + tax) = ¥66,000
Property maintenance fee = ¥3,000 to ¥5,000
Renters/Fire insurance = ¥20,000 (for a two-year policy)
Lock exchange fee = ¥12,000

To lower your move-in costs, you can limit your search to apartments that don’t charge key money or an agent’s commission, for example. Also, newer, larger-sized properties in higher-end buildings tend to charge higher deposit (sometimes many multiples of monthly rent), so you can also minimize the deposit by looking at mid- to lower-range properties.

2. Location

If you are apartment hunting in a city, “location” usually means the nearest train station. The agent will also want to know how many minutes walk away from the station you’re willing to live. This will help your agent narrow down the search parameters.

The further away from a station a property is, the lower the rent will tend to be. This is another way you can lower your housing expenses.

3. Housing type

If you are looking for long-term housing, your choices will be between (1) an apartment or condominium building or (2) house or single-family residence.

In Japan, there is a difference between an apartment (apaato) and a condominium building. This article explains the difference.

It’s also good to keep in mind that there are many fewer houses available for rent than apartments.

4. Number of rooms

How many rooms would like to have, in addition to the living room and kitchen, or are you ok with a studio apartment, where the apartment is a single room, inclusive of the kitchen and your sleeping area?

This article explains Japanese apartment layout terminology and will give you an idea of what to expect in the various room types.

5. Living space

In square meters, how large an apartment or house are you looking for? This will also help your agent narrow down the search.

6. Room types

Are you ok with living in an apartment or house with a Japanese-style (tatami) room or would you prefer to only have western-style rooms?

7. Main amenities

a. Toilet separated from bathtub or single-unit bath? Do you want a bathtub or is just a shower ok? This article gives an in-depth explanation of Japanese bathrooms if you aren’t sure what to expect in a “unit bath”.

b. Do you want a wall-mounted air conditioner unit? Summers in Japan (except perhaps for Hokkaido) are very hot and humid and winters are cold (especially if you are coming from a country that doesn’t have four seasons). A built-in A/C can provide a lot of comfort but can also be expensive, with respect to electricity bills.

8. How many people will be living with you?

Are you renting an apartment for just yourself or will you be living with your family or a roommate?

9. Do you have a guarantor or will you be using a guarantor company?

In recent years, it’s more common for landlords to require tenants to use a guarantor company, instead of asking tenants to name their own guarantor.

Guarantor companies generally charge between 50% and 100% of the monthly rent to guarantee a two-year least contract. For example, if your monthly rent is ¥60,000, a guarantor company will charge a fee of between ¥30,000 and ¥60,000 to guarantee your lease; this fee is due when you sign your lease. There is also a guarantor renewal fee of about ¥10,000, which is charged every one to two years, depending on the company.

10. How long do you want to rent?

The standard lease term in Japan is two years, but there are also apartments that can be rented for a shorter period. It’s important for your agent to know your desired rental period so they don’t waste your time and theirs.

11. Your priorities

Before you go see an agent, it’s a good idea to rank your priorities so you know which of the things above are most important to you.

There are, of course, many other things you may want in apartment. For example, you may be looking for a pet-friendly apartment, or for an apartment with a spacious kitchen, but it’s not easy to find an apartment that will tick all the boxes.

If you let your agent know your priorities, they’ll better be able to help you find the right place!


GaijinPot Housing Service

If you are looking for an apartment in Japan (whether you’re applying from overseas or are already in-country), check out the GaijinPot Housing Service. With the GaijinPot Housing Service, you:

  • Can choose from 3,000+ properties throughout Japan.
  • Don’t need a guarantor.
  • Can apply from overseas.
  • Pay all your upfront costs and monthly costs with a credit card.
  • Receive full English service, from the room view, to application, to post-move-in support.

Learn More About the GaijinPot Housing Service

You may also be interested in

Tokyo short term apartments

How to rent an apartment in Japan as a foreigner

How to rent an apartment in Japan from overseas

What documents do you need to rent an apartment in Japan?

How much you should budget for move-in costs to rent an apartment in Japan?

What Japanese real estate agents want foreigners to know about renting an apartment in Japan

What should I budget to move to Japan?


Lead image: iStock 213279828