Renting an Apartment in Japan: Top 3 Reasons Why December is a Great Time to Move

In this post, we share a not-so-secret hack for getting a bargain on an apartment Japan. If you have a choice, December is probably the best time in the whole year to move.

Below we go over the Top 3 reasons:

  1. Very few people move in December, so property managers offer perks to fill vacancies.
  2. Moving companies lower their rates in December.
  3. January is the start of the busy season. Beat the competition by moving in early!

1. You can snag a great deal in December because it’s one of the slowest months of the year

If you have a choice as to when you’ll be moving to Japan or moving from one apartment to another in Japan, it’s a good idea to understand seasonality in the rental apartment market.

  • January to MarchPeak Season
    • This is the busy season. Why? Because for many Japanese companies, the fiscal year starts on April 1st. This is when new university grads start their first jobs and when many mid-career workers switch jobs. It’s also when public schools, colleges, and universities start their academic year. So in the three months leading to the big day, people all over Japan move!
    • Demand for apartments is very high during this time and real estate agents are very busy. Often, there will be multiple applications received for an apartment, and if you’re slow submitting paperwork you may find that the place you want has already been taken by someone else. Simply because of demand-and-supply, it makes sense to avoid trying to move when everyone else is.
  • April to June — Lower demand
    • When the peak season is over, real estate agents will try to fill up the vacant properties that they could not manage to close by the end of March. At the same time, there is also much lower demand, since almost everyone who had to move for their job or school already has.
    • Some owners and property managers might be open to negotiating some perks for potential tenants, rather than let their property sit vacant. For example, they might offer no key money, slightly lower rents or invest in upgrading certain properties to make them more attractive. Landlords will push agents and property managers to fill up remaining vacancies in April, so as a tenant, you can take advantage of lower demand to get a better deal on an apartment.
  • June to July — Continued lowered demand
    • Agents are not as busy over the summer months. One reason is that many people do not want to move when it’s hot and humid. So this is another time during the year when you may be able to negotiate on the rent or get the agency fee waived.
  • August to October — Pick up in Demand
    • Demand starts to pick up again towards the end of August and beginning of September. This is because some technical schools and universities start their second semester in the fall. At this time, agents tend to get a lot of inquiries from international exchange students and students at Japanese language schools. This means that if you are moving to Japan to start school in September, you can beat the rush by looking for an apartment a little early (in August).
  • November to December — Low Season, Preparing for Busy Season
    • This is the true low season in the year. People don’t like moving during the hot summer months, but they also don’t like to move in wet and cold weather. December is also the start of the bounenkai season, when companies and schools have parties to celebrate the end of the year. A lot of people’s minds are on wrapping up, not starting a new project.
    • In Japan, the end-of-the-year and new year celebrations last for an extended period of time. Government offices, banks, and businesses usually take about a week off (from about December 28th to January 3rd) for the end-of-the-year and new year holidays, with many people adding on personal vacation time to stretch the vacation all the way through January 6th or 7th. This is also true of most property manager managers and real estate agents.
    • What does this mean for you? If you are thinking about moving, start your apartment search early so you can move in by the end of December. Why? It usually takes 10 to 12 days from the time you apply for an apartment to the time you can move in. If you start your apartment search too late, you may not be able to do the room view until January, when property managers come back from the holidays. At the latest, try to decide on an apartment by the middle of December, so you have time to submit your application.
    • Because it’s the low season, you can find great bargains. This is the season when property managers run “one month free rent” campaigns to try to fill up vacant apartments and boost their sales numbers before the end of the year. However, “one month free rent” apartments aren’t often openly advertised. The GaijinPot Housing Service, for example, currently has numerous apartments available with “one month free rent” that are move-in ready for December. Remember to ask about these apartments when you apply!
    • GaijinPot Housing Service
      • This is a housing service for foreigners looking for an apartment in Japan. With this service:
        • You can apply from overseas.
        • Don’t have to speak or read Japanese – You will get full bilingual support throughout the application process and post move-in support (help with setting up utilities and any problems you have while living in the apartment).
        • Don’t need a guarantor.
        • Can pay for everything with a credit card.
        • Will not be rejected for an application because of your nationality.

2. Moving companies charge lower rates in December

Demand for moving companies is much lower in December than at any other time of year for the same reason that apartments are in low demand.

You will be able to get a much better deal on a moving company than if you wait until the busy season.

3. It’s a lot harder to find an apartment in January

If you are thinking about moving in the next few months, you could save a bit on your rent and a lot on your stress level by taking the plunge in December.

January is the start of the busy season and demand will spike. For all the reasons we discussed in point one above, if you can help it, it’s a good idea to find an apartment and finish your move by the end of December.

Gaijinpot Housing Service

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Lead photo: Bounenkai (end-of-the-year) party via Wikimedia Commons