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Things to Remember When Getting an Apartment in Japan

  |   By: Aaron Baggett

Moving to a new apartment is an exciting step in your new life in Japan. Still, it can also be overwhelming if you do it all alone. From finding an apartment with an easy commute to work, signing paperwork and wading through difficult Japanese cultural norms and bureaucracy, the list of tasks seems endless.

However, with some planning and preparation, you can simplify the process and make your move smooth and enjoyable. Here will share some practical tips and tricks to help you navigate the challenges of moving and ensure a hassle-free transition to your new home.

Don’t Get Blindsided by Move-in Fees

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There is usually something extra in the contract.
When renting an apartment in a different country, especially Japan, it’s important to approach the process open-mindedly and avoid making direct cultural comparisons. Doing could so can lead to misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations.

For example, upfront move-in fees are expensive in Japan. You might be used to only paying a couple of months’ deposit for an apartment. In Japan, you can expect a couple of months’ deposit, an agency fee, a support fee, maintenance fees, cleaning fees, insurance and key money, or reikin in Japanese—a non-refundable payment from the tenant to the landlord when signing a lease.

Pay close attention to everything you agree to be included in the total move-in fees and monthly rent.

Don’t be Surprised if Your First Choice isn’t ‘Foreigner-friendly’

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Foreigner-friendly is the name of the game at Real Estate Japan.
While Japan is a welcoming and inclusive country, you will still find apartments that are not considered “foreigner-friendly.” There are a few factors that contribute to this situation:

  1. Language barrier: For landlords who may not speak English or have experience dealing with non-Japanese tenants, the language barrier can create challenges and miscommunication.
  2. Cultural expectations: Japanese landlords often have specific expectations and preferences regarding tenants. They may prioritize individuals with a stable income, a long-term employment history or who can provide a Japanese guarantor (a person who vouches for the tenant’s financial responsibility).
  3. Lack of trust: Some landlords may have limited exposure to renting to foreign residents or have had negative experiences. They may just have plain old negative stereotypes about foreigners.

Thankfully,  apartments listed on services such as Real Estate Japan and GaijinPot Apartments are foreigner friendly. Still, confirming with your agent or having a few backups in mind is always a good idea.

Remember that Japanese Apartments Rent Quickly

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Everyone is busy in Tokyo.
Signing a lease for an apartment can be a bit commitment. Indeed, you should absolutely do your research before signing a lease, and while one likes to rush, Japanese apartments move very quickly.

The high demand is partly due to Japan’s dense population. As a result, desirable apartments, particularly those in popular neighborhoods or near train hubs, tend to get rented out quickly. Landlords receive multiple inquiries and applications for the same apartment. This is especially true during spring when students all over Japan are finishing school and entering the workforce at the same time.

Being quick and punctual helps you stand out as a serious applicant. So, while you should do your research, you must also swiftly increase your chances of securing your dream apartment. And, again, it helps to have a few backups in mind.

Check Everything Before you Sign

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You don’t want to be on either end of that broom.
Different properties will have different housing standards, and what’s important to some people might be important to others. That being said, what is important to you?

How thin are the walls? It might be quiet as a church mouse the day you visit, but your neighbors or outside might be more active and noisy at different times. Do your neighbors have pets? Are you comfortable with a dog barking next door?

What is the property’s insulation like? For example, if you view the property during summer, what will it feel like in winter and vice versa? How much sunlight do you get? Is it on the first floor? Will you feel safe? Not as serious, but if you live below the fifth floor, you can likely expect to be visited by mosquitos or other pests.

Make a list of everything important to you and check what you can before you sign a contract.

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