How to rent an apartment in Japan

    japan apartments

japan apartments

Japan is notorious for having some of the most expensive real estate in the world. When it comes to renting your first apartment the process can be grueling and stressful. The information provided here will hopefully prepare you for what is to come. This guide assumes that you have already decided on which train line or train station you want to live on. With that in mind let’s begin.


Before you decide on renting a place it is important to know and prepare a couple of things.

1.A guarantor:
a. Usually a Japanese national with a stable financial background. In some cases your company might be able to help you in regards to renting a place by either being a guarantor or talking with the real estate agent and arranging for the company to rent the place and in turn you rent the place from the company. There are a number of other ways this can be done so it is a good idea to check with your company if they can help out in regards to this and bring along any kind of document from your company that can verify this.

b. It is important to note that some landlords will refuse to rent to foreigners if they cannot speak Japanese.

2. Money:

When renting a place in Japan it is a good idea to prepare 3-6 times the monthly rent you have budgeted. Below is a breakdown of some of the fees in a worst case scenario:
a. Reservation fee (tetukekin) ñ 1 monthís rent
* This fee is paid to the rental agent and is used to hold the place until you sign the contract. This is so that the apartment is not given to somebody else.

b. Key money (reikin) ñ 1-2 monthís rent
* This is paid to the landlord and is considered a ìThank youî for having allowed you to stay in their place. You will never get this back. Due to the recent economic situation globally you can actually bargain with the agent to see if they can reduce some of the fees. Sometimes you can get away without having to pay the key money for example.

c. Deposit (shikikin) ñ 1-2 monthís rent
* The deposit is used to cover any damage to the apartment when you move out. You will usually never get the full amount back; even if your place is spotless a portion will most always be deducted for cleaning. Yes, even though you clean the place spotless the rental agency will still hire a cleaner to come in and clean it again.

d. Rent: 1-2 monthís rent
* Depending on when you actually move in your first monthís rent could include the adjusted rent from when you first move in plus the actual first monthís rent.

e. Agent service fee (chukai tesuryo) ñ 1 monthís rent
* This is paid to the real estate agent and of course you donít get this back.

f. Furniture:
* It is important to note that Japanese apartments usually come unfurnished; they donít even have light fixtures in most cases. So good idea to prepare some money for your basic furnishings before moving in.

3. Hanko:

Best to get a Japanese seal made up before you decide to visit a real estate agency. If you donít have one by now you should probably get one as it will become more and more necessary for official documents in the near future.

4. Bank book or pay slip:

On rare occasions the real estate agent may want to verify your pay. This is usually for foreigners to ensure that they can pay for the place they are renting. This information can be useful in sealing the deal especially in more rural areas and for those with landlords that are a little bit reluctant to rent to foreigners.

Looking for a place:

Once you have decided on a budget and have all the preparations it is time to look at how to actually look for a place.
For those with limited Japanese capability or without access to a friend to translate for you then the best option is to start off looking for places that offer services to foreigners. Below are just a few:

These places mostly service the Tokyo area but may have access to some of the more rural areas. One of the advantages with some of the above places is that they will usually help you with initial setup with the utilities.
If you are able to speak Japanese then one you have 2 more general options:
1. Check out local real estate agents closest to the station you are planning to use. The local agents usually have some more listings that might not be on the internet.
2. Use a Japanese website like Homes (
a. This is one of the best sites to use but you will need to be able to understand Japanese; best to be used with Google Chrome page translation or Firefox and Rikaichan.

Once at the real estate agent office they will usually ask you to fill out a form detailing some of the details in a place you are looking for like how far from the stations and do you mind 1st floor apartments. You will then pick out some places to look at and then you and the agent will go together to check out your pickings.

Signing the deal:

So now you have decided on the place. What comes next is actually relatively simple.
1. Bargaining: You can try bargaining with the agent in regards to Key money or deposit, especially if they want 2 months key money and 2 month deposit. I would rather pay the deposit and argue when you move out about how much to be returned than to pay the Key money knowing you will never see it again. I have had successfully.
2. The landlord: The agent will contact the landlord and discuss if he/she is willing to accept foreigners. If you speak Japanese then you are one step closer to a place. If you do not speak Japanese and you are not backed by a proper guarantor then there may be some difficulties. If all goes well then youíre off to the next stepÖ
3. Documents: The agent will then prepare all the documents necessary and usually at this point you will discuss the money transfer process and arrange for a date to receive the key.

That in a nutshell is How to rent an apartment in Japan. See you in Japan!!!

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