When you decide to rent an apartment in Japan, here are the things you may consider to find a good room and avoid any problem in the process.
1.Pick up areas first
You need to pick up areas first. Depending on where you like to live, things after this step will be different. Typically you may pick up places close to your school or office, but as the rent in big city center like Tokyo 23 wards is higher than in suburbs, you may pick up areas in suburbs that are convenient for commuting. Take a look at map with train lines to find the best areas for your quality of life.
2.Think about key criterion
Before start talking to real estate brokers, you may think about other key criterion such as approximate monthly rent you can pay, number and size of rooms, distance from the station if you take trains for commuting, approximate date to start rent, type of apartment, facing south or not, low or high floor and other must-haves.
In general, there are two types of apartment. One is what we call “Apart” in Japanese. This type of apartment is typically built of wood with 2 floors and 4-20 rooms in one apartment. Another type is what we call “Mansion” in Japanese. This is typically built of RC construction (solid building) with more than 3 floors. “Mansion” gives you more comfortable life than “Apart” but the rent is generally higher.
South facing rooms are typically more expensive than north facing rooms because of volume of sunshine. High floor is typically more expensive than low floor because it is considered as quite and safe environment. But high floor may not be always safe when it comes to earthquake which is quite frequent all over Japan.
3.Find a good real estate broker
You are now ready to begin talking to real estate brokers who help you find rooms, negotiate with the owners and rent a contract. It is typical in Japan to use real estate brokers for these activities instead of doing everything for your own. It is time consuming and risky in terms of legal bindings.
By law, real estate companies are licensed as traders from local government, and each real estate company is required to hire at least one qualified real estate broker per every 5 employees. Be careful not to talk to non-licensed (fake) company offering services to foreigners unfamiliar to local regulation.
As a qualified real estate broker, I can help you to find a good healthy real estate company in Japan. Please see this if needed.
Most of real estate companies and their brokers do not speak English or other languages than Japanese. You can contact me if you need my help as a middleman between brokers and yourself. Otherwise, you can directly go to English speaking brokers. They are listed in the website below.
4.Some owners do not accept foreigners
Unfortunately it is commonly believed by room owners in Japan that renting a room to foreigners may cause problems. There are some manners in renting apartment in Japan and these are mostly common sense for many foreigners too but some did not follow and had bad manners troubling neighborhood. Due to communication difficulty, this has been perceived as bad experience and spread to room owners in Japan like rumors. As a result, those who believe this do not accept foreigners. Certainly this is just a misunderstanding but reality as well.
Therefore you may not be able to rent a room you like. To work around this issue, it is recommended to work with English speaking traders and brokers. They will help you to tell them who you are and remove any concerns that owners may have.
The link below allows you to search rooms that accept foreigners, but unfortunately everything is written in Japanese only. You need someone understanding Japanese beside you.
5.When do you pay fee to brokers and how much?
Asking real estate companies to find a room according to your own criterion is basically free of charge. You pay the brokerage fee when you sign the contract. The fee is varied depending on room, but the maximum fee is defined as one month rent. Real estate companies cannot request you to pay greater than one month rent by law.
If the monthly rent is 80,000 yen, then the maximum brokerage fee is 80,000 yen. For some rooms, however, the fee can be 50% (40,000 yen) or even zero. Discount is made because owners want to fill their vacant rooms as soon as possible.
When you sign a contract, you may also be requested to pay deposit and key money which are typically equivalent to 1-3 months rent. This is normal and enevitable business practise in Japan. But some of deposit will be returned to you when you vacate the room. Unreturned deposit will be used by owners to fix damage you made during your use.
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