If you have already decided to find an apartment before moving to Japan, then you're in the right place. Please understand that if you are a public private Tokyo JET arranging for your own real estate agent, you will need to pay for your own guarantor fee. The BoE will not act as your guarantor. Everything will be your responsibility. On the bright side, you will have a lot more time to choose the apartment that's right for you!

Note: If you are using a local agent you should defintiely make sure you have a Japanese phone number as almost all want to ring to confirm things with you. This means an actual proper phone number. Not LINE, or skype or you BOE's number or anything like that.  This basically means you need to hire a sim or phone as you cannot sign up for your own until you have an address. This is expensive but necessary. 

Gauging Apartment Prices Edit

The first step is to gauge apartment prices. You may or may not know where exactly in Tokyo you're living, but that's not a problem. You just want to go online and get a general idea of the costs and fees of apartments in and around Tokyo. You'll notice that the further you are away from the city, the lower the costs are. Also, the further you are from the train stations, the lower the costs are.

Please note! These websites and searches are primarily for you to find out what you can afford and where. They may not be up-to-date with current listings.

Apartment Search Websites

Real Estate Japan Inc. Full English search and support for foreign residents
Best Estate Full English search and support for foreign residents (Global Trust Networks)
Suumo Japanese only, LGBT support options
Lifull Homes Japanese only
At Home Japanese only

You should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I want to walk or take the train to school?
  2. How close do I want to be to school?
  3. Is it okay to have transfers in my commute?

Your BoE or CO pays for your commute pass! An open secret in Japan: if you live close enough to your school, you can walk and pocket the commuting allowance. Keep in mind that you may live in close proximity to your students.

Figuring Out Your Preferences Edit

You should simultaneously figure out your preferences while gauging apartment prices. Create a wish list to ensure that your agent can find you something that suits your needs. The more specific you are, the better your agent will be able to narrow their search to things you will like! But also be willing to remain flexible and clarify which items are absolutely necessary and which ones are negotiable.

  • Minimum Rent: You can pay 30,000 yen/month to stay in a box, but is it worth it?
  • Maximum Rent: Keep your rent lower than one third of your monthly salary.
  • Size & Layout: 1Ks are suitable for singles, but if you're coming in pairs or more, check out 2(L)DKs and up.
  • Building Age: The newer it is, the safer and more expensive.
  • Area: How far do your home and work to be? Your home and the city?
  • Distance to the station: Usually shown in minutes, this is how long it takes to walk to the nearest station.
  • Commute time: Would you enjoy a brisk walk to school every day? Or perhaps you would rather take a long train ride? NOTE: Your daily commute is paid for by your CO!
  • Specific neighborhood: Do you want to ignore your school and instead live near a specific trendy area like Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, or Kichijouji? Or do you want to live in a suburb outside the city with affordable rent?
  • Specific train line: Is your school only on the Takasaki Line? If so, you may want an apartment on that line.
  • Other Personal Requirements
    • Wooden building (cheaper)? Steel or concrete (earthquake safe)?
    • Ground floor? Third floor?
    • Wood flooring or bamboo/tatami?
    • Loft?
    • Elevator?
    • Pets?
    • Internet?

Expressing Interests for Potential Homes Edit

The second step should take place immediately after you have been contacted by your BoE or CO. Once you know where your school is based, find out what apartments are available in your area and contact the real estate expressing your interest. If possible, browse through the websites every night until you find one that fits your desires. Be flexible and open.

Usually, the websites provides pictures and a simple apartment floor plan/blueprint. Sometimes, there is a video showing you the interiors. It is possible to sign an apartment without ever stepping into it.

When you find something you like, I suggest including the following when you express your initial interest:

  1. your name
  2. whether you are planning on living with your partner, children, or pets, if any
  3. ask whether the apartment is still open 1

After you get a reply that the apartment is still open for you and/or your family, include the following:

  1. your desired move-in date
  2. ask what other fees are included in the apartment
  3. ask for the initial cost

Apartments in Tokyo and its surrounding prefecture sell out fast! Landlords will on average hold an apartment for two weeks. Ask your real estate agent if they can hold the apartment for a month until after orientation, which is usually in the middle of August. Check for when your orientation is! If you're coming with a family and would like them to stay in an apartment immediately, you can request to start the lease during orientation. You may need your partner to sign the contract as you will be busy with orientation. If the agency refuses, try to negotiate by offering to wire the initial costs early and getting an email confirming your visa issue from your consulate. That may help ease your landlord's and real estate agent's worries.

Submitting Your Application Edit

Have you found an apartment you like? Yes? Can you rent it after your orientation? Yes. Then, you can take the next step by submitting your application to the agency. They will send the application through an email after you tell them that you want to take the property. After you complete it, scan and send the document back to them. Simple as that.

Caution: Some applications have been denied based on the premise that you are a foreigner.

Initial Costs Edit

After you have been accepted, they will request you wire transfer the upfront move-in cost. It can be as high as ¥500,000, so saving is essential! The following example is from Real Estate Japan.

Let's assume you're hoping to move into an apartment where the base rent is ¥60,000. You have to account for other fees that are usually tacked on this base rent. You have to budget for the following:

  • First month’s rent = ¥60,000
  • Deposit (one to two month’s rent) = ¥60,000 to ¥120,000
  • Key money (one to two month’s rent) (if you're lucky, this is ¥0) = ¥60,000 to ¥120,000
  • Agent’s commission (one month’s rent + tax) = ¥64,800
  • Guarantor company fee (one month’s rent + tax) = ¥64,800
  • Property maintenance fee = ¥3,000 to ¥5,000
  • Renters/Fire insurance = ¥20,000 (for a two-year policy)
  • Lock exchange fee = ¥12,000

In this case, you’ll have to pay between ¥344,600 and ¥466,600 in upfront cash to the landlord and your agent, which is about 5.5 to 7 times the rent! You will also have to set aside money for furniture and appliances (curtains, refrigerator, washer, etc.).

Sometimes, the deposit is used as a cleaning fee. Sometimes, there is another fee for the apartment cleaning. Be sure to read your contract carefully.

Contract Signing Edit

Try to set your contract signing a couple of days after orientation so you are not tired and potentially jet-lagged. You want to be able to understand what you're signing and ask if you have any questions at all. These meetings can take up to two hours!

You may need an inkan and a Japanese phone number for your contract, but you may be able to use a signature and your work's phone number. Be sure to email your real estate agent to double check.

IMPORTANT NOTE about Group B: Your group will be apartment hunting directly before Obon -- a traditional Japanese holiday to honor one's ancestors. During this week-long holiday, the vast majority of the country's business shut down and people return to their hometowns to celebrate. This will impact your move-in process slightly as your real estate agent will not be available for email or consultation at all during this time. However, things will proceed smoothly and you needn't worry about the delays.

Notes Edit

1 Some apartment listings are for taken properties

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