Apartment Hunting in Tokyo – Part 4

This is Part 4 of my experiences house/apartment-hunting in Japan.  For Part 1 please click HERE, for Part 2 please click HERE, and for Part 3 please click HERE.

I think I’ve dragged this topic on for long enough – let me see if I can wrap things up with this post!

I last ended by stating that I decided to visit other agencies after learning that I no longer had any particular reason to stick to just one.  To make a long story short, I ended up going to a lot of different agencies, and exploring a lot of different stations.  I have to say that it was good way for me to get to know more about Tokyo.  I tend to stick to familiar venues and this encouraged me to explore areas/stations around the Tokyo area that I’d never been to in my 7+ years in Japan.  But… I still wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding.  I’m pretty picky, I know, especially considering the fact that I’ve been living in a 5.5 tatami room for the past 3 years – wouldn’t ANYTHING be an upgrade from that?  But I still kept holding off… until now.

About a month ago, I sought out the advice of a friend who deals in real estate investment (he was a former classmate of mine, and I helped him set up the first incarnation of his company website before he needed to upgrade to a site that could handle more complexity).  After talking with him, he offered to keep an eye out for available properties for me as well.  It helped that he was a little more firm with me, telling me to choose the top 3 criteria that I was looking for in a property.  That proved to be a little difficult (I had too many criteria!) but I managed to isolate 4 “main” points.

It also helped that I had already gone to so many other real estate agencies by now and visited so many other places because that gave me slightly more realistic expectations of what I could get given my budget because, really, I wanted everything.  For example (and these are points that other people house-hunting may want to take into consideration:

Size: a big point for me.  I’ve been spoiled by living in countries where land wasn’t prohibitively expensive (think Africa and Indonesia) and I wanted a little more than the average 20sqm.  You’ve got 1R (one room), 2K (2 rooms and a kitchen), 2DK (2 rooms and a kitchen that can theoretically hold a “dining” table), 1LDK (1 living room/dining room, kitchen, and single room), 2LDK, and more variations.  I was fixated on getting at least 2 separate rooms and a kitchen area, so at minimum 2K.
Cost: Of course this will the number one issue for most, and if you refer to my 3rd part in this post series, you’ll get an idea of what areas are more expensive than others.  For example, JPY100,000 can probably get you 2 (small) rooms and a dining area in the Northeast.  However, you can count yourself lucky to get a single room for JPY100,000 in the Northwest.
Furnishings: Most places do NOT include a fridge, furniture, washing machine, or cooking range.  If you’re lucky (or are have more money than I did) you can get a place with an A/C and maaaaybe lights.  If you’re really lucky (or again, have more money) you can also get a place with a “washlet/warmlet”! (one of those toilet contraptions that keep your butt warm – very nice in cold weather, I have to say…)
Proximity to station: also important for me.  I currently live about a 35 minute walk away from the station by foot so I need to catch a bus every morning – a bus that’s usually not on time.  I wanted something under 10min away from the station.

There are alot of other things to consider.  For example, distance from work (usually a very important point, unless you have a family and need the space but simply can’t afford to live downtown), nearby facilities (gym, supermarket, combini, dry cleaners, etc), greenery (if you want a park), pets (most places do NOT allow them so if you need a pet-friendly place, make sure your agent knows ahead of time!), musical instruments (many places do not allow these either but it depends on the instrument), parking, internet/TV availability, elevators (some places don’t have elevators – despite the fact that the room may be on the 3rd or 4th floor!)…the list goes on.  Heck, one selling point of Japanese properties is the fact that a room’s windows face East or South.  (East means you get the morning sunlight, South is popular because you get the least amount of sunlight in summer, and the most in winter – good natural cooling/heating system)

In my case though, particularly given my budget, I really needed to focus on my “needs” as opposed to my “wants”.  So this was the list of 4 points that I felt I “needed”.

  • 1) Proximity to work (under 30 minutes by train would be ideal)
  • 2) Cost (looking for something in the 105,000 range (including maintenance fees)
  • 3) Distance from station (under 10 minutes)
  • 4) Size (hoping for something around 40sqm – or at least 2K)

With that info, my friend was able to start looking around.  It’s worth noting that despite the economic recession, GOOD properties still get snapped up at an astonishing rate.  It doesn’t matter that I was doing my search during the “off-season” (technically the “busy season” for the real estate industry is during the holiday periods (such as Golden week) or the end of the fiscal year (late May/early April).  Very often my friend would find some potential places but they’d be taken before we even had a chance to visit them!  But perhaps my long search is over…

It took almost 2 months (he started from early March) from the time he started (and almost a year since I first started searching!) but he’s found a place in Minami-Senju that I’m going to try to apply for.  It’s a 2DK apartment, costing JPY105,000 per month, 30 minutes by train from the office, and less than 10 minutes to the station.  I think part of the reason I’m jumping on this is because I’m simply tired of searching, but I have to say that I also like the area (peaceful, not too much hustle and bustle), and though it’s near a cemetary (a big turn-off for many Japanese) the area is being built up a little so not too out in the boonies.  The application is being examined by the property management company as I type!

Woo!  That concludes my current experiences with house-hunting in Japan.  Actually… I guess I will be writing more about this – issues of cost, working through the application process, the moving experience, buying appliances/furniture – it should provide me with much more writing material 🙂

Wish me luck that I get this place! (^_^)

P.S. Here are a few of the agencies/websites I tried!

Able – 50% (as of this writing) discount on the agent fee!

Minimini – also 50% off!

Housing Japan – the first agency I used, focused on downtown Tokyo and very foreigner-friendly!

Mitsui Fudousan Group – a large presence in Tokyo, but a bit above my pay range.

Forrent – A popular site listing many properties (all Japanese though)

Yahoo! Property Search – Another aggregate of listings

Comments are closed.