Apartment Hunting in Tokyo – Part 2

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

As mentioned at the end of the first part of this writeup, a lot more properties become available if you are willing, and linguistically and legally able, to step out of the “safe zone” of foreigner-focused agencies.  There are so many housing agencies everywhere, possibly more ubiquitous than even combini (convenience stores).  You’ve got the major chains such as Able, MiniMini, Pitato House, and Mitsui Chintai, as well as hundreds of smaller, more local/area-specific agencies.  Obviously, the bigger chains are more open to the idea of dealing with foreigners, but the individual agencies may have better deals or access to more local information.  At the end of this writeup, I’ll include links to some of the agencies I’ve tried.

One thing that I’ve found interesting about my house-hunting experiences to date is how much my expectations have changed over time.  I actually started looking for a place of my own sometime around the middle of last year, so it’s been quite a while.  At the time, I was much more focused on finding a place close to a park (so I could pursue running), regardless of distance from the office.  I also wanted a place that accepted pets, had a garden, allowed piano-playing, had a large kitchen/stove – and was less than an hour from the office. (yes, yes, I know any non-expats who’ve ever lived in Japan are wondering just what dreamland I was living in at the time)

Back then, I settled on a 2-story 62sqm place about an hour away from the office, located at a tiny little station that had very little in the way of supermarkets/stores around.  It was also a tad expensive (for me), at 124,000 JPY per month, but at the time I didn’t really care thinking that the size/garden made it worth it.

The only reason I’m not living there now is because at the time my company had indicated that they would be able to help me with the initial costs (more on that later).  So I filled out the application form, sent it off to my company for approval, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Three (3!) months later, I finally got approval – but the house was gone by then.  I was pretty frustrated at the time but now in retrospect, I realise that I’m actually glad I didn’t get that place for several reasons – primarily because it was still too far away from work and secondly, due to the economy, I’m just as glad not to be paying a premium for someplace that would probably have been too big for a single person anyway!

I started searching again around the end of January this year and…but maybe I should mention first that up until now, I’ve been sticking exclusively with one agent.  The reason for this is because of what my company had mentioned previously, about the possibility of their being able to assist me financially in regards to either the initial costs, or some kind of tax deferral/benefit.  They had also said that they might be able to serve as a sort of corporate sponsor/guarantor on my behalf.  The requirement for all this was that I had to use a company-approved housing agency, which happened to be one of those agencies more geared towards the foreign/expat community.  Despite the fact that it limited the number of properties available to me, I chose to use this particular agency exclusively since any form of financial assistance was very appealing.

Lest anyone think that I’m a cheapskate (I’m not!  I’m just frugal 🙂 ) or just trying to bilk my company for the all money I could, perhaps I should also explain something about the costs involved with renting property in Japan.

Renting in Japan typically incurs the following costs:

  • 1) 1 Month rent
  • 2) Deposit/Shikikin: ranges from 1-2 months rent and theoretically refundable, minus repair costs
  • 3) Key money/Reikin: ranges from 1-2 months rent, NON-refundable! (basically free money to your landlord…)
  • 4) Agent fee: ranges from 1-1.5 months rent, though some agencies are now charging only 1/2 month rent

If I were to have moved into the first place I found (which had 2 months shikikin/reikin), my initial costs would have been almost 750,000 JPY, or about $7,500!! Hence why I found the possibility of any financial assistance from my company very appealing…

I think I’m going to have to break things off here and continue in yet another post as this is getting fairly lengthy yet again.  Stick around for Part 3!


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