With the start of the new fiscal year in April and the loosening of travel restrictions against Covid-19, you may be planning to take a new job in Japan. One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new life in Japan is finding a new house to live in. The Japanese real estate industry, in particular, is complicated and often requires involvement with a number of people and organizations until you successfully live in a new place.
People You Interact with in Your Apartment Hunting
Real estate owners
A person who owns a rental property or apartment. They rent out their properties to people.
However, in Japan, it is rare for the owner to interact directly with the tenants. Real estate companies and management companies introduced below, act as mediators to communicate with the tenants and manage the property.
Real estate agents
The role of the agent is to introduce properties to people looking for a place to live on behalf of the owner, and to close the lease contract between owners and tenants. Owners own real estate but find it difficult to publicize their properties to find tenants, so they outsource the search to real estate agencies. Around a train station, you will see lots of real estate agencies displaying many flyers with information about apartments.
- Apaman shop (アパマンショップ)
- Able (エイブル)
- Mini mini (ミニミニ)
- SUGEE Housing
SUGEE Housing, operated by SUGEE, is a real estate agent service specializing in foreign workers. We support your apartment hunting mainly in the Osaka and Kobe areas.
Real estate advertisement companies
This is a media company that posts information on real estates that are available for tenants. Owners and real estate companies post information on their properties. Users can enter their requirements and browse and compare properties listed by various real estate companies. The general process is to first make an inquiry on this kind of website and then visit the real estate company from which the listing was made.
- LIFUL HOME’S
- AtHome (アットホーム)
Real estate management companies
This role is outsourced by the owner to manage the property, including cleaning, repairing, and resolving problems of tenants. Unless the property is managed directly by the owner, if you encounter problems while living in a rental property, such as electricity not working, trouble with a neighbor, or damage to a wall, you should first contact the management company to discuss solutions.
Rent an Apartment
What is the general process of signing a lease for an apartment in Japan?
1. Searching for Properties
First, visit a real estate information website or a real estate agency to search for property information. Visit a website and enter your requirements so that you can see many potential properties at once. If you find a property you would like to see physically, you can contact the real estate agency from the website.
When you actually visit the real estate agency, the person in charge will act as a consultant and help you one-on-one to find a property that meets your requirements. Therefore, you can set your requirements in more detail and search for candidate properties than you can find on the website.
2. Go for a tour
The real estate agent will then take you and show you around the potential apartments. If you are deciding on a place to live, you need to actually visit the room once to see not only the room but also the surrounding environment to imagine living there.
Some properties are now introducing remote room touring using videoconferencing tools or VR. If you are moving from afar or looking for an apartment from overseas, it is important to find a property or real estate agency that offers such services.
After viewing and deciding on an apartment, submit an application for housing to the owner or management company through the real estate agency. This is not a final lease contract, but if the application is far from the move-in date, you may have to pay a fee to keep it under your name. (Applications are usually submitted less than one month prior to the move-in date.)
Once you have completed the application, you will need to prepare the documents to sign the lease contract. Normally, the following documents are required for foreign nationals:
- Residence card
- Certificate of eligibility
- Income certificate
- Documents related to guarantor
Certificate of eligibility:
This is required if a visa has not been issued yet. It is a document that the Immigration Bureau certifies that the purpose of your stay matches your status of residence.
This document is used to prove the ability to pay rent. If you are already working, you will often be asked for your pay slips for the past 2~3 months. If you are planning to work, an employment contract or letter of offer can be substituted.
Documents related to guarantor:
In most cases, a guarantor is required when renting an apartment in Japan. A guarantor is a person who pays rent and repair costs in place of the tenant when the tenant is unable to pay. The guarantor must be a Japanese national or permanent resident, and documents such as a certificate of residence, proof of income, and certificate of seal impression are required as guarantor documents.
4. Signing a Contract
Once the documents have been prepared, you will move on to the signing of the contract. The real estate company will act as an intermediary for this step as well. After paying the necessary fees to the real estate agency, the tenant signs the contract, which must be signed by both the tenant and the guarantor.
In general, the following fees are charged at the time of signing the rental contract.
The first two months’ rent is generally due at the time of signing the contract. If you move in for less than one month in the first month, the cost will be calculated on a pro-rated basis.
This is the commission paid for the services of the real estate agency.
This is the cost to register to a guarantee company. The guarantee company pays the rent to the owner instead of the tenant in case the tenant is unable to pay the rent.
Fire Insurance fee:
When renting an apartment in Japan, fire insurance must be purchased at the time of contract.
Lock replacement fee:
The cost to change the locks for the new tenant.
Security Deposit (Shiki-kin):
It is used to cover the cost of rent arrears and to restore the property to its original condition when vacating. The remainder will be returned to you when you move out.
Key money (Rei-kin):
This is the money paid to the owner. It is never returned.
Check this article for more information about Shiki-kin and Rei-kin system in Japan
Finding a real estate agency that can help you in every step of the way is essential to finding an apartment in Japan. SUGEE Housing, operated by SUGEE, is a real estate agent service specializing with foreign nationals. We have English-speaking consultants ready to assist you in your apartment hunting. If you are looking for a new place to live in Japan, please feel free to contact us.
Talk to a SUGEE’s consultant:
Notes for the readers:
Under no circumstances shall the company or its affiliates, partners, suppliers, or licensors be liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with your access or use of or inability to access or use the application and any third-party content and services, whether or not the damages are foreseeable and whether or not the company was advised of the possibility of such damages, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, company’s aggregate liability to you (whether under contract, tort, statute, or otherwise). The foregoing limitations will apply even if the above stated remedy fails of its essential purpose. This article was written on 5 April 2022.
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 LIFUL Co., Ltd. “賃貸物件の保証料とは？ 料金を安くおさえることはできるの？.” LIFUL HOMES, 2021, Retrieved 7 April 2022 from https://www.homes.co.jp/cont/rent/rent_00195/. EKIMAE REAL ESTATE Co.,Ltd. “敷金・礼金って何？分かりやすく教えて！.” 教えて！駅前さん, 2020, Retrieved 7 April 2022 from https://www.ekimae-r-e.co.jp/oshiete/20201001_k02/.