How to Look for a Japanese Apartment – Some Things You Need to Watch Out for
Looking for an apartment in Japan all by yourself might seem risky and a bit hopeless, especially if your only choice is to get one without being able to check your chosen home out in real life before settling into it. Moving costs a fortune in Japan, so you have to think ahead and make decisions wisely.
Most schools either offer dormitories to stay in or make a contract with one of the local real estate agencies to help their international students find a place to live. However, that’s not the case for everyone. In this article, we would like to help those individuals who need to search for a place to live all by themselves.
First and foremost, unless you are confident in your Japanese language abilities, you might want to reach out to a real estate agency that offers foreign language support. Click here to access the comprehensive list provided by MyNavi and search for a company in your chosen region.
On another note, you may want to consider an apartment you do not need a guarantor (連帯保証人) to make a contract. Unfortunately, it could be very likely that your dream room is the kind that needs someone to co-sign. Already have friends or family members in Japan with a stable income and high-level Japanese knowledge? You can request them to become your guarantor! In case you are an international student, you could ask your school to help you out with the paperwork.
One of the things worth checking out is the neighborhood that the property is located in. How far is the nearest train station or bus stop? If you are a student, how far is the apartment from your school? Are there any supermarkets or convenience stores in walking distance if you are not planning to purchase a car? Think about all these things thoroughly and early in the beginning – you are going to thank yourself for it later while progressing with your Japanese lifestyle.
Another crucial point could be checking out what material the building is made of. Most apartments in Japan are wooden (木造・アパート) in order to allow the building to flex with movement and absorb it in case a heavier earthquake happens. They say that mansions made out of concrete (鉄骨鉄筋・マンション) can crumble more easily when the ground shakes violently, but this doesn’t necessarily mean danger to your life at all costs. Actually, if you are supposed to move somewhere where it’s freezing cold in the winter like Niigata or Hokkaido, living in a mansion could save you some of the heating costs and keep your apartment warmer for a longer time. Heat escapes easily from wooden houses, and due to this reason, you will have a difficult time warming your room up to the temperature you wish, let alone keep it at that temperature.
Consider the age of the estate and check what year it was built in. Even if it’s an older building, the real estate agency or the owner of the apartment may have done renovations in the past years – which will most likely be disclosed in the description of the flat. This is more likely the case with apartment complexes and mansions where there is a maintenance fee (管理費) you have to pay on top of the rent.
Newer apartments tend to have an all electricity set up (オール電化) instead of a gas & electric one which means you will only have to pay your water and electricity bills. Some say this not only means less trouble (since you must call a handyman to set up your gas when you move in if your flat is not all electric), but in the case of an earthquake when gas explosions could happen, it’s also less dangerous. On the other hand though, gas heating is said to be cheaper.
The last thing you should think about is probably one of the most important out of everything – money, money, money. How much is the monthly rent (家賃) ? And not just the rent – how much is the contract fee the real estate agency will ask for you to pay right after you sign all the papers? Usually, a 2-year-long contract for even the cheapest apartment could cost no less than 100,000¥.
The rest of the details worth considering are up to you, your tastes, or your lifestyle, such as:
- Are you going to live alone or with roommates?
- Would you rather live in an apartment complex that has an outer lock as well?
- Do you prefer the bathroom and the shower separate, or you don’t mind if they are crowded into one small place?
- Do you need a cupboard built into the wall in order to save space?
- Does your apartment come with furniture and home appliances as well, or do you have to buy them all by yourself?
- For how long are you going to live in the apartment? How much does the contract cancellation fee cost?
We hope our guide helps you find your new home – with a bit less of a hassle!
Need some advice with settling in, too? Click here to read our guide with tips for making your apartment cozy on a budget!