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Select one of the frequently asked questions below to learn more about the rather bureaucratic rental market. Also, begin to think about important things to consider when diving into investing in buying real estate in Japan. Either case, we are ready to guide you all the way through the process.

Question about renting in Japan

How much are the initial costs for renting an apartment?

Generally these are quite high in Japan. You can expect the initial costs for a long-term apartment lease will be approximately 3~3.5 times the monthly rent, before adding any key money and/or deposit. They cover the first full month’s rent, guarantor company fee, agent fee, insurance, lock exchange fee, cleaning fee, etc.

These will be due on the day you sign the lease, which usually is about a week before the move-in date.

I'll be moving soon to Japan. Can I apply for an apartment from overseas?

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible! In order to sign a long-term lease for an apartment from outside of Japan, certain required documents such as zairyu card (residence card) and juminhyo (certificate of residence) are needed for the application, and these documents are only issued after you arrive in Japan.

How long is the application process? What are the documents and information?

The time between the application, once we have all the necessary information and documentation, it will take roughly 2 weeks until you can move in.
We recommend contacting us to schedule viewings around 3 to 4 weeks before your intended move-in date.

Required documents and details:

For the application

:: Residence card (Zairyu card; Obtained at the airport when you arrive or at the immigration office)
:: Employment information (company name, address, phone number, monthly/yearly income, position, etc.)
:: Emergency contact information (name in kanji and katakana, date of birth, gender, address, mobile number, relation to you)
:: Guarantor information, when required (name in kanji and katakana, date of birth, gender, address, mobile number, relation to you, place of employment, work phone number, monthly/yearly income, position, etc.)

For the contract

:: Certificate of Residence (Juminhyo; obtained at your ward office)
:: Proof of Employment (Shotokushoumeisho; can be a copy of your work contract, year-end tax slip, last 3 months’ payslips, etc.)
:: Hanko/Stamp (we can have one made for you for ¥1,500.)
:: ID photo (taken at our office)
:: (rarely) Certificate of Registration of your Hanko (Inkanshomeisho; obtained at your ward office)

Is a guarantor required for renting an apartment in Japan. Can I use just a guarantor company?

Osaka tends to be more friendly than Kobe, Kyoto or Tokyo, there are many properties that don’t require a Japanese personal guarantor. Having a Japanese personal guarantor you will not be so limited in choices, it will allow you more options. Based on our experience, most of our clients do not have a personal guarantor. On the other hand, you will definitely need a Japanese emergency contact though. In general, a personal guarantor is more often required if you are looking for a property in the countryside, an expensive apartment in the city or a detached house.

What is the difference between a guarantor and an emergency contact?

A guarantor has more responsibilities than an emergency contact. Think of a guarantor essentially as a cosigner; they will be held financially responsible for any damages or unpaid rent if you decide to split and leave the country. That is why Japanese people are so reluctant to be someone’s guarantor. An emergency contact is a person who is willing to answer the phone in case of an emergency. For example, if your apartment is on fire and the management company can’t reach you, they will call your emergency contact to make sure you are safe. Since nobody will call your emergency contact unless something happens, your Japanese friends are usually happy to be your emergency contact.

What is a guarantor company?

A guarantor company, which is specified by the landlord, is the go-between for you and the landlord. They simply cover you for any losses you incur and pay your termination penalty should you disappear. For example, if you forget to pay the rent, they will pay the landlord on your behalf. Then they will ask you to pay them back.

I saw a property on your website. There is a guarantor company fee, but it also says that a guarantor is required. If I have to pay a guarantor company fee, why do I still need a guarantor?

In some cases, a guarantor company only requires an emergency contact and covers you for the first year of your lease. If you are a good tenant, the renewal fee for the next twelve months is just 12,000 yen. Some guarantor companies, however, require you to have a personal guarantor anyway. They do that because if you choose to disappear, they will be able to contact your Japanese personal guarantor who is less likely to disappear easily. He or she will be responsible for paying any unpaid rent and fees.

There are many real estate agencies in Osaka. How are you any different from them?

We are foreigners from Europe and North America, who have been living in Japan for over a decade. We have moved many times in Japan ourselves and understand how difficult it is to rent an apartment with a Japanese agent who doesn’t understand our language and culture. We have served clients from more than 50 countries.

Are there any other properties except the ones listed on your website?

We have access to a real estate database which is shared by most real estate agents in Kansai. There are literally thousands of properties in Kansai, so it is impossible to list all, and because availability changes so quickly we try maintaining as much as possible the properties on Qurie up to date. We always try to find you properties that fit you based on your requirements, so please try to complete the inquiry form with as many details as possible.

Your website showed that a certain property was available. I sent you an inquiry but was told that it was no longer available. Why?

As mentioned above, we share a real estate database with thousands of real estate agents in Kansai. That means any agent can apply for an apartment at any time. Although we always try our best to put the latest information on our website, we won’t know the most updated availability until we call the management company. When we receive an inquiry, we always call the management company to confirm the availability.

I would like to rent a long-term apartment, but I am not sure if I can stay there for a year. What will happen if I cancel the contract early?

Most apartments listed on our website has a “12-1 rule” saying, “If the tenant cancels the contract within the first 12 months, there will be a penalty of 1 month’s rent.” Some apartments have a “6-2 rule”, and some have a “24-1 rule”. Please confirm the rule with us before you file an application.

Do any of these apartments come furnished?

Most apartments long-term apartments are not furnished, they are growing in number but still very rare in Japan.

What is key money?

Key money is better translated as a gratuity, or as one of our clients once remarked, “So, it’s like a cover charge at a bar, with a 12 drinks minimum?” There are a couple of schools of thought about the origins of key money. Post-war housing shortages, urbanization, and population growth. A few decades ago, house hunters were so happy to be able to live in the landlord’s property that they gave a gift of a couple of months worth of rent, to say thanks. We all know that Japan is different now due to the aging society, so it’s not uncommon to see zero/zero properties (zero key money / zero deposit) these days. However, properties that have key money tend to have cheaper rent, so if you plan to stay in the property for a long time, the key money is definitely worth it. For further justification, just divide the key money by the number of months you are planning to stay and add it to your monthly rent. If the total is still within your budget, then it’s still acceptable, isn’t it?

What is UR?

Urban Renaissance Agency, is a government subsidized rental agency which manages state-owned housing complexes. They are foreigner-friendly, and no guarantor is required. No key money, no agent fee and no other hidden fees! To move in, all you have to pay is the first month’s rent, a deposit equal to 2 months’ rent and a fire insurance policy. Another good thing about UR is that you can move out anytime as long as you give them a 2-week notice. The only downside is that you need to meet their income requirements — you must have a monthly income approximately 4 times the amount of the rent or a balance in the bank exceeding a fixed amount.

I am new to Osaka. What are some important things I should consider when I look for an apartment?

1) Figure out your budget – you should budget for monthly rent no more than 1/3rd your monthly income. For example, if you would like to rent an apartment listed at ¥100,000 a month, you need to make at least ¥300,000 a month.
2) Think about where you want to live, how long you want to spend on your daily commute, how you spend your free time, and what kind of neighborhood you like.
3) Think about how long you are going to stay in the apartment.
4) Think about how much space you really need. Japanese apartments are pretty small, but if you learn to live with the lack of space, life can be easy.

What do the room types, such as 1R, 1K, 2DK and 3LDK, mean?

The number means the number of bedrooms in the apartment.
R = room
K = kitchen
DK = dining kitchen
LDK = living dining kitchen

For example,
1R: There is literally only one room from where the kitchen and bathroom are directly accessed.
1K: It’s similar to a 1R unit, but the kitchen is separated from the main room.
2DK: It’s a 2-bedroom unit with a dining kitchen, which is big enough to fit at least a dining table and some chairs.
3LDK: It’s a 3-bedroom unit with a living dining kitchen, which is big enough to fit at least a dining table, some chairs, a couch, and a TV.

I’ve just arrived in Japan. There are so many things I need to do. I need to find an apartment, register my address, open a bank account, get a cell phone, etc. Without an address, I can’t get a cell phone. Without a cell phone, I can’t get an apartment. Without an apartment, I can’t register an address… I’m so confused! How should I get started?

If you are confused, simply do these things in the following order:
1) Come to our office and view some properties.
2) Choose your favorite property and file an application.
3) Register your temporary address (eg.: your friend’s address) on your resident card at the local ward office.
4) Get a document called juminhyo (住民票 / certificate of residence) at the ward office.
5) We can introduce you to an English-speaking phone company to buy a SIM card or a new phone. Link on the homepage.
6) Open a bank account.
7) Sign the apartment contract.
8) Pick up your keys.
9) If you move from one ward to another ward within Osaka City, simply go to the new local ward office to register your new address. If you move from one city to another, e.g. from Toyonaka City to Suita City, you’ll have to go back to Toyonaka City Office to get a document called tenshutsu todoke (転出届 / moving notice) and then take it to Suita City Office.

Question about buying

I’m tired of renting an apartment. I’ve been living here for a long time and really want to buy my own property. Is it possible to get a mortgage in Japan?

Yes, it is possible if you meet the following requirements:
1) You are a permanent resident in Japan.
2) You have a stable job and have been working for the same company for a few years.
3) You are between 20 and 70 years old.
4) You can afford at least 10% down payment and all other fees including property acquisition tax, legal fee, agent fee, fixed asset tax, city planning tax, etc.
The actual requirements vary depending on the bank, but if you meet the requirements above, most banks will be happy to discuss the details with you.

I’d like to buy a property in Japan. What are the procedures?

Foreigners can purchase properties in Japan. There are no restrictions in regards to real estate ownership of both land and buildings. It is not easy to get a mortgage in Japan though, so most likely, the transaction will be in cash.
Here are the procedures:
1) Searching properties – We have access to a large commercial database which is shared by many other agents. If you let us know your requirements as detailed as possible, we should be able to find you some properties that you like.
2) Visiting properties – If you book a viewing appointment in advance, it is possible to view a few properties within a few hours. Please note that it is sometimes difficult to schedule a viewing appointment on the same day, so please let us know at least 2-3 days in advance.
3) Filing an application – Once you’ve found a property you’d like to purchase, we will help you send an official application form to the seller. Your hanko (seal / 印鑑) is required on this application form.
4) Accepting your application – The seller will contact us to let us know whether or not he/she accepts your offer. If the seller accepts your offer, we will decide the contract date and time as well as the payment date and time. Please note that these dates are usually 2 different dates and there is usually about 1-2 weeks in between. That will give you enough time to prepare the money.
5) Paying a deposit – About a week later, you will be required to pay a deposit, which is usually 10% of the property price. If you change your mind and decide not to purchase this property, the seller will keep the deposit. If the seller changes his/her mind and decides not to sell this property, the seller will be required to give you twice the deposit back.
6) Choosing a judicial scrivener (司法書士) – We have a connection with 2 English speaking judicial scriveners, but you can also find your own instead.
7) Assigning a tax payment administrator (納税管理人) – If you are not living in Japan, you will have to find a tax payment administrator. This person can be a friend who lives in Japan and is willing to handle all tax payments and management fee payments for you.
8) Signing a contract – On the contract date, you will come to our office to sign the contract. It usually takes about 2 hours. If you chose one of our judicial scriveners in Step 6, we will introduce him/her to you after signing the contract.
9) Making the payment – On the payment date, the seller, seller’s judicial scrivener, seller’s agent, you, your judicial scrivener and we will be meeting at a bank on a weekday morning (except Wednesday because real estate agencies in Japan are usually closed on Wednesdays). After the payment has been transferred to the seller’s account, the seller will give you the keys for the property. Then your judicial scrivener will go to the Legal Affairs Bureau to register the property for you.
10) Moving in – You have already received the keys and can move in anytime you want.

Can a home depreciate in value?

Generally in most countries, real property never depreciates in value, or more so, it is not very common for property to depreciate.  However, in Japan it is often not the case, properties tend to depreciate in value. Recently certain areas have been showing an appreciation in value for used properties thanks to the “Abenomics”, and increase of private foreign investors (mainly from China), Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, World Expo Osaka 2025 and also the Airbnb boom, altogether have been pushing prices up. Make sure you carefully consider location and community when choosing a home, whether it is for personal use or as an investment, it can effect the homes future value greatly.

If you are in a newly developed area, do some research on the construction of the surrounding areas being developed to determine if they may effect your homes value.

Is an older home as good a value as a new home?

This is really just a matter of preference, but both newer and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique taste and lifestyle.