For foreign students who are trying to start their life in Japan, the first step is to find yourself a comfortable place to live. In this article, we are going to tell you about things you should know about finding houses in Japan!

Housing Type in Japan
There are two types of house that are available to university students in Japan: small apartments (アパート) and large apartments (マンション). In Japan, people often distinguish these two types by their construction. Generally, the former is built with wood or light gauge steel and two storied.

On the other hand, large apartment in Japan is called mansion (マンション) in Japanese, but it does not refer to fancy and tall structures like in English. Most of these buildings are made with reinforced concrete structure, steel-reinforced concrete, and autoclaved lightweight concrete. You can find more than three stories in this type of buildings, and some have apartment managers or auto-lock, which consequently makes the rent for mansions more expensive than apartments.

Room Type
When looking for accommodation in Japan, you will encounter unique jargons used to describe the layout of the unit. Below are some of the terms real estate agencies often use:

Meaning of R, L, D, K

  • R -> Bedroom
  • L -> Living Room
  • D -> Dining Room
  • K -> Kitchen

Both 1R and 1K have kitchen in the room; however, the kitchen and the room in 1K are separated by a door. The number in front refers to the number of bedrooms. Hence, for 2LDK, it means that the unit has two bedrooms, one living room, one dining room, and one kitchen; 3DK means three rooms, one dining room, and one kitchen. Although living in an apartment with more rooms and space is definitely more comfortable, renting this kind of apartment would also translate to higher rent, which can be unaffordable for most international students. Though it also depends on where you live, the rent for a 1LDK unit is normally around ¥100,000~¥170,000.

Meaning of UB

The term UB stands for unit bath, which means bathroom and toilet are not separated from each other. Although apartments with “unit bath” is more common in Japan, you can still find an apartment that has separate bathroom and toilet. This kind of apartment however may be more expensive than the ones with unit bath.

Fees to Prepare for
It can be confusing for international students when they are bombarded with an extensive list of fees involved in renting an apartment. To help you with your woes, we compiled the common fees charged by landowners below.

Rent (家賃 Ya chin)
In Japan, the rent is charged on a monthly basis. Although it varies from case to case, the rent sometimes includes monthly fess for building facilities like apartment management fee (管理費 Kan ri hi) or maintenance fee (共益費 Kyou eki hi).

Initial Fees
Here are the initial fees involved in renting an apartment in Japan:

敷金 (Shiki kin)・保証金 (Hoshou kin)
Both Shiki kin and Hoshou kin refers to guarantee deposit. On average, landowners will charge 1-2 month(s) worth of rent for your guarantee deposit. The money will be used to fix there is any damages in the unit after you left and the rest will be refunded to your account.

Reikin (礼金)

Reikin is a unique tradition when renting an apartment in Japan. This non-refundable fee serves as gift of gratitude paid to the landowner for lending you the house. Reikin is approximately worth 1-2 month(s) of rental fee.

Brokerage fee (仲介費)
In looking for an apartment in Japan, you will also need to avail the service of real estate agents to help you search for your ideal accommodation and assist you throughout the application process. The fee paid to real estate agents is usually around 0.5-1 month worth of rent.

Guarantor fee
Almost every landlord in Japan will require you to have a guarantor, especially international students; otherwise, they will not allow you to rent the house. If you do not have any acquaintance in Japan, there are insurance companies that can serve as your guarantor. Availing their service can set you back around 50%-100% of your rental fee.

Fire insurance fee
The fire insurance fee will depend on the duration of the rent contract. In Japan, most apartments will have a two-year contract, and some have just one-year. This fee usually cost from ¥10,000~¥20,000.

Cautionary Notes for International Students
The reality is that international students will encounter a myriad of hurdles in looking for an apartment in Japan. Even if you find the perfect apartment for you, landowners may hesitate to let you rent the room as lending apartments to foreigners is often considered to be riskier than local residents. Hence, there is a chance that your rent application will be rejected by landowners.

Moreover, there is a lot of rules you have to be careful of. For example, you have to strictly follow the garbage collection process at your neighborhood and recycle accordingly.

One of the reasons that Japanese landlords are hesitant of renting rooms to foreigners is because there are several cases wherein foreign students suddenly went back to their home countries without informing and paying the landlords beforehand. So remember, when you have to leave Japan for more than one month, it might be better to inform your landlords of the details.

Tips in Finding the Perfect House for You

What is your budget for your house?

You should not only consider the monthly rent fee while searching for houses. When you visit the real estate agent, they will tell you the general initial cost you have to pay for each room after you sign the contract.
You have to consider every cost which has been mentioned above and check if its affordability.

There are some apartments that do not require you to pay a guarantee deposit or reikin. Looking for this kind of apartment can be a one way to reduce your initial expenses.

You can also look up apartment through the internet and filter out listing based on your budget before you go visit a real estate agent. Alternatively, you can also just mention your budget to your agent.

Which area do you want to live in?

The rental fee in Japan often varies depending on the distance of the apartment from the station. Generally speaking, 1R or 1K type in Tokyo might cost about¥70,000 if it is near the station. In deciding which one to rent, consider which is more important to you: cheaper rent or accessibility. Although living near a train station can be convenient for your daily commute, it can also be noisy at night.

Decide your top preferences for your house

Think about what you need in your house!

Having an auto-lock will be safer; yet, having it can be more expensive. Is okay that your apartment has a unit bath or you prefer to have a separate bathroom and toilet? Do you need a home delivery box? Some apartments only have the post box, but no home delivery box.

If you often buy things online and you opt for an apartment with just normal post box, you may have to check whether there are convenience stores near your apartment or not.

View the layout and check if you are fine with the shape of your room. In Japan, you might encounter rooms that are in weird shape like a triangle or bathroom set in a strange place. Layout is an essential material to judge as well.

Try to find more than one real estate agent to get enough information

Before going to the real estate agent, it is better to look up for listings available online to familiarize yourself with the average price at the neighborhood you want to live in.

It can also be advantageous if you visit more than one real estate agent as this will allow you to compare prices offered by different agents. There are few instances where the initial cost for the same room is different from agent to agent. Some real estate agents may have deeper ties with asset management companies, which may bring down the initial fees.

Moreover, university students should also consider renting a student apartment. As this kind of apartment is exclusive for students, living in student apartments may also be safer. To look for student apartments, you can ask for assistance from your real estate agents or your university. University sometimes provides discounts to students.

Renting an apartment may be a bit tough for foreign students studying in Japan, but it is also intriguing to see the diversity of accommodations available in Japan. With these tips, we’re hoping that every international students can find an accommodation that best suits their preferences.