The Challenges of Apartment Hunting in Tokyo, Insider Tips, and More!
Looking to secure an apartment in Tokyo that meets your requirements? Want some tips that will help save you time and headaches?
As this fantastic interview with leasing agent Blake Golden will show, when it comes to apartment leases, there’s bureaucracy in other countries—and then there’s Japan-level bureaucracy.
Enjoy this candid conversation with Golden of Apts.jp, a real estate agency that focuses on simplifying the apartment-renting process for expats in the Tokyo area.
Q: Tell our readers a tiny bit about who you are!
Hi, my name is Blake Golden and I am a leasing agent with Apts.jp! I'm originally from a small town in Mississippi and have been living in Japan since 2012. Other than finding apartments for clients, I enjoy cooking, camping, and spending too much money eating out in Tokyo.
Q: What are the challenges that newcomers to Japan face when finding a place to rent? And how does Apts.jp solve those problems?
Without a doubt, the most common difficulty newcomers to Japan face with finding an apartment is the language barrier. That first moment of walking into a local real estate office—not sure if you are going to be able to communicate with the staff—can be quite overwhelming.
However, being able to clearly explain your criteria to Japanese staff is just the tip of the iceberg. What many people are unaware of is that even if you find a place you really like, conversational Japanese is often required in order to apply.
The reason for the necessary Japanese ability often varies, but the most common reason is the guarantor company’s screening process. Almost all property managers use guarantor companies these days (even for Japanese people) to screen potential applicants. But, many of these guarantor companies conduct the screening process in Japanese. So when they call to confirm your details and you can’t communicate on the phone, you fail the screening process and your application gets rejected.
In order to ensure that applicants get through this screening process smoothly, we list the Japanese requirements for each property listed on our site. While being able to speak some Japanese definitely opens up more options, ZERO Japanese is completely okay. We have an in-depth knowledge of which property managers in Tokyo are foreigner-friendly and the amount of Japanese that is required, so we can point you in the right direction as soon as we know your general criteria.
Q: What’s something that most people are surprised to learn when looking to rent a place in Tokyo, which might differ from the renting experience in other countries?
That would be the sheer level of bureaucracy involved with renting.
Unfortunately, bureaucracy and Japan kind of go hand-in-hand, and rental properties are no exception.
There are often many different entities all entangled together (property manager, guarantor company, building owner, etc.) and communication between these entities can get quite time-consuming.
Furthermore, from the documents needed in order to apply, to the inordinate amount of paperwork necessary for contracting, the whole process can seem quite complicated and inefficient. And we often tend to agree! But we do our best to guide customers through the renting process, explaining how things work and answering any questions as clearly as possible.
Q: Any go-to tips for newcomers to Japan looking to rent a place?
I would advise newcomers to be as upfront with their criteria to their agent as possible. Explain what is truly important to you and what you are willing to concede on.
The PERFECT apartment can be pretty hard to find and usually some type of compromise has to be made. Are your working hours pretty tough and you value minimizing commute time as much as possible? Or are you working from home a lot and really need the extra space?
Setting up clear criteria from the get-go can save a lot of time in your apartment search and help secure a place that is closest to what you are looking for.
Q: What’s a day like for you at Apts.jp? What do you love most about your job?
Days as a leasing agent at Apts.jp vary wildly, and that is probably what I love most about it!
Sometimes days are spent deep diving online looking for that perfect place for a client. Then the next day might be spent driving to various locations in Tokyo showing potential apartment options.
We get to regularly discover cool new places in the city and meet people from all over the world.
Q: Is there a service that Apts.jp provides that most of your customers are surprised to learn about? Or, what’s something most people don’t know about your service that TokyoMate readers might be happy to learn about?
I always hear from customers that they are shocked at the level of ongoing support we provide. Many real estate companies close a deal and then immediately move on to the next big thing, making you feel like they really don’t care.
We provide support from day one of your apartment search, all the way to the end of your contract term. We want to make sure you are 100% satisfied with your housing arrangement so if anything goes wrong, we are always here to help resolve the issue.
About TokyoMate’s suite of services
Your essential Japanese business needs provided by TokyoMate, a comprehensive solution trusted by the foreign executive and startup community in Tokyo.
Get a virtual office address, a Tokyo-area phone number, your Japanese mail handled, and native Japanese bilingual business assistants, plus a no-risk 30-day moneyback guarantee with each of our pricing plans.