Tokyo is well known as being one of the most expensive cities to live in and renting an apartment is no exception. If you are getting transferred by your company to Tokyo, it is extremely advisable to negotiate an apartment as part of your moving package, as the setup costs are extremely high. After the war, there was a huge housing shortage in Tokyo, so owners could charge extra fees for letting their property. Unfortunately, many of these fees, such as “key money” still exist today.
If you aren’t sure if you would like living in Japan and don’t want to commit to the expense of renting an apartment, renting a room in a “gaijin house” is one option.
Gaijin houses are shared houses or apartments where you can stay in a dormitory or have your own room, but bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared. Conditions vary a great deal from place to place, so be sure to check out the place before making any commitment. Rent can range from around 50,000 to 90,000 yen per month. Deposits are usually about one month’s rent.
Noise, dirty facilities, annoying room mates and paper thin walls are some of the complaints from people living in a gaijin house, but they can also be a good place to make contacts if you are looking for work or settling into Japan for the first time.
Renting an apartment in Japan is unlike another other country in the world – be prepared to learn a whole new set of vocabulary! The move in costs of renting an apartment include “key money” (reikin), deposit (shikikin) and rental agency fee.
Key money is a “gift” to the owner of the apartment. It is usually two months rent, although one month or even no key money apartments are becoming more frequent. Key money can also sometimes be negotiated down.
Deposits are usually 2 months rent, or occasionally only one month. The money is of course supposed to be refundable, but often owners will charge you for new tatami, air-conditioning cleaning, and sometimes the cost for painting or wall-papering the whole apartment for the tiniest of marks on a wall. Try to take a Japanese who is good at negotiating when you vacate your apartment.
On top of the key money and deposit there is also the real estate agency fee. It is usually one month’s rent and is non-refundable. There may also be insurance you have to pay, so including the first month’s rent you may have to pay a total of 6 months rent in advance.
To top it off, contracts are usually 2 years and to renew the contract, you usually have to pay an additional one month rent!
Rent varies considerably depending on the distance from central Tokyo, and the distance from a train station. Car parking is almost never included with an apartment.
Standard Japanese apartments are usually just a bare shell. You will probably need to buy all of the furniture, curtains and even lighting. Furnished apartments are available and marketed towards foreigners, but usually a little more expensive.