Choosing Apartment in Japan
I decided to move in to an apartment someday early December 2015. It started as simple as trying to read a pamphlet. Being pretty illiterate, I recognised it was an advertisement of a housing network. So I tried Tsuku-ie. It gives me option on which aspect of housing I wanted to start with.
There are many housing agents, you can start with any. And I shall share my priority requirements with you now.
Being fully dependent on scholarship without other revenue, I have to be very budget-conscious. My ceiling was ¥ 35,000.
Because coming here is to study, then I should not waste time and spending on transportation, right? Close to campus (preferably walking distance), close to bus stop. Easy access or close to grocery shop or convenience store. If they are not close by, at least they must be easy to reach by bus (or bicycle, depends on your preference) from my residence.
My first toilet greet at Narita airport was very pleasing.
Warm water, warm seat, natural sound, the sophisticated buttons and all you have seen on videos about Japan’s toilet. But rental housing toilet is mostly plain without (electronic) bidet. Washing is one great deal. If I did not get one when I was still in dormitory, I would be very glad to get one.
4. Air conditioner
This will serve as heater in winter and cooler in summer. So checking its condition is very important. Preferably newer ones which are more electric efficient, if possible. You are the one going to pay for the electricity bill, so it’s important.
5. Internet service
A must for me. Putting the inquiry as ‘free internet service’ has the same importance to me as air conditioner.
For drying your washed clothes. Because I am pretty sensitive to smell, I would rather drying my clothes outside. During winter, too.
7. (Wooden) flooring
Warmer in winter (still radiates cold, though, but less than direct concrete), cooler in summer. Modified wall as well can help keeping you warm.
Depends on what your priorities are, you can put in the options and let the search engine of the website do the rest for you. Alternative way is to email your enquiry through the contact form. You will receive email replies of offer on their places matched to your interest. Other alternative would be coming directly to a housing agent of your choice and tell them what kind of housing you want.
I consider myself lucky because I quickly settled on the first (and only) housing agent I came to (which email I replied) and impressed on the first place shown. The agent can speak a little English and able to choose easy Japanese plus use illustration while explaining. It helps a lot for me. But it’s better if you can ask accompaniment from your Japanese speaking friend.
What other aspects can be considered?
Total first payment. You must consider costs apply: key money (gift money for the landlord), deposit, key change, maintenance, common service, parking, service activation/subscription (internet, gas, electricity, water). Your first payment will consist of them all (when applies) including one month rent and service fee for the housing agent (equals to 1.08 * one month rent).
Type of housing. Apartment or mansion? Don’t imagine mansion as USA’s type of mansion. Mansion in Japan is simply a sound-better term than apartment. It does imply rather more expensive than apartment. The name does not always imply better in everything than apartment, too.
Codes to help. 1K, 1DK, 2LDK… The number indicates the number of room (space enclosed by walls and doorway). K: kitchen, D: dining, L: living.
Size of the place. If you mind with space of bedroom or kitchen or the overall, pay attention on this one. I did not, so I settle with 1K type since I’m living alone anyway. Less space to warm up during the cold weather is better 😀
Parking. Either for your bicycle or motorbike or car. Is it provided for free or there is a fee applied?
Environment. Most Japanese people and environment are quiet. If you are not so quiet, either you adjust or choose place which can tolerate your level of noise (for example you will often entertain friends coming over for dinner). I’m living in Tsukuba, which is a small city, so traffic noise is not a problem. But it does get quieter the further away from main motorways.
LP gas or (big) city gas? What is the ampere? Those will decide your monthly basic subscription (and usage) fare. Your bill in dormitory is cheap because it’s subsidised. Once you move out, there will be no subsidy on the service.
Lastly, a visit is a must. Prepare questions and ask as detailed as possible. No offence will be taken. Because if you had sign your contract, you will follow the terms. Simple question as “Can I use push-pins on the wall?” can save you from thousand yens of fine. (No, you are not allowed :p As well as any sticky things) Do you notice if a room’s lamp is absent? If the heater is broken on it’s own, are you going to be charged for repair work? Be very detailed and wary.
My simple advice: if you are not that sure, don’t.
Any other things to add? Please suggest.