Tokyo Housing


Finding housing in Tokyo can be a nightmare for foreigners as most landlords are reluctant to rent out their houses to them. In order to find a place to live, one has to understand the housing system in Tokyo.

Housing in Tokyo is expensive because of the concentration of population and the intense industrial and commercial activities in the city. The closer the house is located to the city center, the more expensive it gets. There are mainly two patterns of houses in Tokyo – the single detached house, and the multiple unit building. The former is mainly found in the outskirts of the city, while the latter is predominant in the city.

As the cost of housing is high in Tokyo, most people rent houses rather than buy them. Ownership rate is much lower in the city than it is outside. Rentals are usually through real estate agents and not landlords. Most real estate companies are not very foreigner-friendly, and generally refuse to rent apartments to foreigners. In case they do agree, foreigners are required to have a Japanese national with a sound financial background to act as a guarantor and a co-signer of the contract.

Recently several real estate companies that specifically target foreigners have been established in Tokyo. They have staff that have specially been trained in foreign languages and cultures and thus understand their needs more. These companies offer all kinds of apartments for even short periods of time (the usual rent period in Tokyo is 2 years) and for lower initial fees. Furnished apartments with utilities included in the rent are also available.

The rent and fee system is a little different in Japan. On applying for an apartment, you first have to pay a reservation fee (called tetsukekin ) which will “reserve” the apartment for you. Then a security deposit (called shiki-kin ), usually worth two months rent, is paid in advance, along with the “key money” (called rei-kin ), which is a “gift” to the landlord. The rent ( yachin ) is paid monthly at the start of the month along with the cost for utilities (gas, electricity, water, etc). Some apartments also have a monthly maintenance fee (called kanrihi ) that goes towards the maintenance of the building. Sometimes you are also required to insure the apartment that you have rented. The cost of the rent itself depends on the location and age of the building, and the size and the position of the apartment. The agent is also paid his service fee (called chukai tesuryo ) which usually equals a month's rent. All these refundable and non-refundable fees together usually total five to ten months' rent, so if you are renting an apartment, your first payment is almost always very big.

Apartments in Tokyo are usually defined in terms of abbreviations – with ‘L' standing for ‘living', ‘D' for ‘dining', and ‘K' for ‘kitchen'. Hence, if you see an ad for a ‘2LDK', it means there are 2 rooms plus a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen; 1DK means there is just one room besides a dining room and a kitchen, and so on. In addition, all apartments come with a bathroom, a toilet, and an entrance area ( genkan ).

For foreigners unable to find a Japanese guarantor, or unable to pay the large first rental payment, there are the "Gaijin Houses" (meaning foreigners' houses). These are Guest Houses of various sizes that are designed to provide short-term accommodation at reasonable prices. Boarding houses are also available and are popular among singles and students.

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