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Navigating Upfront Expenses: A Guide to Moving into an Apartment in Japan
Jan 25, 2024
5 min read
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If you're planning to live in Japan for over a year, renting an apartment is the most practical long-term option. However, it's essential to consider the upfront costs when moving into a new apartment in Japan, especially in cities like Tokyo. These expenses typically include security deposits, key money, and more. Understanding these costs will help you make informed decisions and ensure a smooth transition into your new Japanese home.

Understanding First-Time Apartment Expenses in Japan

Security Deposit: Also known as shikikin (敷金) in Japanese. This is a refundable deposit paid to the landlord as a form of insurance against potential damages to the property. The amount is usually equivalent to one to two months' rent.

Key Money: Known as reikin _(礼金). _Reikin is a non-refundable payment made to the landlord as a gesture of gratitude for allowing the tenant to rent the property. The amount can vary but is typically equal to one to two months' rent. I admit that as a foreigner, the reikin fee was quite a shock to me: do you know of anything similar in other countries?

Agency Fee: If you use a real estate agency to find an apartment, you may be required to pay a service fee or commission, usually equivalent to one month's rent, known as _chukai tesuryo _(仲介手数料).

Rent in Advance: Tenants are usually required to pay the first month's rent before moving in.

Maintenance Fees: Some rental properties, particularly in apartment complexes, may have monthly maintenance fees or kanrihi (管理費) in Japanese. These fees cover, for example, maintenance and management costs for common areas and elevators. Maintenance fees are usually listed separately from the basic monthly rent, so make sure to thoroughly check the listing of the property you are interested in.

Insurance: It is mandatory to purchase insurance when signing a new lease contract to be covered in case of fire, water leakage, or other problems. The insurance usually costs around 15,000 yen for a single person and about 20,000 yen for a couple/family. It is possible to purchase an insurance policy of your choosing instead of the one provided by the real estate agency. Still, in many cases, you will be asked to provide proof of insurance coverage.

Additional Costs When Renting an Apartment

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Now that we have uncovered the essential up-front costs you will need to face, here are some additional expenses that may arise when signing a contract or when leaving the apartment:

Lock Replacement: This security measure can cost approximately 15,000-25,000 yen. High-security options like dimple keys may incur additional expenses.

Guarantor: A guarantor, also known as a hoshonin (保証) in Japanese, is an individual or entity that serves as an insurance for your rental agreement. They guarantee to cover any unpaid rent or damages if you are unable to fulfill your financial obligations or abruptly terminate your contract by leaving the country.

In most cases, landlords typically require a Japanese national to act as a guarantor, which can pose challenges for foreign renters. Finding someone willing to take on the significant responsibility of being a guarantor can be tricky unless you have a Japanese family or a trusted friend willing to fulfill this role.

Cleaning fee: When moving out, there may be a disinfection and cleaning fee ranging from around 30,000-50,000 yen.

It's important to note that these costs are not fixed and may vary depending on the property and specific circumstances.

Negotiations and How to Lower Moving in Costs

So how much can you expect to pay up-front to kick-start life in your new apartment? Most Japanese resources round up the initial fees to come up to around 4 or 5 times the cost of the rent of the chosen property. The only way to lower the initial cost is to look for reikin (key money) free properties: more and more owners are starting to waive it, which can easily help save up one month of rent.

Some level of negotiation on the rent can be possible, but the discount would usually be between 3,000 to 5,000 yen on the monthly rent. In my case, when I found a property that I liked and was ready to sign, I could negotiate and shave some money from my _kanrihi _because I own a bicycle, but no parking was available.

Unlocking the Costs of Renting an Apartment in Japan

In a nutshell, renting an apartment in Japan is a fantastic long-term choice for your stay, but it comes with its fair share of upfront costs. From security deposits to key money and agency fees, there's no denying the financial dance involved. But fear not! You can cut down those initial expenses by exploring reikin-free properties, negotiating like a pro, and being savvy with your choices. So buckle up and get ready to unlock your dream Japanese apartment door without breaking the bank. It's time to make a stylish and affordable move!


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