Tokyo: Apartment Hunting Part II

by - October 01, 2016

This apartment hunting chapter of my Japan adventure has ended somewhat anti-climatically six months ago, so this was just a closure account on what happened. Rest assured I am not, and was never homeless.

Continuing from where I left off in Apartment hunting part I, I went to inspect four other apartments, this time with the agent who fixed up my temporary apartment. And really, none of them was perfect.

One was an apartment in the second floor of a metal can shed-like building. The access was through a tiny spiral staircase and it was pitch dark in the evening, we had to use our phone flashlights. It has a loft, but turned out to be a very tight low attic space to store things like luggage, not a sleeping human being.

Another was a good “ typical single girl apartment”, as the agent put it, which I took seriously into consideration. It was located at a quiet residential area approximately 10 minutes walk from all the conveniences and the train station of a good suburb, which was very decent but could not compete with my current accommodation which is located right next to a supermarket.

I saw another unit in a trendy, swanky and pretty suburb but didn’t fall in love with the unit itself which felt small, somewhat dated, and did not have any balcony.

The most tempting offer was a unit with a really big floor plan located at the second floor (28m2, huge for 1LDK Tokyo standard!) with a big balcony; but with several flaws such as a noisy site right next to the train tracks, access through staircase only, and high moving in cost.

With time running out (I only had one month to look before having to make a decision); finally I decided to stick with my current place, converting into a long term contract. This option always existed as a back-up plan therefore I was never too stressed, nor was there a real risk of being homeless.

During my brief apartment saga, I have learnt a thing or two about finding an apartment in Japan though:
  • You really feel there is less freedom. In Australia, you just rock up to open houses  as you like and/or deal directly with the leasing agent. Here, you really need a “tenant agent” who’ll note your requirements, work on your behalf, and find options for you. Only then you can move on to inspections.
  • So, even if you find and like apartments A, B, C, D and E on the internet and wish to see them, it might not be possible. Most of them would already be leased or you are rejected by the landlord for being unqualified (maybe because you are a non-Japanese speaking foreigner?), or the universe just did not allow it.
  • Initial moving in costs are high. Expect to pay 1 month rent as agent fee, 1 month rent as deposit, and sometimes there’s this thing called “key money” which is really a gift to the landlord, money that you’ll never see again. Oh, there are also insurances. Therefore it’s common to rake up to 3-4 months worth of rent when moving into a new apartment.
  • All apartments are always in an empty condition and impeccably clean. I love this. No mess, smell, dodgy current tenants. You could move in right away.
  • Self apartment inspection is weird even for Japan standard.
  • Boy, apartments in Tokyo are small.
  • Take off your shoes. TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!!!
Need more information? Eat your kimchi has a really good article on this.

I have settled in my current place for a while now, and it was really the right decision! True, it’s not located at one of my hipster choice neighbourhoods. It is on the small side, it gets noisy at times, sometimes the corridor smells of smoke… But it’s so convenient. There was no headache of moving nor the usual associated high moving in costs (since my place is set up as temporary accommodation and did not demand any deposit nor key money). Little things like a couple of new furniture, new bedsheet and floor mat, furniture rearrangement and plants, really did a lot to change a house into a home.

I’m glad that this chapter has passed with minimal pain, so I could focus my energy on more fun activities in Japan!

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