1. There are only a few properties on your website. Does it mean the number of choices you have is limited?
No, it’s rather the opposite. The real estate industry in Japan is very different from many other countries. In many countries, Agent A has access to only Properties a, b and c, and Agent B has access to only Properties d, e and f. Here is the truth that most agents in Japan don’t want to tell you: All agents in Japan are sharing the same database and have access to almost all properties. In fact, you can walk into any agency, tell them the same requirements in detail, and they will find you exactly the same properties if the agent is willing to listen. There are always thousands of properties in the market, and the availability changes daily. Any agent can help a client apply for an apartment at any time. Therefore, it’s really not necessary to list hundreds of properties on our website because some of them will become outdated even after one day. If you see a nice property on the street or on another website, please let us know and it’s very likely that we have access to it as well.
2. If all agents in Japan are sharing the same properties, why should we choose your company rather than any other agents?
Since all agents have access to the same properties anyway, what makes a huge difference is the kind of services we provide that none of our competitors can compete with us. Here are our strengths: 1) Custom-made services: A good realtor is very similar to a good tailor. Most real estate agents simply want to sell you what their bosses want them to sell. Their focus is on their own profits rather than your needs. How likely do you think they can find you a perfect property if they only focus on what is profitable for them? Here is what we do differently: We have a very detailed discussion with you in the office (like a tailor who takes your measurements), show you different options on our computer (like a tailor who shows you different suits in the shop), learn about your preferences (like a tailor who tries to figure out what colors, designs and materials that you like and dislike), and then go view your favorite properties on the same day (like a tailor who starts making a suit for you). Forget about spending hours, days or even weeks looking up properties online by yourself. With our custom-made services, we will find you what exactly you are looking for within about 5 hours on average if it’s a rental property. 2) Top brand: RE/MAX is the number 1 brand name in real estate in the world. We are in 118 countries and have more than 130,000 agents in the world. Even if you don’t know much about real estate, you have seen our balloon somewhere. 3) Licensed agency and licensed agents: To operate a real estate business in Japan legally, two kinds of real estate licenses are required. One is an agency license for the company (takken gyosha license), and the other one is an agent license for an individual (takkenshi license). By law, an agency license (takken gyosha license) is required for all real estate agencies, and at least one of every 5 staff members in a real estate agency must be a licensed agent (takkenshi). There are certain procedures that are allowed to be done by only licensed agents. Legally speaking, the person in charge is required to show you their agent license before they start to explain about the details of a property. Many other agencies, especially those who mainly serve foreigners, have no licensed agents at all. Some don’t even have an agency license and are operating their business in the grey zone. If you have ever been to a suspicious one, try to ask them to show you their licenses and you will be surprised. 4) Transparency: We will tell you all the pros and cons directly without hesitation whereas many other agents will tell you only the pros and try to hide the cons. 5) No hidden fees: For rental properties, all we charge is an agent fee of 1 month’s rent plus tax whereas many other agents add hidden fees when clients don’t notice. For buying and selling properties, we charge the standard 3% plus 60,000 yen for properties over 4M yen. Agents at other real estate agencies often have a monthly quota, so their focus is on whether or not they can reach their monthly quota rather than their clients’ needs. If you go there at the end of a month, they are even more aggressive and want your money now. In contrast, our focus is always on the clients’ needs. We will be equally happy if you rent or buy a property this month or next month. 6) Speedy responses: Our reply is always fast unless the company is closed whereas some other agents can take ages to reply a simple email. 7) Easy process: The application process for a private apartment in Japan can be very complicated. However, we always take care of all the difficult parts and make the process as easy as possible for our clients. Many other agents make things way too complicated for their clients. 8) Services in your language: We speak 5 languages – English, Japanese, French, Cantonese and Mandarin. Besides the languages, we also understand your culture. We have served clients from more than 50 countries. 9) Being able to look at properties from clients’ perspective: All of us have moved many times, so we are all experienced clients ourselves. We always look at properties from clients’ perspective whereas many other agents look at properties from agents’ perspective and only focus on their profits. 10) Evening viewings available: Clients like viewing properties during the day, but if you are a person who is always busy during the day, we are happy to show you properties in the evening instead. Many other agencies are closed at 6 or 7pm. 11) Free utility setup: We always go the extra mile and set up utilities for our clients whereas many other agents only give you the phone numbers of utility companies and tell you to call them by yourself. 12) Ongoing support: We will always be there to assist you after you move in whereas many other agents won’t even remember your name after you’ve made your payment. In fact, we have become friends with more than 90% of our clients. We still keep in touch even after years.
3. What is the application process like for renting a private apartment?
1) Schedule a viewing appointment. 2) Come to our office, have a discussion and view properties on the computer together. 3) View your favorite properties in person. 4) File an application for one of the properties. 5) The screening process begins. 6) The management company sends us the paper work. 7) Schedule a contract date. 8) Listen to a detailed explanation about the property by a licensed agent. Do the paper work and make the payment. 9) Pick up the keys and move in. Please note that the entire application process generally takes about 2 weeks.
4. Do I really need a personal guarantor to rent a private apartment?
It depends on the property. Thanks to guarantor companies, a personal guarantor is not required in most cases. Having a personal guarantor will give you more options, but not having one is not really an issue. In fact, most of our clients don’t have a personal guarantor, but they are living happily all over Japan.
5. How much do I expect to pay to rent a private apartment?
In general, the initial costs for a private apartment with no deposit and no key money are about 3.5 times the rent. They include the first month’s rent, guarantor company fee, agent fee, house insurance, locksmith fee, cleaning fee, etc. If there is any deposit or key money, you simply add it on top. The exact initial costs depend on the apartment though.
6. What is the difference between a personal guarantor and an emergency contact?
A personal guarantor has much more responsibilities than an emergency contact. A personal guarantor is like a co-signer. If you don’t pay your rent, your personal guarantor will be responsible for paying it on your behalf. An emergency contact, as the name suggests, is a person who is willing to contact you in case of an emergency such as a fire. Many Japanese people are reluctant to be anyone’s personal guarantor, but many of them are happy to be their friends’ emergency contact if it is explained clearly.
7. What is the difference between deposit and key money?
A deposit is a sum of money which you pay when you start renting a property. It will be returned to you when you move out as long as nothing has been damaged. Key money, or reikin, is a sum of money which you pay to the landlord up front, and it will never come back. A better translation for reikin would be gratitude money, which you give to the landlord to show your appreciation and thankfulness.
8. I am going to move to Japan soon. Is it possible to rent a private apartment before I arrive?
You will need at least your resident card in order to apply for a private apartment, so it’s not possible to start renting one before you arrive. Also, it’s better for you to view the apartment in person before you decide to rent it. However, we do have some furnished options that are possible to make a reservation before you arrive. Please contact us for details.
9. What is a guarantor company?
A guarantor company is a company which ensures the landlord will receive the rent on time. If a tenant doesn’t pay the rent, the guarantor company will pay the landlord on the tenant’s behalf. Then they will chase the tenant and ask for their money back.
10. Do you have any furnished apartments?
Yes. We have a connection with some foreign owners of furnished apartments. They are more open-minded and are willing to make the process easier for everybody.
11. Do you deal with UR apartments?
Yes, we do for free. UR is a company that manages government subsidized housing complexes. No agent fee, no key money, and no personal guarantor required. To move in, all you have to pay is the first month’s prorated rent and a deposit of 2 months’ rent. They often have campaigns in which you can choose to split the deposit into 2 installments – one month up front and the other one month about 2 years later. Other agents might charge you some hidden fees, such as fire insurance and sterilization fee, for UR apartments, but none of them is necessary. UR apartments are also more flexible because you are not stuck in a long-term contract. In fact, you can move out anytime as long as you give them a 14-day notice. The only downside is that they do have an income requirement. If your income is not high enough, they also have an option for paying one year’s rent up front. Please ask us for details.
12. Do you deal with Leo Palace apartments?
Yes, we do for free. Similar to UR apartments, no agent fee and no personal guarantor required. If you are looking for a furnished apartment, they have options everywhere in Japan. Since we have a partnership with Leo Palace, we always ensure you get the best deal. In most cases, renting a Leo Palace apartment through us will be cheaper than going to Leo Palace directly. A common complaint we often hear from clients is that their walls are pretty thin, but other than that, they are quite easygoing and foreigner-friendly.