Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Apartment Criteria (Inside)

A continuation of last week's post on criteria to consider when choosing an apartment.
This time, we'll look at the up-front costs of renting properties and internal amenities.

Japanese landlords are infamous for requiring huge amounts of deposit money as 敷金 (shikikin) and 礼金 (reikin). Because 3 or 4 months' worth of rent is a considerable amount of money, the deposit on an apartment is as important to consider as its monthly rent. "No deposit" properties are in vogue in Japan now, so if you don't like what one agent offers, look for another who advertises with the words 敷金礼金0 (shikikin reikin zero)!

An increasing number of apartments in Japan are doing away with the traditional [LINK]guarantor requirement. These apartments are much more accessible for foreign residents who do not have established family members in Japan. But, it is likely that you are actually "paying" for the guarantor in the form of increased rent to pay for insurance or compensate the landlord for his assumed risk.

In the apartment layout, information should be provided about the styling of each room. Western style rooms usually have wood or faux-wood paneling on the floors. Japanese style rooms have tatami floors. Apartments with Japanese style rooms are losing popularity, so it might be possible to save some money if you don't mind living with tatami.

Bath & Toilet Separate:
This is a deal-breaker for many Japanese. Traditionally, the bathtub and restroom facilities in Japan have been separate. Some very compact apartments offer a "unit bath" setup, which means the tub, toilet, and sink are all contained within a single closet-sized space. Apartments with this setup are slightly cheaper.

Air Conditioning:
If you live anywhere below Hokkaido, and you were born and raised anywhere away from the equator, you will probably require an air conditioner to withstand central and southern Japan's terribly hot, humid summers. An apartment listed as エアコン付き (air con{ditioning} included) usually has a temperature control unit that can both cool the room in summer and warm the room in winter.

Washing Machine:
Not all apartments provide space and hookups for washing machines. Apartments with this feature are labeled 洗濯機置場あり (sentaku okiba ari). The spot for the machine can be inside the apartment (室内, shitsunai) or outside (室外, shitsugai). For an outside spot, you might need to purchase a more rugged model of washing machine that won't collect rainwater or rust.

High Speed Internet/TV:
Japan is a very wired society, and most apartments will offer hookups for internet and TV. Specific questions to ask are what kind of internet is available (are fiber optics wired to the building?) and what providers are available (is the building only serviced by one provider?). The cost of internet will probably not be included in rent. TV should be available for free. As of 2011, Japan will be switching to digital only broadcasts (地デジ, chi deji), and only apartment buildings with properly updated antennae will be able to receive these signals.

Pets - most rental properties in Japan prohibit them; if you want to keep a pet you must search for an apartment with that requirement out front
Female Only - a few apartment complexes enforce this policy, oftentimes in the area around a women's college; it is offered on the grounds of safety and cleanliness
Furnished - in principle, assume that the apartment has no furnishings beyond a sink, shower, and toilet. Some apartments near universities may come partially furnished, and the new real estate company Leopalace21 specializes in fully furnished apartments.

Apartment Criteria (Outside)

Housing Guide

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