They say that moving house is one of life’s most stressful events, right up there with childbirth, starting a new job and leaving a tissue in your pocket when it’s in the laundry. Transfer this to renting in Japan, where things like the arbitrary ‘key money’ fee, unfathomable contracts and teeny-weeny studio spaces are the norm – finding a decent place to live can be a challenge, especially if you don’t speak Japanese well.
This is where the GaijinPot Bilingual Brokerage Assistance comes in, providing full support to renters not only before and during the move-in process, but after too!
I sat down with Ken Shimizu, the manager of Bilingual Brokerage Assistance, to find out more.
So, how does the service work?
Our Bilingual Brokerage Assistance (BBA) service supports real estate agencies that are interested in offering their apartments to foreigners in Tokyo but don’t have the ability to handle English inquiries.
We help the agencies by responding in English to users who are looking at their listings, and convey information over to the realtor requesting for additional property data, quotes for the initial costs, setting up room viewings and contract signing appointments.
Kind of like an interpreter between the renter and the realtor?
Exactly! For the user the service is completely transparent. You send an inquiry for a rental property and both the agent and BBA staff receive the email. From there we can take over and contact the user to help answer any questions they have.
Can you describe the after-move-in care service in more detail?
We cover a lot of ground for our after-move-in services. One of the most challenging things for anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese is calling and setting up your utilities – gas, water, electricity and Internet.
Since these services are all provided by Japanese-speaking companies who rarely have any English speaking staff, we get in touch with them on behalf of our tenants. We also send out monthly follow-up emails checking whether tenants have anything to report over to the property management company.
What are the main cultural points about renting in Japan which might be different to someone’s home country?
Fees! Many people are not emotionally or financially prepared for the sheer number of fees associated with renting in Japan. One of the most common (and most controversial) fee is key money or reikin in Japanese.
This fee dates back to the 1920’s after a major earthquake leveled a large part of the city. As a result a large number of homes were destroyed and people who were desperate to find accommodation began offering small financial gifts to landlords who would rent to them.
This has carried on to the 21st century but fortunately, we have an agency that offers a no key money apartments for those that sign up using our BBA services. This is a fantastic cash saving deal since the key money is usually equal to one or two months rent.
I’m thinking about moving, what’s the first thing I should do?
The first thing you’ll need to do is fix your budget. A rule of thumb is to keep your rent well under 1/3 of your monthly income, so if your monthly income is ¥300,000, then your rent should not exceed ¥100,000 per month.
Once you’ve set your budget, the next step is to specify the what area of Tokyo that you would like to live in. Keep in mind that living in Tokyo means spending a lot of time traveling by train, so you should try to choose a place that is close to a convenient train line.
I’ve heard some landlords are reluctant to rent to foreign tenants. How can people looking to rent avoid or overcome this problem?
Unfortunately this does still happen but as Japan’s population is gradually decreasing and the Japanese government is proactively accepting more foreign labor and exchange students, the numbers of property owners that are accepting foreign tenants have grown. We are happy to say that all the listings on GaijinPot Apartments will accept foreign tenants.
What’s the most rewarding thing about helping someone find their home?
I’ve had many interesting experiences but one of them that stands out was receiving a thank you gift-card from a tenant I helped find an apartment. Since she didn’t speak much Japanese she was happy with how easy and hassle-free it was for her using our services. That’s the sole reason we are here; finding a home in Japan is a painful process if you’re not a fluent Japanese speaker, but by using our services, life has gotten so much easier.
How much does the service cost?
For our interpretation services – no charge at all! The agency currently using our BBA services has a brokerage fee but they won’t charge you reikin (key money) and we provide the mediation at no extra cost.
It’s a great opportunity for people who need support in finding a decent apartment with a minimal upfront cost.
Sounds great, how do I use this service?
To use the service, browse the apartments that we have listed that are affiliated with BBA. Once you find an apartment you like, send an inquiry and our BBA team will be sure to respond!