24 Jan Moving in Tokyo during moving season… BE FAST!
Are you planning to find an apartment in Tokyo, during moving season? You’ll need to be prepared with more than just a cell phone and fast internet service. January to April is the most active season for renters in Tokyo, as schools, universities, and businesses start their new year/fiscal year from April, creating a feeding frenzy for available places to rent. Apartments/houses to rent can go on the market in the morning and be snagged up by that night!
Living in Tokyo for the past 10 years, I have had to move a few times.
I’ve had numerous people ask me how I landed such amazing apartments. The struggles are real- almost unbearable- when it comes to apartment-hunting during the peak season of January-April.
Here are a few tricks that you can use to snag up your next apartment, in the busiest of seasons!
1) Do your homework and be overly prepared…
The best and most helpful advice is to know precisely what you want before you are ready to move. Keep searching (on Apts.jp!) before your move, so you can get an idea of what is out there, such as layouts or pricing ranges. Then you can know what is possible and find your apartment with realistic criteria. My priority list was having my toilet separate from my shower, a larger kitchen (since we love entertaining), and a reasonable walking distance from the station. Knowing your priorities, besides “the basic 2LDK”, and having clear communication with your agent is vital. You can’t afford to waste time seeing places that don’t fit your criteria, and risk missing out on the ones that did.
2) ACT QUICKLY
Several times during my experiences, I had found a great apartment that had fit all my criteria that had been just listed. I went to go book an appointment to view it, and I was informed that someone else snagged it without even viewing the place!
I have heard that this is the case in many situations. Rental application policies in Japan are unlike overseas. In Tokyo, the rental gets saved for the 1st applicant. Subsequent applicants have to wait for the 1st applicant to cancel or fail screening, for their screening to even begin.
Apartments being in such high demand can leave you feeling like you are on a race against time and a race against thousands of others, who also desire to move during peak season.
Don’t think that you have the leisure to wait until the weekend to view the apartment– you need to go the minute you find it! Take an extended lunch break, or if your partner (or a friend) is free, send them even if you can’t make it in person.
Once viewed, you need to decide then and there! Remember, it’s possible someone could claim it without checking it out in person, during peak season. If you don’t like it- that’s fine- you can pass it up, but know that it’s not an easy journey you are on in this housing battle.
3) It’s not just about location, location, location… it’s all about your agent
When searching for our place in Harajuku, we made the mistake of going with a very young and unknown apartment agency. We loved the flat, it was old but had charm and potential. We knew as soon as we saw it, that we wanted it, so we submitted our application.
Since I was a foreigner and our agency didn’t have experience working with foreigners, we were immediately denied. I was shocked!
It was the perfect place, so I went the extra mile, preparing bank statements and even had my (Japanese) boss write a letter of recommendation for me. Finally, we switched to a more experienced agency, and they put in a request and good word for us- to the same apartment.
This was an incredibly rare case, as you are typically only allowed one application per unit and aren’t allowed to change realtors for a second chance. It worked to our advantage but only because it was just out of the busy season, and we were accepted. This would have never been possible if it was during the Jan-April madness. This experience was a massive testament to how vital your agent is and the critical role they play for you. Don’t overlook your agent, it’s a one-strike game when applying for your place during peak season.
Apartment searching can be so stressful in this season. I am confident that with the right preparations and an experienced, respected realtor who knows your criteria, finding your a great Tokyo flat is possible, even during moving season. You’ll have all your friends asking you how you were able to find such a great place– and you can be happy to tell them: “I made decisions faster than lightning and my agent was awesome- that’s how!”