House Hunting for Entrepreneurs

This article focuses on house-hunting in Hokkaido, primarily in Sapporo, Japan. It’s important to note that the process and initial costs of house-hunting can vary by region in Japan, so pay attention to the following tips.

Initial Costs

In Japan, the initial costs of renting a property tend to be relatively high compared to many other countries. While the exact amount varies case by case, as a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to budget for about 4 to 5 times the monthly rent.

Efficient House-Hunting Strategies

For foreigners, renting apartments or condos rather than a single house is often easier. Finding a standalone single home available for foreign renters is quite rare. If you come across a landlord open to renting to foreigners, consider it a great opportunity.

Communicating Your Requirements to Real Estate Agents

Individuals from Western countries often prefer real estate agents to make suggestions rather than specifying detailed conditions such as rent amounts. In Japan, it’s common to provide your preferences upfront. If you have a list of choices from 1 to 10, prioritize them and convey them to the agent. These preferences may include budget, proximity to train stations, specific areas, floor plans, distance from the station, building age, heating source, parking availability, pet-friendliness, floor level, and air conditioning availability.

Preparation Checklist

  1. One crucial item is having an emergency contact.
    If you’re renting an apartment in Sapporo, having a local resident as an emergency contact is highly recommended. This emergency contact is not the same as a co-signer or guarantor and is not financially responsible for rent payment. However, in cases where the tenant is unreachable or doesn’t speak Japanese, the emergency contact may be contacted. It’s best to confirm with the apartment’s owner or management company, as policies can vary. If you don’t have contacts in Japan or are new to the country, and you’re struggling to find an emergency contact, feel free to contact Hokkaido Help.
  2. Also, having a Japanese bank account would be best.
    While some properties may accept credit card payments, they are relatively scarce. Consider opening an account with institutions like Japan Post Bank. If you need assistance opening a bank account in Sapporo or Hokkaido, contact Hokkaido Help. Sometimes, proof of residence may be required, and your residence address should be listed on your resident card. Unlike those working for Japanese companies or attending Japanese schools, entrepreneurs on a visa may need to register their temporary residence and address with the local ward office.

Prohibited Actions

  • Firstly, subletting is not allowed.
    Since the lease agreement is between the landowner and the tenant (you), subletting without permission is prohibited.
  • Secondly, allowing someone not registered on the lease to reside in the property is also prohibited.
    While it’s okay for friends or family from your home country to visit and stay for a few days, long-term cohabitation violates the lease agreement. If you’re considering such an arrangement, contact the management company and the landlord for approval.
  • Lastly, using the property for business purposes is generally not allowed. Using the property for a different purpose than residential may constitute a lease agreement violation. If you have such intentions, consult and obtain written approval from the landlord or management company. Violating the lease agreement may result in eviction, and it’s essential to be aware of these potential cultural differences and rules, as foreigner violations could affect future rentals.

In Conclusion

Finding a rental property can be more challenging for entrepreneurs than international students or salaried workers in Japan. It’s not uncommon for applicants to face rejection during the screening process, even after finding a suitable property. However, stay resilient and continue moving forward. As you establish your business and become familiar with Japanese culture and language, you’ll have more options for renting homes. While popular property search portals like SUMO and HOMES may only sometimes cater to foreign entrepreneurs, HokkaidoHelp can connect you with real estate agencies experienced in working with foreign entrepreneurs, which can speed up the process.