Everything here costs money, money, and more money$$$
Renting an apartment or so called "mansion", referring to a concrete based apartment, is definitely not cheap and easy, as many owners do not like to rent their property to foreigners.
1) Reikin, gift money (1 month): In Japan, landlords charge this gift money that is equivalent to 1 month's rent and like the name implies, it is a gift. So your money goes out and will never come back, say sayonara to your yen! If you're lucky and are looking for a place during the non-peak season, there might be zero-reikin or 50%-reikin promotions. However, this is still the most atrocious policy and custom that I'd ever heard of, probably exists only in Japan.
2) Shikikin, deposit (1 month or more): This is the deposit you pay to the landlord to cover the cleaning fees before you move in and pay for maintenance when you move out. Some marketing gimmick is zero-reikin but charge 2 months of deposit. Either way it amounts to a lot of money. Although a minority of owners are kind enough to return the unused portion, most will not return any deposit when you move out. Wow, so it costs a month's rent to clean, disinfect and repair the place. They better make sure that it is so clean and bacteria-free that I can drop a piece of sushi on the floor and
3) Yachin, rent (1 month/more or less): If you move in before 15th, you just need to pay for the pro-rated leftover rent. However if you're moving in after the date, you'll have to pay the leftover rent of the current month AND next month's rent as well. Double, triple whammy!
4) Chuukaitesuuryou, agent fee (1 month): If you went to those real estate agents with a shopfront, you'll most likely be charged with 1 months rent to pay your agent. Some agents offer student discount, but that's just a mere 5000yen off. Basically, they're supposed to ask you for your requirements and budget, search for apartments that fits your demands, then drive you down to look at the places. And this will cost you a MONTH's RENT!? My GOD!!!
5) Guarantor agent fee (50% of rent): The recent policy now for renting mansions is that all foreigners must engage a guarantor agent company in order to rent them. You no longer can get a Japanese or Japanese company to become your guarantor. The initial charge is 50% of rent, followed by 10,000yen renewal fee per year. SIGH!
6) Other miscellaneous fee: Basically you'll need to pay the key changing fee, around 12,000~20,000yen. You'll also need to pay the property insurance of around 20,000yen for 2 years. Other fees like 24hr repair service may cost around 5000yen for 2 years.
7) Renewal fee (1 month): Contracts are usually for 2 years, so if with great misfortune should you need to extend your stay, you'll need to say sayonara with another month's rent to extend the contract for another 2 years. *Faint*
Overall, be prepared to cough out more than 4 months worth of rent before even moving in! (excluding moving costs, furniture, electrical appliances, internet and utilities!) Oh heck, I don't even feel where the money is going to be spent on! The bills just keep on piling up! The Japanese rental system must be the most expensive, complicated and blood sucking in the whole world!
Update (28 Feb 2011): After my application was checked, they now want me to bring my alien registration certificate for the contract signing. That's okay, but it has to be issued within 3 months. What? I paid for 3 copies when I just got to Japan and now you're telling me to go all the way down to the city office, que up, pay another 300yen to get a fresh copy that contains the exact information with the one that I currently possess? CRAZY CRAZY SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Where to look for apartments (for students)
Usually dormitories are the cheapest and most value for money. However, if you're like me with bad international dorm experience, I would suggest to seek help from your school's housing department.
My overall opinion is that I would prefer agents/staff that can speak my own language. That's because you can fire questions faster and they can share their own experiences living in Japan and provide appropriate advises as well. My previous Japanese agent only pushed more and more expensive property to me.
When to look for apartments
I guess if you're looking at countryside or outskirts, properties will be moving very slowly and there would be no hurry to look for an apartment. However if you're like me who prefers to stay within the ring of fire (Yamanote Line) so that it's easy to commute to school and reach other places, properties will be moving rather rapidly.
The annual peak period is during March to April, when students graduate to move out and new students move in. I would suggest to start looking more than a month ahead of moving time because that's when you'll have more choices.
I was unfortunate and wasted 2 weeks of precious time with the Japanese agent, who failed to calculate for me the initial upfront costs of everything added together, and giving me false hopes that my Japanese scholarship organization could be my guarantor and made me mailed copies of my bank balances over. After all the trouble, he told me that I had no choice but to engage a guarantor company. GOD! Sayonara to more money!? The initial cost would escalate to 374,000yen for a 88,000yen mansion.
I regretted and felt stress to rent such an expensive place so I dumped the application, got back my booking money and looked for the property management company directly. But because I am a latecomer, I had not many mansions to choose from. The leftovers were either too expensive, too far, too bad, vacancy date too late, or still tenanted and cannot be viewed. I had no choice but to choose a tiny mansion behind the school campus. Because it's still tenanted, I wasn't allowed to view it. Well, latecomers can't be choosers! I'll update again when I get to peep inside.
1) 禮金 (一個月): 在日本，房東都要求一個月房租做為禮金。這錢是一去不回的－－－心痛!!! 假如你幸運在非高峰時期找房子的話，有些會有零禮金或50%禮金折扣促銷。可是，我還是覺得這個習慣是全世界最離譜的房租習慣，應該只有日本有吧!?
2) 敷金，押金 (一個月／以上): 這個是給房東的押金。他們會從這裡扣除你搬進之前的清掃費，消毒費，和搬出去時的維修費用。有些促銷手法是零禮金，但卻要求2個月的敷金。所以算到來也都一樣，很多錢就對了。而且當你退出房子之後，大多數的房東都不會把這筆錢退回給你，真是不合理啊！為什麼清理消毒要一個月的租金啊？！他們最好確定有好好消毒，我會把壽司掉在地板上後再
3) 家賃，房租 (一個月／上下): 假如你在15日之前搬進去的話，就只需付那個月剩下的房租。但是假如你15日後搬的話，就得付那個月和下個月的房租，歐～my god!
4) 仲介手數料，仲介費 (一個月): 有店鋪的房屋仲介都會算一筆相當於一個月的仲介費。有些仲介會給學生優惠，不過那也不過是區區的5000yen折扣。他們會問問你的要求，找找適合你的房子和載你去看看房子。這樣就能輕鬆賺到一個月的房租!? 天啊!? 太好賺了吧!?
5) 保証會社，保證人公司 (房租的50%): 最近對外國人的政策有所改變。以前外國人可以找日本人或日本公司做擔保，但是現在都一律規定要雇傭保證人公司才可以。這初費是房租的50%，之後每年更新合約都得再付10,000yen。噗～天啊～
6) 其他費用: 換鑰匙也算錢，約12,000~20,000yen。2年的房子保險約20,000yen。再加上24小時緊急維修服務，約5000yen。
7) 續約費 (一個月): 房租合約通常都是2年，所以假如你很不幸地得延長的話，又得再吐出一個月的房租做為續約費。這錢也是一去永不回的。＊暈眩＊