quote of the day

Real estate agents and landlords often say they are interested in renting out houses to foreigners, but they hesitate to do so due to concerns.


Masao Ogino, chairman of the Japan Property Management Association's international exchange committee, pointing out that many landlords worry about the language barrier. (Japan Times)

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Language barrier my foot. If the customer speaks Japanese, you can bet your nelly the landlords will find some other excuse.

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I hope that if their children ever go abroad, they won't be discriminated against when looking for an apartment. But then again, when the shoe is on the other foot...

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Simple workaround that worked for me and a couple friends.

1) Make friends with an older Japanese person who has lived in the area all/most of their life. Should be easy in bigger cities, I don't know, where I live there are only about 75,000 people.

2) Live in a business hotel for a month or two while pursuing #1, and working. Most of these places have discounts for long term stays. I was paying about 55,000 a month.

3) Broach the idea of an apartment with your new found friend who then can introduce you to a landlord directly. Once this happens, the landlord loses face if he/she refuses their friend, so they are compelled to deal with the situation.

I have never paid key money, or resigning fees. I've been here 7 years and still cannot speak Japanese worth a damn. It's called being smart.

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Well all they need to do is get an agent who speaks English. Problem solved.

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A japanese friend of mine (real estate agent) sez most of the landlords are worried about VISA rather language(which is a concern concerning written communciations).

Seeing that most rental contracts in japan are for 2yrs, they are reluctant to rent to someone still on a 1yr visa as they are not sure if the visa will get renewed. Even with a 2yr visa it holds true as it is unlikely that the visa and rental contract will start at the same time.

Ditto for some proffessions.

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There is no law requiring you to disclose your citizenship to landlords. You can walk into a real estate agency and say that you are naturalized citizen and they have no choice but to believe you. You can show your drivers license as ID and as newly issued drivers licenses don't have origin stated.

That being said, landlords have a perfect right to refuse you as it's their PRIVATE PROPERTY. There was this moron landlord in Azabujuban who was refusing foreigners. His apartment stayed opened for half a year.

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Coolcat, you can't be that clever if you can't speak Japanese after 7 years.

I would agree with the whole 'having someone older than you to help you out' but I disagree with your notion of befriending someone just for the purpose - that and most folks can't afford to stay in a business hotel for up to two months.

I agree with the first poster. They will find any reason and language usually has nothing to do with it. I went to find a place with two Japanese friends who help me out with the speaking when needed. When I decided to view a place the guy called the landlord and the FIRST thing out of his mouth was "She's gaijin". Needless to say, we grabbed our stuff and walked out without even saying anything to him. No need for the "warning" and was certainly not about language.

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Look at it from the landlord's perspective. When selecting a tenant, their primary target is to avoid risk. Objectively speaking, a foreigner can be a risk, whether it is due to visa status, higher risk of losing the job or simply, maybe the worst, language problems. So as a foreigner, you should address these concerns first and build up trust. I would say, in most cases the problem is the real estate agent and not the landlord. Therefore I second CoolCali's proposal to bypass the real estate agents wherever possible. I've never found a problem when I was able to talk to the landlord directly.

Caveat: my view my be distorted by the fact that I'm a Caucasian with relatively high income.

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Build trust? Have you ever gone and rented an apartment? You go in, say what you are looking for and that is pretty much it. Not trust being built anywhere in the 30 mins it takes to get stuff done.

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tmarie, you seem to be too focused on the apartments. Your primary concern must be how to sell your story to the real estate agent before they even have the chance to contact the landlord. Depending on your situation, make up your strategy about what you want to tell them and how before you go there. When you have a high income, tell them that the rent will only be a small part of your income. When you have permanent residence status, make sure they get to know it. Tell them what famous and wonderful company you work for and how much people there rely on you. All kind of stuff, whatever small it seems, which could work in your favor. If necessary, talk a lot, about many things, and here and there drop your points so that it doesn't become too obvious. But make sure they get your points. Don't boast in the "western way", do it humbly. Make appeals to the agent personally as to how much you rely on his professional help (here you may turn some weak point into a positive, like being a foreigner). The real estate agent has two aims, your money and usually the long-term business relation with the landlord. For the first one, he will listen to you with some patience. For the second, you have to convince him. If he sees a chance to get your money quickly while keeping his good relation with the landlord, you got him. After that, you can start with the detailed selection of your apartment.

If you go without having made up your strategy before, you risk to fail. Just look at Hatoyama as a prime example :-)

If you feel you absolutely cannot communicate this yourself due to language problems, take a Japanese friend with you, although you should be aware that a Japanese will not be able to capitalize on cultural differences. Make up the strategy together, so that he/she knows what to tell.

Sure, it will not always help. Then don't get angry or disappointed. Instead make fun out of it and enjoy how the agent is struggling to extricate himself from the embarrassing situation :-)

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language barrier? I haven't seen my landlord once in the 8 years I've rented my current place, no idea what he looks like let alone sounds like

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