Osaka is Japan's third-most populous city after Tokyo and Yokohama, and space comes at a premium. Expats looking for accommodation in Osaka will need to have a clear idea of their needs and wants. Proximity to work and schools, transport links and budget are a few of the main aspects to consider when renting in Osaka.
Types of accommodation in Osaka
In Osaka, apartments are the most easily found type of accommodation and are a common choice among expats. Generally, the closer apartments are to public transport and the city centre, the more expensive they become. Newer housing is also pricier than older builds.
Most apartments fall into one of two categories: apato and mansions. Older buildings, usually no higher than two storeys and made of wood or light steel, are known as apato. Though cheaper, they are less comfortable than mansions, which are newer builds made of more hardy materials, such as concrete.
Some expats, especially young expats on a budget, opt to live in a gaijin house. This is a large house shared by a number of inhabitants, usually foreigners. Set-ups can differ from house to house but are usually made up of small individual flatlets or large rooms with shared common areas.
Finding accommodation in Osaka
As is the case throughout Japan, the rental market in Osaka is competitive. Doing research beforehand on the local housing market, including typical costs and desirable areas, can help expats to get a jump-start on the process before moving. Online property portals and expat forums can be useful sources of information.
When the time comes to begin the search, expats should go through a real-estate agent as landlords are often hesitant to rent to foreigners. In addition, good agents will be able to speak both English and Japanese well and will have a comprehensive knowledge of the local areas.
Renting accommodation in Osaka
Furnished vs unfurnished
Accommodation in Osaka is unlikely to be furnished, and most apartments come without appliances such as fridges and washing machines. Apartments advertised as furnished are more expensive, and the quality and quantity of furnishings varies widely.
To rent property in Japan, expats will need a local guarantor to vouch for them and take responsibility for any outstanding rent or fees. This role is usually taken on by an expat's employer. There are also companies that will act as a guarantor for a fee.
Setting up a home in Japan is expensive, and expats might need to pay the equivalent of up to six months' rent upfront to cover various fees.
Estate agents typically charge one month's rent, while the landlord will expect a security deposit of two or three months' rent. Traditionally, the tenant also gives the landlord a gift of two or three months' rent as thanks for the lease. Known as 'key money' (reikin), this is an old practice that is becoming less common, but expats should be prepared to pay this non-refundable fee nonetheless.
The usual lease length in Japan is 12 or 24 months. If the lease is renewed, a fee may apply. Rental contracts are usually in Japanese, although an English translation may be available. If not, it's a good idea to ask a Japanese friend or colleague to go over the contract with them
Usually, utilities are a separate cost on top of rent. However, in some cases, the landlord might arrange utilities and include them in the rental price. It's therefore important to carefully read the terms of the lease to see what is and isn't included.
►Unsure about where to live? Read about recommended Areas and Suburbs in Osaka.
"Even the smallest of accommodation tends to be pricey in Japan, and Osaka is no exception. Air conditioning in summer and electric heating in winter add to these costs... The standard of accommodation varies with the age of a building since most houses won’t be renovated, but just rebuilt instead." Read more about Franziska's expat experience in Osaka.
Are you an expat living in Osaka?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Osaka. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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