Monday, October 27, 2014

Searching for and finding a flat (part 2)

...So things became hectic. 

I was arriving back to Japan the 30th, and arranged for my house-visits to be on the 31st, for on the 1st I was starting work. And, to complicate things further, I was leaving from the 5th to the 11th overseas for a business trip. So it had to be on the 31st.
I could have stayed longer at my friend’s house, but I was in a hurry on a bureaucratic level. I needed to get my papers done, namely the jūminhyō (住民票, a registry of your current residential address) to get a bank account and a phone. You can live without a phone in Tokyo, but it’s a crazy endeavor. And you need a bank account to get your salary, duh

The morning after my arrival, when it came to seeing more flats, I was very, very lucky. There were two apartments I liked: one was in the neighborhood I liked, 4th floor and quite spacious. The other was in the neighborhood my friend lived in, much bigger, on the 3rd floor. I liked both of them, but decided to apply for the latter and hope. I was, by then, quite disillusioned and pessimistic.
And, of course, I didn’t pass, because my guarantor (my uncle) (because, yes, I did need to ask him in the end) is retired, which would have left me –yet again– stranded. And here is where I must say that the girl who was in charge of my case in the Agency is an angel. Without consulting me (and this was a good thing!) she had also applied for the other building I had liked… and I passed the inspection! (How did that happen?!)

Immediately after that I ran to the Ward Office, got my papers, opened a bank account and got my phone (maybe I’ll talk about that another time). And the day after that: First Business Trip! (talk about a tight schedule!)
So I gathered all my papers and the money needed for all the payments (see below), and the day after my business trip I went to the office. I was shaking with nervousness and excitement. Would it be ok? Would I be refused again? I could not help but pray because I had had such bad luck with apartments I was almost sure something would come up. But, surprisingly, it went really smooth.
And I got my keys and a house…
… which I could not yet call a home.
(to be continued in part 3)

What are you going to pay?
Living in Tokyo is ridiculously expensive, that is a fact. And when you rent an apartment, the initial sum can be devastating. Especially if, like me, you’ve moved from the other side of the globe.
So, what exactly are you going to have to pay?

Obviously. One month in advance, of course. 
管理費・共益費Maintenance Charge and Building Management Charge
Monthly. It’s cheaper for “Apartments” and more expensive for “Mansions” (I’ll explain that in another post). It’s basically the money you pay so that the building is correctly maintained. Which makes sense, and I’m not even being sarcastic.
Some apartments don’t require a deposit, but the vast majority of them do. It’s normally a month’s rent worth. If you’ve caused any damages to the house, they’ll use that money to repair it. At the end of your stay they’ll give back most of it back to you (most of it? Yes, because they’ll use it for the cleaning of the house after you moved out).
礼金Key money
Some apartments don’t require it, either (find one of those!). Another month’s rent. And this is money you won’t ever see again. And what IS key money? It’s a gift to the owner: a “thank you for letting me rent your house”. If you paid it: say goodbye to it forever.
鍵交換費用Lock change
Yes. You’ve got to pay for the lock to be changed. It kind of even makes sense… but still. Why do I have to pay for that?
仲介手数料Agency fee:
 Another month rent, PLUS it’s tax percentage.
This varies according to the Insurance you choose. The first year is more expensive that the rest.
保証会社 Guarantor Company
Here comes the tricky part. If you’ve got someone who’s got your back financially, and IN Japan, that you can just ask that person to be your guarantor (which is what I had to do with my uncle, and I honestly didn’t want to bother him with any of this). If you don’t… and I assume if you’re reading this you’re a gaijin as well, well… One option is to ask your company (but mine wouldn’t help me here). The other is to ask a company to become your guarantor… and of course, pay. And they are expensive. Like, really expensive.

Ok, yes, but exactly how much money is that?

Let’s imagine a house’s rent is about 80,000 yen a month, which is what you get for a tiny apartment in the center or a bigger one in the outskirts. If we take that price into account…

First month’s rent: 80,000¥
Maintenance and Building Management Charge: 3,000 (for apartments)
Deposit: 83,000
Key money: 83,000 (remember: find one without key money)
Insurance: 20,000 (there are several types of insurance)
Lock changing fee: 15,000
Agency fee plus tax: 87,000 (aprox., each agency may vary)
Guarantor company fee: 88,000 (the one I was suggested, anyway)
Which equals a total of: 459,000 (without Key Money: 376,000)
Which equals (as of today): $4,249.88 ($3,481.40) or 3,345 (2,740.12)

Pretty shocking, eh?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Searching for and finding a flat (part 1)

Hello everybody,

Finally I was able to update again! And this time I’m going to talk about a very vital subject for anyone who wants to live in Japan.
Renting a flat.
Please note that, since I have a Japanese passport, I might (I’m not even sure!) have skipped some steps (and some of the prejudices) that those who don’t have to go through. And trust me, it’s a pain.

I count myself as incredibly lucky. First of all, I wasn’t in any crazy rush to get an apartment. It wasn’t like I would become homeless, or that I would have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to a hotel to sleep on a bed. No, I stayed over my friend’s flat for over a month. So, for those of you who know people who already live in the big metropolis, try to see if you have any chance to crash with them. Please note that, if someone has invited you to their home (especially if they are Japanese), the invitation might not be genuine, so beware. Also, be thankful. Don’t assume that, just because they’re your friends and of course you’d do the same if the situation was reversed, you can be unthankful. Treat them to a meal sometimes, do the shopping, help with the cleaning: make sure they don’t regret inviting you home. I know, pretty obvious stuff, but you’d be surprised with some of the stories I’ve heard.
If you’re new to the city and don’t know anyone who can put up with you, then you’re going to have to hurry.

First of all: inform yourself. Look at websites, talk to people, walk around the neighborhood you’re interested, and be stubborn.
I found an apartment via a website, and then contacted the Real Estate Agency personally and met them (I've heard it's practically impossible to rent a flat directly from the owner). The girl who “was in charge of me” was a very nice young lady, very kind and who really did her best to help me. She drove me to all the apartments and helped me put my papers together.
I was really interested in one apartment which was practically brand new, highest floor (3rd) and quite big. It was expensive, but not outside my price-range (especially if you take into consideration that I don’t really go out much). I wanted THAT one. I asked for it then there was an inspection.
An inspection?
That is correct. The Real Estate Agent must check your background and your job, your salary, and your guarantor. I had my papers but I didn’t have a guarantor, usually a parent who lives in Japan (I didn’t really want to bother my uncle with this) (note: I had to, eventually) so I decided to hire a company which serves as a guarantor. And BOOM! The price bloated and burst and suddenly what had been expensive but affordable became impossible. Plus, I didn’t even pass the inspection. Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule in Japan: your rent can’t (mustn’t) be superior to 1/3 of your salary. If it is, you practically automatically fail the inspection.
I decided I wanted that apartment anyway and pressed for it, and my company was very understanding and provided me with proof of my income… but no luck.
And the worst part?
That had all happened during the 10 days I had gone back to Spain, so there was absolutely nothing I could do but search the web and pray...
(continues in part 2)


Lists of websites I used to search for flats:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Though scared, you gotta dream and do

Hello everybody!

So here I am again, thinking about philosophical things such as dreams, drive and decisions. 
I must say I am a very lucky girl (though I must say, I'm also hard-working...) and everything I have wanted I have managed to accomplish (until now, who knows what the future will hold). Of course, that doesn't mean I haven't made mistakes or even failed miserably. I am human, you know.

What am I trying to say?
That dreams are important. It is hard and scary to just finish college, or school, and wonder what on Earth you're going to do afterwards. How do you transition smoothly from being a student, always under the care of a professor who guided you (or not), to a member of society in which you are responsible for your own actions: actions you know you're not even ready to make, not sure what they even are!
I was confused and terrified. Okay, so I was a licensed translator. I even had some work experience thanks to my part-time jobs, and I had translated a thing or two so my CV wasn't exactly empty... yet that meant little, nothing, really. 
Although my dream was coming back to Tokyo, the first thing I did was work in Spain. I looked for jobs fervently, something I could do. I didn't want to let go of my specialty (languages) although there were little to no job offers. I was living in Spain and the situation, though not as bad as presently, was pretty bleak. There was little I could do, yet I sent CV after CV and waited. And I eventually got a job as a teacher.
It was a steady job and I adored the working atmosphere, so two years went by in the blink of an eye. 
And, while steady, I started looking for more things to do. I ended up translating books, writing my own, interpreting here and there. And that is when things started getting weird... or should I say that something shook me me awake
For some reason I am still unable to figure out, I had always known I would come back to Tokyo, although I was always putting it off. I can't leave now: I've got books to write, I need more savings, my parents need me here, I'm not ready... What on Earth was I waiting for? Why did hopping on a plane scare me senseless? I love planes! I love Tokyo! I still don't know the answer. I longed coming back to Tokyo, shed tears of frustration, yet I could not make myself click the "purchase" button on travel websites. And then my friends started to emigrate. One girl went to Tokyo, then another to Osaka, and another to Tokyo again, and I was left hating my weakness. 
What on Earth was wrong with me? I was perfectly aware of what I wanted... So. What. Was. I. Doing?
I don't think I've ever been that mad at myself. I'd always had this distorted image of this Sachiko who was strong and independent and would always manage. And then and there, all of the sudden, I could only see this scared girl who was a coward. 
It was unbearable, and humbling
And then, a miracle happened. 
I was called over by a friendly man who smiled serenely and said "Would you like to work in Japan?". (It sounds dodgy and suspicious, but it wasn't, haha)
My fears didn't disappear nor did my anxiety fade. My perception of myself didn't become distorted into something I was not (I think). But something else happened. I felt hope and excitement. And I realized I had been given chance in a lifetime to change myself and actually do what I wanted to. I could either decline, because I was still insecure (what had happened to my self-esteem?), or I could dive and see what happened.
I imagine you know what the result was.