Rent a house, not an apartment – a cost comparison

tinyapartmentApartments in Japan are ridiculously tiny and astronomically expensive. If you can afford to spare an extra 20,000 or 30,000 yen a month I really recommend you look into renting a house when your lease is next up. Initial moving-in costs like key money and deposit are similar to an apartment. If you can get a friend to move in with you you’ll find the cost per person is actually less per month than you were paying for a rat-cage apartment, only you get a whole lot more space – and if you’d rather live alone you’ll be paying only a little more for a lot more space.

The house may be a little older than a similar priced apartment, but a home is what you make of it. You may also find you have free parking with a house, so it’s definitely a cheaper option if you’re currently paying for a separate parking space like I have in the past. You’re unlikely to find a house in the central city area if that’s a big point for you; but you’ll also find life a few kilometres out of the centre is a lot more peaceful and relaxed.

Cost Comparison:

Here’s a breakdown of the situation for my current house and previous apartment to give you a ballpark idea.

Location – central Kyoto, 5 minutes from Hankyu Omiya station
Rent: ¥ 50,000 / month + ¥5,000 parking fee for motorbike
Deposit + key money: ¥ 150,000
Size: 8 mat main room, tiny kitchen/genkan area, low ceiling bed sized loft space for sleeping, small veranda.
Notes: annoying landlord lives next door; wall to next apartment very thin

My Current House:
Location – North Eastern Kyoto, 5 minutes from Demachiyanagi Keihan station. Next to Kamogawa river.
Rent: ¥ 65,000 / month
Deposit and key money: ¥ 200,000
Size: 10 mat bedroom, 8 mat bedroom, 10 mat living room, 8 mat kitchen, 8 mat low-ceiling loft for storage, separate bathroom and toilet, 3 verandas, parking space for one car (or many motorbikes!)

I’m currently living with my girlfriend who is still a university student, so the house is big enough for the both of us and I’m able to pay all the rent myself to save her some money towards tuition. We also currently have someone renting one room for a nominal amount of rent, and it doesn’t feel cramped at all. As for getting into the very centre of town, it only takes about 5 minutes longer than when I lived in the apartment due to Japan’s awesome public transport – and truth be told, there’s a lot more to do out of town than in!

Do you rent or own a house in Japan? Let me know in the comments about how much it cost you and much cooler it than the apartment you were crammed into when you first came to Japan! If your still living in an apartment, what’s holding you back? Is it big enough for you?

47 thoughts on “Rent a house, not an apartment – a cost comparison

  1. OMG, that’s ridiculous! I take it you live in the centre of Tokyo? How about moving a little out of town?! You must be earning big money to be able afford parking that expensive. Or you have a car that’s 3x as big as a normal car and you have to pay for 3 parking spaces.

    Just, wow.

  2. No big money or big sized car here. The countryside is starting to look more attractive though. I currently live near Shibuya station.

  3. I bought a 15-year old house. 5LDK with 3 parking spaces and a small garden. It cost 21,000,000 yen and I love the house, but should have bought something half the price and used the extra money to reform it straight away rather than having to reform when it falls down at aged 30. My mortgage repayments are about 65,000 yen a month. I live in the countryside and you can see the view from my window here (first one).

  4. A townhouse (called “maisonette” or “terrace house” in Japan) is a nice compromise. My husband and I used to live in a terrace house about 20 min by train from central Tokyo; it was two floors plus a loft and came semi-furnished, with a garden, loads of storage space and a beautiful park view. All for 70,000/month with no key money.

    We had to move a few years ago and sadly couldn’t find another terrace house, and the houses we looked at were all quite badly designed. We eventually found a regular apartment and are happy with it, but I really miss that terrace house.

    Amy’s latest blog post is…Tsumami

  5. Shibuya: Wow, 55’000 for parking space! Definitely a bit further away from the big cities for the win.

  6. @shibuya; dude, you seriously need to move…

    @amy; thank you, you’ve made me a little more confident that moving to tokyo someday is indeed possible… ive never even had a garden in kyoto! I think my current house could be defined as terraced, it’s so close to next door but not actually connected.

    @nick – I’m guessing you have permanent residency, Japanese wife? I think buying a house is great way to go with mortgage payments being exactly the same as rent, but its damn near impossible for non-residents to get a loan isnt it?

  7. @Jamie – Believe it or not, I don’t have permanent residency, though I am married and had been in Japan over 10 years when we got the loan. We got it through UFJ which is one of the few banks that will give a loan to foreigners without eijuuken. Obviously, being married to a Japanese national and working in the same company for a few years will help your chances. Also, my wife was allowed to be guarantor because they considered her job (nurse) stable enough to meet the mortgage repayments.

  8. We lived in a 3LDK in central Yokohama for 150.000 yen (considered as cheap as it was 3 minutes from the station in a lively area with a view on Minato Mirai). We had to move as the apartment became to small for the three of us. We were looking for a 4LDK near Yokohama Station. We found not reasonable apartment under 250.000 yen/month. Finally we found a 15 year old house for only 200.000 yen/month. Central Yokohama, but on a hill. Very calm area. Best thing of the house: we have a garden bigger than the surface of the house! BBQ in the garden. Free sparking space for a car an several bicycles. Downstairs: dining/kitchen 12 tatami, japanese living room 8 tatami, toilet and bathroom. Upstairs: 2 bedrooms 8 tatami and Japanese room 6 tatami, toilet. We have so much space now. Biggest downside: bad isolation. Very cold in winter. To heat the house we spent a lot on electricity and gas. Very expensive. In summer: big electricity bill for the airco’s too.

  9. very good post and I especially enjoyed reading the comments. Not in Japan and doubt I will live there for quite a while if any at all but i \\I can dream 😀

    @Nick your wife is a nurse, cool, My girlfriend is considering training to be one

    Jamaipanese’s latest blog post is…The Tokyo VR Project Discontinued?

  10. This is an interesting comparison, but I don’t think it’d work for other cities in Japan. In particular, I don’t think the numbers would work out so nicely for people living in Tokyo (which is where I live).

    Also, it’d be interesting if you compared heating and cooling costs for a larger place vs. an apartment. More space generally means higher bills for other things. The rent is only part of the possibly increased living expenses.

    Orchid64’s latest blog post is…Variety Friday: Tastes Change

  11. Tokyo eh? Nope, these numbers are totally not going to work. I’d say Kyoto is a nice middle ground though – Tokyo is high, and pretty much anywhere else is considered countryside and hence cheap.

    Good point about heating costs, I’ve never reallly considered them. I think heating especially would vary too much to make a useful comparison though – depending on things like age of apartment, building material, location, furniture and interior planning.

    In my own experience, gas and electricity costs have worked out at about 5,000-8,000 yen per month, when living by myself or with my partner. The only time our bill spiked was when we had a houseguest who insisted on using the aircon all night, and we only found out when the bill came and she had left. Man, that sucked. 30,000 yen for 3 people that month – previous year 10,000 for same number!

    Random tip: Utility bills in Japan usually tell you how much your bill was in the same month the previous year for quick and dirty comparison.

  12. Can anyone inform me what will be the approximate rent for a single room with a private bath, toilet and a kitchen in Kyoto (near Kyoto university)? Are the rooms contain beddings, refrigerator and internet facilities?
    Looking forward to hear from someone.

  13. hi birdie, sorry i didnt get around to answering sooner.

    i cant point you towards a specific company or housing site, my friend used to live in a similar one room thing near kyoto university. he paid around 30,000 / month, and it included most stuff. there was no moving in costs either, i believe. very much designed for cheap-ass students. it was however, quite a horribly dirty place. i dont think internet was included either.

    if your budget went up to maybe 50,000 you could quite a nice place though still small, and you may also need to think about initial moving in costs like the famous key-money and deposit which is usually around 3 months rent. dont worry too much about washing machine or fridge etc as theyre cheap second hand, not even 5000 yen for both.

    theres also accomodation on campus, i believe, but youll have to ask the university about that (i assume you’ll be a student there, right+?)

  14. Hi Jamie,
    I live in Kyoto and I am trying to find a house to rent around your price or cheaper if possible.
    Any recommendation?

  15. By “my price” I assume you mean the prices in the article? They’re no so extraordinary to be honest.

    I’ve always gone through an agent – just tell them you want somewhere with low or zero key money, and tell them your rent price range, they’ll usually be able to find you a few possibilities. I haven’t had any bad experiences with any particular agent here, so I cant really recommend any over others.

  16. Hi Jamie. I am moving to Kyoto in a couple of months – have job etc . But can’t get agents to respond to me. The only one that did said I need a Japanese guarantor which I can’t produce. I will be working for a universiity and they are not set up to act as guarantors. Any tips on agents to contact?

  17. Hi Denise. How is your Japanese? If you can read kanji on the computer, and speak it fine, then most agencies usually have apartments for cases of no guarantor , a quick google search for “保証人なし 京都市” (HOSHOUNIN NASHI KYOUTOSHI) in Kyoto found the following agency:

    That page will take you straight to the area selection for kyoto city apartments that dont need a guarantor, but its all in Japanese. There aren’t many place available, but at least there’s something.

    If you can’t speak any Japanese, your only other option is to go with a foreigner centred and shared guest house, like the ones here:

    I realise the idea of a guesthouse might be a little offputting, but since short-stays are ok it would give you a chance to look around more thoroughly for apartments that don’t need a guarantor, maybe with some new japanese-speaking friends you find there; or it would give the time to speak with your boss and have them act as a guarantor, as most are usually willing if you ask them directly – it is a problem every foreigner here faces, and anyone willing to employ a foreigner must also accept responsibility partially for their wellbeing! (But they can’t take an official stance of “we will act as guarantor if you work for us”)

    Hope that helps somewhat.

  18. Really intersting stuff. To be honest, I kind of enjoy my tiny cramped apartment. Wouldn’t mind one of those classical roofs though…. but I think I need to get some base first.
    After London this sure ain’t much worse. 😉

    Still in Kyoto? The dates on here are all 31st of 2009…. 31st what? I think something might be wrong there….


  19. Kyoto’s treating me well… but I’m a little desperate on the learning Japanese front. Proper courses here are ridiculously expensive and I haven’t found a promising platform for privately tought lessons yet. There surely are the odd adverts here and there about private tutoring for an average of 2000 Yen an hour but that’s not really an option if I want to expose myself to Japanese constantly, while still managing my English/German job.
    I know enough people who learned Japanese by going for a drink, but I’m too impatient for that. 🙂

    By the way, you may retain user conversations easier if you use one of these plugins, as I suppose you use wordpress:

    I had to do a google search for my name on this blog in order to find where I left comments.

    All the best,

  20. Yeh, private lessons are quite expensive and not really worth it in my opinion. How about getting a Japanese girlfriend?

    Also, advice taken – I’ve installed that particular plugin and it should be showing up down there now. Please let me know if you don’t see it.

  21. Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading through your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thanks a ton!

  22. Have u ever seen an apparently interesting thing on the internet but didn’t pay to much attention … and then you couldn’t find it anymore like your browser’s history wiped out overnight ? This is one of those things . Don’t let it slip between your fingers !!

  23. Nice site here!! Also your website loads up fast! What hosting company are you working with? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours ; ) Nevaeh

  24. Here is my situation: am I an oddball or what?
    Live in Ashiya and I bought a house – the price was on the high side but I got a 380 meters sq. main house and 39 meters sq. guest house. Land is kind of small at 1,200 meters sq. And the house is brand new. I have enclosed parking for 2 cars and I can fit 6 in my driveway. But my neighbors are stuck up and everyone seems to have • • • 1 on their licence plate, so lame!!
    Anyway, I was thinking that I may have spent too much but at the end of the day, your personal comfort and personal space definitely improves your life quality. I would say if you can do it, buy your own home – and most importantly be happy and know that it will never appreciate, ha ha!

  25. I bouhgt a house with my partner when we could not find anything to rent at a reasonable price that would allow us to work as artists. I got a terrace house in Nisihkyogoku a few minutes from the Hankyu station with really nice neighbours and a great sports park nearby. Unfortunately I had to move to Tokyo as my job disappeared in Kyoto. Now I have this house and I would love to rent it out. I have put it on craigslist but not much luck. It is really a bit funky and comfortable as I redid it so all te ceilings and doorways are high and the rooms feel big. Any suggestions about how to rent it woud be really helpful.

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