Why Renting in Japan is Difficult: Interview with Co-founder of Homekuru
Today we are very excited to be posting an interview with Henry Knight (one of our co-founders at Homekuru) about his experience with renting in Japan. Despite being half Japanese we were shocked to find that Henry found renting a home in Japan difficult. Read to find out more about Henry’s past experience with renting in Japan, and understanding his vision for Homekuru.
Interviewer: Hi Henry! Thank you for taking the time out to tell us more about your experience with renting in Japan. So let’s start off with a bit more about you, could you give us a brief introduction for those who don’t know who you are and where you are from?
Henry: Hi! I’m Henry and born in the UK. Half Japanese and raised in Japan before going abroad to study in the US. After my studies, I decided to come back to Japan for work. Although being half British/Japanese I speak both languages and pretty much fluent.
Interviewer: So with your Japanese skills, would you say you are confident in communicating with Japanese estate agents that speak no English?
Henry: I’m confident in speaking Japanese to a friend but for estate agents, I can but would feel slightly worried that my Japanese may come across as rude at times without realizing. This is because Japanese can be complicated in terms of translating directly from English. It can be rude to sound too straightforward as the Japanese way of expressing yourself is more vague than in English. The type of questions you may find yourself asking the landlord/estate agent (such as querying to what point is the land your land or the owners land and can the owner notify us if they wanted to cut the bushes) may be too straightforward, it’s tricky to ask this type of question in a polite way.
Interviewer: What was the process like for finding an apartment in Japan?
Henry: It was time-consuming and stressful. I really didn’t expect the length of time it would take to find a home to rent in Japan. There were many factors that ruled us out of going for a property. There many times we were flat out told that someone couldn’t help us because my partner is a foreigner. It was upsetting and stressful and something I wouldn’t want anyone else thinking of moving to Japan to experience, every time we met with an estate agent I made sure to list out all the factors that were ‘disadvantages’ for us because I didn’t want to waste our time or the estate agent/landlords time. Before I started doing that, there were more times than I could think of that we thought we had the green light to rent a property but in the end was turned down due to some factors, the biggest ones being classed as a foreigner and the fact that I was starting a company which may mean financial instability.
Interviewer: Did you use any online platforms for the search or go straight to a local estate agent?
Henry: I only used Suumo, which is Japan’s biggest property information website. The reason being I didn’t want to go for housing that was only specifically marketed and priced for foreigners, I wanted to have the choice of finding my home sweet home and live in a house that everyone else in Japan could live in. I feel that being rejected for certain properties because of being a foreigner is wrong and this is something that needs to change.
Interviewer: And how was the experience using Suumo?
Henry: Suumo was an awful experience, there was far too much choice and too many outdated adverts that were neglected, comparing it to other online real estate markets such as the U.S. and U.K, Suumo just looked old like it has not kept up with the 21st century. I also experienced a lot of meeting with estate agents then being rejected once we met in person, in the end, I ended up prioritizing the use of local estate agents (luckily me and my partner can both speak Japanese) over Suumo because there wasn’t that instant communication available via the platform that could’ve of saved both me and the estate agents time.
Interviewer: So in conclusion, how long did it take to find your current apartment and how would you sum up your full experience?
Henry: Around four months! It was a long four months of back and forth with estate agents then finally focusing on using estate agents alone with Suumo. As for summing up the experience, it definitely is something I wouldn’t want to do ever again! Hence starting Homekuru, I hope that we can help others that are struggling to find their home in Japan and enhance their experience of living here.
Interviewer: Then how about if you were to find a property with Homekuru?
Henry: I would happily use Homekuru, call me biased but I believe with the tools and platform we have now we can solve many of the complications foreigners face when finding a property in Japan. I wouldn’t have to prove myself face to face anymore and list the disadvantages of me and my partner just to save us wasting time with estate agents, instead, we can complete our renter profiles online and go through a simple step by step process looking for a property. I would say we are changing the way we rent in Japan, modernizing this stressful process into something with enhanced user experience.
Co-founders of Homekuru: Motonari Shiga and Henry Knight.
With Homekuru, instead of sourcing properties that are just for ‘foreigners’, we find properties that are open to all - both Japanese citizens and foreigners. These are properties that are managed and marketed for the Japanese population but we at Homekuru, with our expertise, push these properties to also be open for foreigners, giving people that move to Japan a new experience.
Thanks for taking the time to read more about Homekuru, until next week on the blog...
The Homekuru editorial team.