When I first came to Japan with Interac, they took care of everything for me in terms of housing. They knew my schools (and therefore the general location), so I simply had to tell them what size apartment I wanted and they took care of the searching for me. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to specify the price, but they found a 1LDK for 63,000 a month, which was fine by me.
I should note that Interac Kansai dealt only with Leopalace rentals. You didn’t have a choice if you wanted another company. If you did, then you were on your own. (And I do know a few people who went that route.) Interac wouldn’t be a guarantor; the only way they’d be involved in the process was if they dealt with Leopalace themselves.
At the end of training, Interac Kansai took our money and gave us each a map to the rental offices. We were set free into the wild, not knowing which train lines to take (remember, we had only been to training for a week) or the layout of the area at all. This is also before majority of us got phone plans, so it was extra difficult…
But I managed to find the office relatively quickly, as they’re usually located next to stations. I signed a few papers while I was there and was given the keys to the Leopalace. Using a separate map from Interac to find the apartment, we went moved in without much of a hitch (though rolling the two suitcases for a 20+ minute walk was a bit of a challenge).
Despite hearing the horror stories about dealing with Leopalace and how they nickel and dime you for everything they can, our move out process went really smoothly. We didn’t have much time, but they took care of notifying Leopalace and scheduling an appointment for us. I was shocked at how on-top of things they were (in that aspect only, because the branch is a mess otherwise).
When I moved to Interac Kanto South, many of the rules were still in place. Interac wouldn’t be my guarantor, but they didn’t limit themselves to only Leopalace. Instead, they dealt with the rental company Mini Mini. This meant that a lot more apartments were available, and (perhaps more importantly) they weren’t Leopalace apartments!
I gave Interac the requirements for our new place: 2DK/1LDK (I had grown accustomed to the space), near X Station, and 70,000 yen or below. They came back shortly after with one option. It was a 2DK priced at 73,000 yen. It was a bit far from X Station, but it was the only option available at the time and our contracts were almost up, so we were really left with no other choice.
We lived there for a year (which is how long the leasing contract is before you can move out without incurring an early move out fee) before we decided that the commute was too far and we want to move. We asked Interac for help again, and they reluctantly agreed, saying something about how they weren’t technically allowed to do this. What “this” is, I still don’t know, but they found some apartments for us anyway.
Without getting into the specifics, the apartments that they sent us weren’t at all what we were looking for. There was only one promising one, and we actually went in person to see it… But it was a bit too small. We emailed Interac saying no, and they essentially gave up and told us that we would have better luck going into the Mini Mini office ourselves.
We ended up going, partially because we were getting desperate and partially because it was close enough to the station that we didn’t mind just popping in and checking it out. Anyway, we ended up popping in and it was surprisingly easy.
Interac had already been in contact with the shop and our current apartment was under them, so we didn’t have to do any setup or answer any questions. We went straight to looking for apartments. Again, we gave our criteria. And there were a few more places that came up, but nothing stellar. We decided to see a few anyway. We scheduled a viewing for 5 listings for the following weekend.
We went back the next weekend and met the same woman who found the places for us. She told us that we could only see two of them (she explained why but I didn’t understand it) and then she led us on our way.
She drove us to the apartments in the Mini Mini company car. It was my first time apartment hunting, but it was also my first time in a company car, practically being chauffeured around, in Japan. Living here for a while, you become used to not getting preferential treatment or just being treated like a gaijin, so it was surprising that we were being treated as a Japanese person looking for an apartment would be (especially since Japanese housing companies are generally overtly racist).
The apartments we were looking at actually weren’t in the jurisdiction of that Mini Mini shop, so not only was it a pretty far drive (over 15 minutes) but the employee also had to stop at the downtown Mini Mini and pick up the keys there. Then she drove us to the apartments and let us in to view them.
Unfortunately, neither apartments were very good. They had warned us that the houses were old, but they were cheap. I thought I wouldn’t mind some older apartments—I mean, I didn’t need top-of-the-line with a video doorbell and new wood floors—but I definitely wanted somewhere with heat and somewhere free of mold.
…But the places we viewed couldn’t even promise that much. They were in pretty rough shape: mold on the walls, counters rusted through, broken tatami, no heat or cooling, etc. They were so old that one even had an old school toilet, one of those half-squatters with the big tank, with the water heater next to it. None of these were going to be remodeled. They were so bad that the employee who was viewing them with us actually apologized at the state they were in.
Needless to say, we left without signing for either place. The woman took us back to the shop and tried to look for a few more places, but we had really exhausted everything in our price range with the specifications that we gave. She said we were welcome to try again next month, as it was prime moving season and everyone was trying to find a new place to live, so places were getting snatched up quickly.
We thanked her (honestly, as she had done a lot for us and we were very grateful) and left. Originally, we had planned to return the next month and try again, but we soon realized that was quite a while to wait. So in the meantime, we tried to find a new apartment without Interac’s help… And in some ways, going through a guarantor company was much easier.