Metropolitan Tokyo offers expats of all means a variety of options with respect to living arrangements. From business motels to luxury hotels, short-stay apartments, standard and “mansion” apartments, furnished apartments, and condominiums, there are an endless amount of choices for expat singles, couples, and families.

Tokyo’s rental rates are often compared to New York and London, with the majority of the price tag based on location within the city, proximity to public transportation (most commonly one or several train stations), and size. A variety of other factors play into how monthly rent is appraised, but these by far are the most important issues. Monthly rental rates have been fairly stable over the past decade or so and while the global economic crisis has had some impact on these rates, the expectation is that leases will continue to remain stable for years to come, although a variety of discounted living arrangements have been reported in Tokyo in the latter half of 2009 and the first six months of 2010.

Tokyo apartments often are sized from around 30m2 (323 sq ft) to well over 200m2 (2,150 sq ft). Some offer full amenities, while others require the personal addition of a washer and dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, and other potential necessities.

There are plenty of apartments and condominiums available that are 10 years old or less, but there is also an abundance of much older properties, some dating back to the 1960’s. There are a number of newer high rises in the city, but the majority of apartment and condominium complexes are no more than eight to 10 stories tall – due in part to the fact that Tokyo is earthquake prone. As new earthquake resistance technologies are established, however, real estate developers are creating taller buildings to accommodate Tokyo’s growing population.

Most landlords are welcoming of expat residents, but how “welcoming” a landlord is, is typically determined during the rental application process. This is one of the many reasons why working with a real estate agent is of the utmost importance in selecting a place to live. Real estate agents accustomed to working with foreigners are also crucial in helping to negotiate the terms of a rental contract including “key money”, “deposit”, and other obligations which are discussed later in this guide.

Expats that settle in Tokyo for a great length of time may choose to purchase a condominium either as the primary residence or as an investment home. Not unlike preparing to rent an apartment, real estate agents are very helpful in this regard as well, and can help in navigating the sometimes complicated requirements for purchasing a home in Japan.

Whatever the case, renting or buying a home in Tokyo has its challenges and complexities, but in the end, the experience is generally very rewarding.