Facts and What to Consider When International Residents Look for a Place to Live 【Part.1】
Interview with Mr. Goto, Representative Director and President of Global Trust Networks Co., Ltd. That Operates a Real Estate Website Specialized for People from Abroad, BEST-ESTATE.JP
Nowadays, the term, "globalization" is commonly used, and the economy in Japan cannot be made without connections with people around the world. Also, we can say that international residents living, studying, and working in Japan are playing an important role. According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, the number of residents from abroad in this country is over 2.76 million.
When those people from abroad try to find a place to live in Japan, many of them seem to get confused with the procedures to make a lease contract because the processes are different from the ones at home and there is always some kind of hurdle. So, to learn the facts about housing and what the company provides for international residents to live in Japan, we interviewed Mr. Goto, a representative director and president of Global Trust Networks Co., Ltd. (GTN) which operates a real estate website specialized for people from abroad, BEST-ESTATE.JP.
Hiroyuki Goto / 後藤 裕幸
Representative Director and President of Global Trust Networks Co., Ltd.
Goto was born in 1978 in Kumamoto prefecture. While at university, he started an IT business. In 2003, Goto founded Mu Gate Ltd., Mu Co., Ltd. in the following year, and Global Trust Networks Co., Ltd. (GTN) in 2006.
Based on their corporate philosophy, "外国人が日本に来てよかったをカタチに (: Making Your Stay in Japan Great)", GTN started to address social problems as a total lifestyle support company for international residents. Its business includes a real estate website specialized for people from abroad, BEST-ESTATE.JP, rent guarantor service, real estate, mobile service, credit card business, human resources, etc. In 2016, GTN was selected as one of the 100 Great Start-ups by Toyo Keizai Magazine.
Goto has appeared on TV programs such as, "Gacchiri Monday", NHK-WORLD's "Rising", "NHK Special: Reiwa Mirai Kaigi 2020, Kaikoku-ron (: Reiwa Future Conference 2020, Idea to be open to the World)", "Nikkei Plus 10: SDGs eno michi (: Road to SDGs)", "Sakagami & Sashihara no Tsuburenai Mise (: Sakagami & Sashihara's Establishments That Never Fail)", etc. He also wrote a book, "外国人と共生するニッポンへ (: To become Japan that coexists with people from abroad)".
―Your company has a 16-year experience in total lifestyle support services specialized for international residents since its establishment. What are the different characteristics of your real estate website, BEST-ESTATE.JP, compared to the ones of other companies?
First, I'd like to start talking about the background of the establishment of BEST-ESTATE.JP. There used to be a problem that people from abroad could not rent a place to live because they did not have a guarantor. So, in July of 2006, we started our company offering a rent guarantor service to solve the problem. That is our starting point.
＜What is GTN Rental Guarantor Service?＞
Normally, a guarantor must be a parent or a relative of the resident, but most people from overseas do not have one in Japan and are not eligible to rent a place. When our company was founded, guarantor companies were just beginning to be known, and the customers to whom every company was offering their service were Japanese. However, GTN is designed especially for people from outside of Japan, and offer the service for those who do not have a guarantor in this country.
The properties posted on BEST-ESTATE.JP are managed or owned by property management companies and landlords that welcome residents from abroad. Now, our website has been carried out for almost 15 years and has a relatively high reputation.
So, those are some the differences.
―What kind of international residents have a lease contract via BEST-ESTATE.JP, and about how many are there?
60% of international residents who have a lease contract via BEST-ESTATE.JP are students and 40% are adult workers.
The number of people who have a contract with GTN via BEST-ESTATE.JP and other real estate agencies is about 4,000 to 6,000 a month, and 50,000 to 60,000 a year.
―What kind of inquiries are often made by international residents who visited BEST-ESTATE.JP?
I can give some examples of common inquiries we receive before moving in, during tenancy, and when moving out.
< Before Moving In >
Making a Lease Contract Before Entering Japan is Difficult
Suppose that there is a student who is starting school in April.
Their visa would be issued around late February to early March, and they will need to find a place to live from that point. However, it takes money and time to take a flight all the way to Japan and stay for a little while just to look for an apartment.
Our company offers a service that allows applicants to be screened and approved and make a housing contract while still at home.
These days, 2D and 3D information on properties is abundant, digital disclosure (: to make a disclosure statement required for a housing contract by using a digital device) is permitted, and electronic contracts are valid, too.
70 to 80% of the customers of BEST-ESTATE.JP make a contract before coming to Japan without visiting and touring properties.
Of course, they can visit our branches and look for a place and make a contract with our staff’s support too. We have one in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo, and another in Namba, Osaka, both of which our multi-national staff are welcoming.
< During Tenancy >
Lease Contract Cancellation and Troubles When Needing to Be Away from the Property Unexpectedly
This is what happened when COVID-19 pandemic spread. Some residents had been back home for the Chinese New Year and when they tried to return to Japan in April, they could not even enter this country. It was too much to keep paying for the rent while out of Japan, so they wanted to cancel their lease contract, but didn’t know how to. Lease contract cancellation from outside Japan is difficult when their valuables and other unnecessary things are still in the room. If this case happens to normal property management companies or landlords, contacting international residents back home or their parents would be difficult for them. However, GTN has been successful to deal with those situations by communicating overseas.
< When Moving Out >
Complicated Moving Out Process
This is the most common, most difficult, and often most provoking topic of inquiries. This is because the system of a property management company is unique to Japan. It is an agency service for landlords, and contract documents are required and valued as evidence for the whole procedure of moving out including returning keys. However, in other countries, a lease contract is directly made between a resident and a landlord. That is why people from abroad seem to think the Japanese system is complicated and troublesome.
As for this issue, GTN is successful to bonding with the residents and companies to communicate smoothly.