Housing in Okinawa: Everything you need to know

Due to the U.S. Military presence in Okinawa, housing can be less complicated to secure as a foreigner than on mainland Japan. I’ve put this resource together to help answer common questions related to securing housing in Okinawa. This page was last updated Nov, 2020. 

  1. What’s the average apartment/house size in Okinawa?
  2. What’s the average rent in Okinawa?
  3. What are the average move-in costs?
  4. Understanding housing ads
  5. Rental terms
  6. Paying rent and bills in Okinawa
  7. List of agencies in Okinawa
  8. List of English websites with housing rentals
  9. List of Japanese website with housing rentals

What’s the average apartment/house size in Okinawa?

In general, housing in Okinawa is considerably smaller than in Western countries. Apartments average around 592 square feet (55 square meters) and houses average around 1152 square feet (107 square meters).

What’s the average rent in Okinawa?

Taking the averages between two sources (costof.live and numbeo.com), here’s the average rent in Okinawa as of November, 2020:

  • 1 bedroom in city center: $606
  • 1 bedroom outside city center: $457
  • 3 bedroom in city center: $1,650
  • 3 bedroom outside city center: $797

What are the average move-in costs in Okinawa?

Anywhere between $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the size of your apartment/house and the agency or owner.

What do these initial costs include?

First Month’s Rent + Deposit + Key Money + Agency Fee + Maintenance Fee + Property/Fire Insurance

  • Deposit – Deposit is usually the same as the rent. As long as there is not damage, the deposit is usually refunded minus a cleaning fee when you move out.
  • Key Money – This is unique to Japan and is seen as a gift to the owner for allowing you to live there. It’s non-refundable and the amount is anywhere between 1 to 3 months rent. Key money is less common in Okinawa with the agencies that mainly rent to foreigners. As you venture out to agencies less familiar with foreigners, the more often you’ll see this fee.
  • Agency Fee – This is commission charged by the agency and is non-refundable. It’s typically equal to 1-month rent or less.
  • Maintenance Fee – This is a common fee that is monthly and added to the rent. It goes toward maintaining common areas like lobbies, elevators, cleaning, etc.
  • Property/Fire Insurance – This is a mandatory fee and is around $200 per 2 years of coverage.

Understanding housing ads

Housing ads often look something like this:

  • 2LDK
  • 1K
  • 3DK

What do these mean?

The number represents how many bedrooms the apartment or house has. The letters are defined below:

  • = living room
  • D = dining room
  • = kitchen

For example:

  • 2LDK = 2 bedroom house/apartment with a living room, dining room, and kitchen
  • 1K = 1 bedroom house/apartment with just a kitchen; there’s no dining room or living room.
  • 3DK = 3 bedroom house/apartment with a dining room and kitchen; there’s no living room.

Rental terms

Most agencies and owners ask for a one or two year lease. It’s important to ask and clarify if and what the penalty fee is for breaking that. Often times agencies that are used to working with foreigners are used to unexpected vacancies and price this into the rent already. So, getting out of the lease is usually straight forward and will cost you one month’s rent to break. It’s best to clarify this in the beginning though.

Paying rent & bills in Okinawa

Housing agencies in Okinawa allow you to pay your rent and bills in-person or through your Japanese bank account. If you’re SOFA status, you likely won’t be able to open a Japanese bank account and paying in-person every month can get old.

Another option is G.I. Bill Pay. For a small monthly fee, all of your bills are sent to G.I. Bill Pay and they automatically pull money from your U.S. bank account, convert it into Japanese Yen, and pay your bills.

List of housing agencies in Okinawa

List of English websites with housing rentals

These are helpful sites and are used mostly by agencies who serve the foreign population in Okinawa. I think you’ll find, however, that agencies usually don’t list all of their properties here, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s best to go directly to the agency for a complete list of available properties.

Housing Okinawa – housingokinawa.com

OkiStyle – www.okistyle.com/realestate

List of Japanese websites with housing rentals

The websites below are where most agencies advertise their rentals. It’s important to know though that many agencies that advertise here aren’t necessarily used to working with foreigners. It’s very likely you will call and the agency and there will be nobody who can help you in English. Also, even if you do manage to navigate the language, often times the agents will contact the owners to ask if they’re willing to rent to a foreigner. It’s not rare for the answer to be “no.”

So, the websites below are probably more useful for foreigners with spouses who are Japanese nationals. Foreigners who are residents of Japan (that is have a residence card) are more likely to have more success than SOFA members. If you’re SOFA status, you’ll probably save yourself a lot of time by using an agency from the List of Housing Agencies.

GooHomegoohome.jp

Uchinae-uchina.net