real estate

How to choose Real Estate Agent in Japan

There are plenty of real estate agencies that can show you thousands of apartments. However, in Japan it is especially hard to distinguish a good real estate agent – even Japanese themselves find it difficult. In this article you are going to learn a secret how to distinguish a good agency via internet.

Look for the license number (免許番号)

Every agency has a license number which directly shows how long it exists: the bigger the number is, the older is the agency. This also means that an agent with number ten on the license should have more articles and more objects to show than an agent with number one.

Just visit the agency’s website and look for their license number – it would be the best comparison point for the real estate agencies. However, there are some secrets here that we would like to tell you.

Quick and easy structure of license number

  • The number increases by one every five years;
  • The number decreases because of penalties.

How to find the license number

  1. Visit agency’s website/internet store;
  2. Go to the store’s profile, overview or stuff information;
  3. Look for “免許番号 (License Number)”
    (if the website is only in Japanese, use Google translator).

You will find the number in the brackets, as in the example below:

免許番号:国土交通大臣(4) 第6225号
License Number: Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (4) No. 6225

Look only for the number inside the brackets – here it is (5). The four-digit number in the end is just a store’s registration number. Every store has to show their license number and there are no exceptions, so you must be able to find it somewhere on the website.

Big license number = Long existence, but ≠ High trustworthy

The license number is an ultimate point of comparison when choosing a real estate agent, but it does not reflect everything. It would be too easy to assume that one agency is better than the other just because it has a longer license number. Here are some examples that prove it is not always like that:

  • A real estate agency has a good reputation and shows great results through honest customer service, so they open a new store in a new area. The new store will get number 1 on the license.
  • The person worked as a sole proprietor for 30 years and the license developed to number 7. However, when he incorporated due to the business succession, the license number restarted from 1.

We can say that in both cases real estate agents are actually good and trustworthy even though the number on the license is 1.


If you have no idea which real estate is good, the license number is an ultimate indicator. The license number shows how long does the store exist. It can be implied that the older store should have more information and more objects to show, but it is not equal to credibility. After all, you should make a final decision about the agency’s reliability judging by the service and your own feeling from the direct conversation with the agent.

Yuki Nagahori
BA in German / Japan Country Manager at editorial company → Sales → currently sales planner based in Hamburg, Germany