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Singapore's MetroResidences steps into Japan's serviced-apartment biz

Rakuten-backed startup eyes demand from long-stay travellers

TOKYO -- Singapore-based broker MetroResidences will begin to place travelers in serviced apartments in Japan, hoping to attract foreign customers searching for alternatives to hotels and vacation rentals.

Serviced apartments are private, furnished rooms with cleaning, utensils, towels, internet and other features similar to hotels that can be rented for several weeks or months. All services are typically included in a basic fee.

There are several thousand serviced apartments in the Tokyo area alone, mainly catering to foreign businesspeople and wealthy individuals. The sector has attracted Sekisui House and other Japanese developers. But there are few comprehensive websites where users can search and apply for rooms in Japan.

MetroResidences, which counts Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten as an investor, established a Japanese subsidiary this spring. The company will soon launch a Japan-focused website that lists properties meeting certain conditions such as proximity to major transit stations, advertising rooms in English and Japanese. The company hopes to initially post about 70 units, expanding to 100 in three years.
Stays will start at a month. A 25-sq.-meter room with a kitchen will rent for roughly 250,000 yen ($2,265) per month, including fees, heat and electricity. Reservations can be made by e-mail or phone with a representative, but MetroResidences will enable users to book rooms themselves in the future.

MetroResidences will also support owners who want to use their properties as serviced apartments by delivering keys to guests and performing other property management duties.

Home sharing is also in the spotlight as a way to profit from vacant private residences. Although Japan recently passed legislation lifting the ban on Airbnb-style vacation rentals, the new law caps such use at 180 days annually, excluding certain areas. MetroResidences offers a way for owners of multiple such properties to increase profitability.

As one of Singapore's major serviced apartment brokers, MetroResidences does business with many multinationals and will use that corporate client base to attract customers in Japan.


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