I recently went looking for a new apartment to live in with my partner and, after going to a real estate agency, was able to find an apartment which closely fit our needs. Unfortunately, since we went looking quite early, the apartment wasn't yet vacated and we were unable to actually view the apartment, but nonetheless made an application. We were approved and, before receiving a copy of the contract or any details from the management company of the apartment, were invoiced for an agency fee (仲介手数料) of a month's rent.
After contacting the agency and saying that I wanted to confirm the final contract and other details before paying the agency fee, they insisted that I have to pay it in advance in order for them to show this to the management company which will then be able to move forward with the procedures, and further that there are other people waiting for for the apartment. This sounded a bit shady to me, since 1) my understanding is that usually the agency fees are paid when you sign the contract, 2) it would mean I am put in a situation where they have a month's worth of rent before I have even reviewed the final details, and 3) it came off as them being a bit desperate to get me to pay asap. If I hypothetically want to pull out, I feel like they would have the upper hand, even if I–as far as I understand it–am legally entitled to receive a refund should I decline the apartment.
Otherwise, I have no signs that the agency (which is established, with probably over ten offices) and the management office are suspicious.
Any advice? Thanks!