Asia,  South Korea

Apartment Hunting in Korea

Searching for housing in Korea may be time-consuming, and definitely challenging for a foreigner. However, with the right amount of support and determination, finding that perfect place is worth the energy. After living in a guesthouse for the past three weeks, it was time to start seriously looking for our own housing. Although this was the beginning of our fourth year in Korea, we had never had the need to search for accommodations. We were always provided with somewhat mediocre housing by our employers. This time however, we were driven to find a very comfortable and cozy place, in a great location.

Location—Narrowing it Down.

It is an excellent idea to actually narrow down the area in which you would like to live. In almost every district there are realtor offices. The best way to discover the possible housing available is to walk confidently into one of these offices and simply ask. It is highly recommended that you have a Korean friend or translator to help ease the arduous experience if you dealing with a realtor, who has limited English skills. When considering the a location, you may want to contemplate the following factors: accessibility of transportation, convenience of supermarkets, shops, gym, and/or parks.

Apartment or Officetel?

Firstly, it is important to understand that apartments in Korea usually come with no appliances whatsoever. If you are foreigner in Korea, and do not desire to spend the time nor money purchasing a fridge, AC, stove, or washing machine, then you should really consider looking for an officetel. The places known as officietels come with the basic appliances mentioned above, but usually are much smaller than apartments. In fact, it is extremely difficult to find an officetel that will have two-bedrooms. They usually are designed as lofts or studios.

Consider your Financial Situation.

Unlike in Canada, when renting a place the landlord expects the tenant to deposit key money. The amount of key money requested basically depends on the landlord’s request. The usual amount of key money is between 5 000 million won to 10 000 million won. The rule is fairly simple, the more money you deposit, the lower the rent will be. For example, if you deposit 5 000 million won, your rent may be 650 000 won. However, if you can afford to deposit 10 000 million won, then your rent may be reduced to 600 000 won. This key money is returned back to the tenant at the end of their contract. It is however, important to make sure the landlord is financially stable and not likely to be become bankrupt. It is the realtor’s job to do this background check.

A Realtor is Helpful.

It is very difficult to rent a place without contacting a realtor. A realtor will help show you the housing that available in your desired area. The realtor is responsible for all the paperwork and background checks of the landlord (which I mentioned earlier). It is law, that a tenant must pay a realtor’s fee. Foreigners need to be careful that they are not overcharged. A reasonable realtor’s fee is usually around 300 000 won. However, the amount of fee the agent charges also depends on the type and size of your housing. Thus, there is no set fee.

Finalizing the Agreement

Once the decision has been made to sign the lease, both parties (yourself and landlord) in the presence of the realtor will sign an agreement. Usually the housing contracts in Korea are one year. If you break your contract early, you will be most likely have to find a replacement tenant. Otherwise, it may be problematic whether you will be returned your key money deposit.

Happy hunting!

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