Apartments in South Korea – All about renting a flat

Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
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Today, we’ll learn about Apartments in South Korea. Specifically, we’ll give you a beginner’s guide on how to rent a flat in South Korea. 

If you plan to stay in Korea longer, you should definitely familiarize yourself with how to look for an apartment and how the Korean apartment market works.

Different apartments lined up with a red car on the right

To make all that easier for you, we’ve done a lot of research on the topic. So read on below for more useful information on getting an apartment in South Korea! If you’re in the market for Seoul Apartments or house hunting in South Korea, this article is for you!

Let’s get to it.

We included several Korean words in this article. If you can’t read Hangul yet, you can learn it in just 90 minutes. You can also check out our structured course guaranteed to help you learn Korean fast and efficiently (this is especially helpful when you’re apartment hunting).

Things to consider before searching for Korean apartments

First and foremost, before you even start looking at apartments, you should organize your needs, wants, and requirements when it comes to where you’ll live. This can significantly impact what types of apartments and accommodation you’ll be looking at. Here are some essentials:

Your length of stay in Korea

As far as actual apartments go, the rental contracts typically start from 1 year. So if you’re staying for less than that, it may be less hassle to consider alternative types of accommodations instead, such as shared apartments and shared houses.

Your budget

Mind you, apartments in Korea typically have a higher key deposit to pay in comparison to other countries, usually starting from 5,000,000won (approximately $4500) and up. You’ll get this money back at the end of your stay, but it may be difficult to cough up that kind of money to begin with. But if paying a large key deposit is no objection, then you have no problem!

Your special  requirements

What are things that you want (or need) in an apartment? When imagining your future apartment in South Korea, what are the things you particularly look for? These can be about the location of the apartment or other amenities that you might need on a daily basis.

Do you need a balcony and free wifi? Do you need private parking or free parking? Do you need the place to be within walking distance from the subway station or city center? Or perhaps you might want it to be near a park or the national museum.

Apartments in Seoul

Take note that apartments in Seoul can be quite expensive.  The city is quickly becoming densely populated, and with that kind of development, the cost of living can skyrocket. If you are looking for Seoul Apartments for sale or rent, having adequate money set aside may be helpful.

Another thing to consider is size. Apartments in significantly larger cities like Seoul are generally smaller in size.  In fact, some would consider getting a larger apartment in big cities like Seoul a luxury. If you want a larger place to rent in Korea, you must come financially prepared. 

Other things to consider

Can you live with other people? What about the layout and size of the apartment? These are also some questions you should ask yourself while making preliminary decisions, although remaining flexible will provide more options.

Apartment building with orange doors

How to find an apartment for rent in South Korea

Once you have sorted out some of the basics of what type of place you want to live in and what you can afford, it’s time to get started on the search.

Know that the apartment market in Korea moves at a hectic speed, so there isn’t a solid need to sign up for anything until a week or two before arrival. Do not commit to anything until you are already in Korea and have seen your new apartment in person first.

You’ll usually have a lot of options to choose from. Here are some of the main ways to find your Korean apartment or other accommodation while you’re living in Korea.

Table in an apartment with a candle and some books on it

Realtors in Korea

This is the best way to get your apartment and rental contract in Korea. Choose the neighborhood or neighborhoods you are interested in finding a home and visit realtors in the area to have them show you around. Tell them what kind of apartment you are looking for, especially your budget.

Depending on availability and your limitations, they’ll usually offer you around ten apartments in one go. You don’t need to decide on an apartment on the spot, although it’s typically advised to choose quickly if one interests you. The downside of going directly to realtors is that they do not usually speak any English, so you’ll want to take someone who can speak Korean with you.

Apps

There are apps like dabang (다방) and jikbang (직방) with which you can view rooms and their prices in specific neighborhoods without actually visiting them. You can’t actually rent one directly through the app, however.

It will give you the realtor’s contact information in charge of renting it out. Using these apps allows you to get some advanced insight into the apartment you’re interested in before taking on the tour.

And when you do go to the realtor’s office, make sure that they show you other rooms as well since sometimes the pictures give out a different impression of the room than what it looks like in reality, or the apartment in question is no longer on the market, but the information hasn’t been updated yet.

Craigslist

There are a lot of apartments and rooms in shared apartments available here. The price is usually lower than if you go through a realtor, but you typically won’t make the actual rental contract. Most of Craigslist is also in English!

Other services

There are many websites and apps from small start-up companies offering translation services and further help in finding an apartment in Korea. If you can afford this, it’s definitely a service to make your moving process smoother!

Bedroom with white walls and black and white furniture

Rent Payment Options

When you rent an apartment in Korea,  you’ll have two options to pay your rent.

These will be the same for Koreans and foreigners. Although most foreigners will fall into the first category, you’ll likely have been in Korea for a long time with a well-established status and job before you’ll try the second. Perhaps you have already been in the country for a while for work.

Paying monthly (wolse | 월세)

This is sort of a no-brainer, as it will be similar to how most of us would spend our rent in our respective home countries. You’ll pay the key deposit, which can be 5,000,000won or even more than 20,000,000won, and then you will pay the regular monthly rent every month.

If you pay with 월세 (wolse), there is some flexibility in extending your rental contract if you end up liking your apartment a lot, and you’ll get the key deposit back when you move out. It is also possible to negotiate whether it’d be possible to pay a higher rent for a smaller key deposit or the other way around.

Paying everything in advance (jeonse | 전세)

In the long run, this is the more sensible option, but obviously, it’s a lot of money to put in; think about multiplying that 5,000,000won key deposit by six at least.

Typically the Koreans who go for 전세 (jeonse) get a loan from their bank, but while it is also possible for some foreigners, it may be overwhelming to navigate, especially if you aren’t fluent in Korean yet. The advantage of this option is that there’s no monthly rental fee, and you even get the money back when you move out! This option is far less common these days, though.

Of course, in neighborhoods like Itaewon, you may find apartments with a smaller key deposit burden, so don’t break into a cold sweat just yet!

Additionally, for shared apartments, shared houses, and other types of accommodation, the renting may happen a bit differently (and more cheaply) than it does for your very own wonrum (원룸) or a Korean-style studio apartment.

Helpful Vocabulary for Apartment Hunting in Korea

Here are some common Korean words you can come across while looking for an apartment in South Korea. Knowing these can surely help make your apartment hunting a lot easier.

“Apartment” in Korean

“Apartment” in Korean is 아파트 (apateu). It’s a place of residence for a lot of Koreans. Koreans would say this when referring to an apartment or a large block of apartments. 

“Contract” in Korean

The word for “contract” in Korean is 계약 (gyeyak). This is a document containing all the legal information you need when renting an apartment. Make sure to read it thoroughly!

“Rent” in Korean

월세 (wolse) is the Korean word for rent being paid monthly. It’s similar to how the rest of the world usually pays rent.

“Rent-free deposit” in Korean

Rent-free deposit or paying everything in advance is 전세 (jeonse) in Korean. It’s a less common option of payment.

“Deposit” in Korean

보증금 (bojeunggeum) means “deposit” in Korean. A security deposit is usually part of the first payment in renting an apartment.

“Maintenance fee” in Korean 

관리비 (gwallibi) means “maintenance fee” in Korean. 

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 90 minutes!

Regardless of how long you’re planning to stay, know that there is no shortage of options to choose from.

What house-hunting advice would you give to would-be South Korean residents? Let us know in the comments below!

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