While getting an apartment in Korea may not be of much concern to you if you are only planning to travel in Korea, it will be a big deal if you’ll be working here and staying for longer. In that case, you absolutely should familiarize yourself with how the Korean apartment market works. And also, you should conduct research on your needs, what options there are out there, and what requirements there are. To make all that easier for you, we’ve done a lot of the research for you. Read on for our advice about getting an apartment in South Korea!
WHAT TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT BEFORE BEGINNING THE APARTMENT HUNT?
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 have a big impact on 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 share 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!
- 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.
WHERE TO START LOOKING FOR APARTMENTS?
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 itself. Know that the apartment market in Korea moves at a hectic speed, so there isn’t a strong need to sign up for anything until a week or two before arrival. Better yet, 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 which you can find your Korean apartment or other accommodation while you’re living in Korea.
- Realtors – This is the absolute best way to get your own 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, and especially what your budget is. They’ll usually show you around 10 apartments in one go, depending on availability and your limitations. You don’t need to decide on an apartment on the spot, although it’s typically advised to choose quickly if there is one that 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 jibbang (집방) 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 contact information of the realtor in charge of renting it out. By using these apps, you’ll get some advance insight on the apartment you’re interested in, before you’re taken 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 it typically won’t be you making the actual rental contract. Most of Craigslist is also in English!
- Other services – In addition, there are many websites and apps from small start up companies offering translation services as well as other help in finding an apartment in Korea. If you can afford this, it’s definitely a service to use in order to make your moving in process smoother!
WHAT KIND OF RENT PAYMENT OPTIONS ARE THERE FOR YOUR APARTMENT?
When you are renting an apartment in Korea, whether it’s for 1 year or longer, there are two main ways with which you can pay your rent. These will be the same for Koreans and foreigners, although most foreigners will fall into the first category, and you’ll likely have been in Korea for a long time with a well-established status before you’ll try the second.
- Paying monthly aka wolse (월세): This is sort of a no-brainer, as it will be similar to how most of us would pay 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 normal monthly rent each and every month. If you pay with 월세, 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 possible to also 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 aka jeonse (전세): In the long run, this is actually 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 6 at least. Typically the Koreans who go for 전세 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 to this option is that there’s no monthly rent 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 cold sweat just yet! Additionally, for shared apartments, share 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) aka a Korean style studio apartment.
Regardless of how long you’re planning to stay, know that there are no shortage of options to choose from.
What house hunting advise would you give to would-be South Korea residents? Let us know in the comments below!