Before looking for an apartment, take a look at your budget and your goals. Knowing how much you can spend will help you easily identify the type of housing you can afford.
Once you’ve set your budget, evaluate your housing needs and wants. How much space do you need? What features are a must in your rental place? What are your preferences regarding accessibility, building age, floor size, elevator, and noise level?
Knowing the answers to these questions will make it easier for you to find the right place that will suit your needs and budget.
1. Find a location
Your first step is to find a place to rent. Finding a new place is not easy. This is true whether you are in Korea or any other country. But there are ways to streamline the finding process.
Ask help from a reputable real estate agent. The best way is to directly approach a professional English speaking real estate agent and ask if his or her agency have any available rental property at the moment. This is the most efficient process because the real estate agent will take all your considerations in mind before presenting to you a property.
If you’re stumped on finding an English-speaking real estate agent, continue reading and we’ll help introduce one of our very own professional realtors in Seoul fluent in Korean and English.
2. Schedule a visit
Once your agent has prepared several options for you, it’s time to visit the different homes. You’ll want to ask your realtor all the important questions regarding to your housing such as management fee, space, additional amenities, etc.
Here are some other things you could ask your agent, when discussing about your specifications.
One of the first questions your agent may ask you would be your budget, this will allow them to search their database for all the houses that are within your range. Most single apartments in Seoul are start off around 500,000 won a month ($500 USD). You’ll also have to pay your management fee (관리비) separately (normally around 50,000 won ($50 USD).
For places such as Gangnam, expect to pay around 1,000,000 won a month ($1000 USD) for a singles studio apartment. If you’re coming to Korea as a family, you’ll want to consider moving to a less densely populated area in Seoul. Otherwise, you may have to pay up to around 5,000,000 won ($5000) for a simple 4 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Apgujeong or Cheongdam, Gangnam-gu.
Old building vs New building
You’ll usually come across the issue where you’ll need to choose between a modern looking house versus a spacious house of a similar budget. The general idea is that newer buildings tend to be more modern, but less roomy. Whereas older buildings have a lot more real estate due to the age of the building. You may have to consider your options and take a look at the place in person.
Distance from Nearest Bus/Subway
This is a very important point you’ll have to note when meeting your realtor, especially in a big city like Seoul. Living closer to a station means that you’ll have a lot more flexibility of places you can travel to. There are also many restaurants and shopping centers near subway stations.
What type of apartment are you looking for?
If you want to live by yourself in Korea, then the option for a one-room or studio apartment in a villa or officetel would be most suitable for your needs. It’s very small but quite comfortable for one person. If you have a family, you’d want to get an actual Korean apartment.
Furnished or Unfurnished
This highly depends on what you want or need. If you want to rent a fully furnished house, then just ask your realtor and that could be arranged. However, it would usually cost a bit more than unfurnished houses. You will be able to negotiate with your realtor and landlord in regards to this.
Make sure to ask about additional fees, this will tie into the overall cost of the apartment. You’ll want to know how much the Management Fee (관리비) is. It’s also good to ask if you’ll be paying utilities, gas, water and electricity separately. Some apartments may include internet as part of their management fee, but it’s best to confirm with the realtor.
What floor is it in?
In Korea, it’s very common to inquire which floor your apartment is in. There are some floors which are much cheaper than others, and with good reason. For example, the semi-basement (반지하) floor is commonly avoided among Koreans as they can compromise your safety as people can have easy access to your apartment unit.
As you’ll be living in the apartment for quite some time, it would be a good idea to ask more about your Landlord. This would go a long way into building the right relationship with the person who’ll be in charge of your housing issues.
3. Decide fast
In Korea, everything moves fast. You need to decide fast but don’t be pressured into deciding right away unless you are sure about the property. Remember, renting a property is quite costly, and you cannot get a refund if you don’t finish the contract, so consider your decision well.
If you decide not to ask for help from a professional real estate agent and instead find a rental property on your own, bear in mind that you will be dealing with landlords. This is ill-advised and not recommended at all, worst case scenario is you may get scammed and may end up losing all your money.
Once you’ve made a decision, inform your real estate agent so the rental contract can be prepared.
4. Complete your paperwork
Negotiate fairly but firmly. Though many of the landlords are good, you may encounter someone who’ll charge you for unnecessary fees. Signing the dotted line and secure an official record.
Tenancy lease usually lasts for two years. After that, the landlord can also revisit the contract and renegotiate the rental fee.
When you and the landlord have both signed the lease agreement, the next step is to take it to the registry office to secure an official record of the deposit paid called the Hwak-jeong-il-ja.
Congratulations! You now have a place to stay. That’s one less worry off your list. Now it’s time to start enjoying the vibrant lifestyle Korea offers.
Whether its your first time looking to find a place or you’re a long time resident, the hassle of finding a good apartment in Korea can be tiresome. Location Korea is determined to bridge the gap between foreign expats living in Korea and Korean culture. We’re here to help you in making your stay in Korea convenient, interesting and exciting.