Apartment hunting in Korea

:

I recently went through the harrowing experience of finding a new apartment in Busan, Korea. Finding a new apartment anywhere is stressful, but things felt even more unstable with the language barrier and culture differences. I wanted to share some quick thoughts in hopes that this would help someone else.

Koreans tend to live by a “bali-bali” (fast-fast) lifestyle, and apartment hunting is no exception. Start searching for an apartment 2-4 weeks before you need to move. It is very common to look an apartment and transfer money (the initial deposit) on the same day. 

I recently went through the harrowing experience of finding a new apartment in Busan, Korea. Finding a new apartment anywhere is stressful, but things felt even more unstable with the language barrier and culture differences. I wanted to share some quick thoughts in hopes that this would help someone else.

Koreans tend to live by a “bali-bali” (fast-fast) lifestyle, and apartment hunting is no exception. Start searching for an apartment 2-4 weeks before you need to move. It is very common to look an apartment and transfer money (the initial deposit) on the same day. 

First, figure out your ideal move-in date (입주일), location/neighborhood (위치/지역), key money deposit range (보증금 범위), monthly rent range (월세 금액 범위), contract period (계약기간) for one or two years, and desired housing type -Studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom (주거 형태 – 원룸, 방 1 개, 방 2 개). Keep in mind that a Korean studio has the kitchen and bedroom in one room, while a 1 bedroom has the kitchen and bedroom separate. A 2 bedroom is what Americans would refer to as an actual 1 bedroom. It seems that Koreans refer to each room as a “bedroom,” including what Americans think of as merely a living room.

I recommend checking the Koreabridge housing classifieds직방다방, and 부동산 (real estate offices). The classifieds are in English, but the selection is limited. The phone apps for those two sites are only in Korean, but relatively intuitive. You can send text messages to individual realtors as their numbers are listed on each listing. Then, arrange to meet up to see the apartments. Different real estate offices/agents have different properties. I recommend walking into as many as you can and just telling them what you’re looking for. They’ll arrange a few apartments for you to view.

When viewing an apartment, make sure to ask how much it is (얼마예요?) in regards to deposit, monthly rent, building fee (관리비), and options/furnishings – washing machine, stove, A/C, refrigerator (어떤 옵션 – 세탁기, 가스레인지, 에어컨, 냉장고). If utilities aren’t included in the cost of the rent, they usually don’t know the price of them, but it doesn’t hurt to ask [i.e. gas (가스비), electricity (전기비), and internet (인터넷비)].

The key money deposits for monthly rent housing contracts usually start at 3,000,000 won and go up from there. A larger key money deposit will lower your monthly rent. Typically, if you are looking for a bigger apartment, such as a 2 bedroom, you will need at least a 10,000,000 won deposit. Ideally, you will get your entire deposit (aka “key money) back after you move out, subtracting any unpaid utility bills, cleaning fee, and repairs for damages you’ve made.

Once you’re looking at apartments, you’ll find that it is a very quick process. Realtors will encourage you to transfer a 10% deposit ASAP. I have viewed apartments with other apartment-hunters and seen that whomever transfers the deposit first gets the apartment. So, when you finally do decide what apartment you want ask your realtor what their commission fee (중개수수료) is. It should be a percentage of your deposit and monthly rent. It’s kind of complicated and honestly over my head. I just keep asking for a discount (”깎아 주세요”) until it is 300,000 won or less. I believe they are not allowed to ask for a certain amount, legally, but they don’t seem to be afraid of any consequences for breaking the law; the penalty must not be very serious.

Before signing papers for the apartment, be sure to see a copy of how the structure is legally registered (등기부등본) to check whether the owner has any serious debts (집주인의 대출관계).

If you live in Busan, I have three suggestions for movers, listed from most expensive to least: (1) Ho Bohm Hyang 010-9732-2424 Doesn’t speak any English; professional mover with lots of help, (2) 010-5912-6212 Speaks limited English; just one guy with a bongo truck so you’ll have to help him if you have a lot of items, (3) Midan 010-3379-6339 Speaks perfect English; drives a yellow van taxi so moves smaller items and you should move them yourself. They are all really kind and very reasonably priced! Pay in cash only and be immensely grateful. They are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met and have helped me and my friends move all over Busan.

After you move, make sure to change the address on your ARC within 14 days to avoid any fee penalties. You can go to the immigration office to do this, but the easier and faster option is to go to your local gu (neighborhood) office. Try searching for the closest “구청.”

Also, register your lease to protect your key money deposit! It costs less than a dollar and only takes a few minutes to complete. To register your lease you will need to go to your local community center (주민센터) and ask for a “확정일자.” This is an official record of the deposit money you have put down, and establishes your priority for getting your money back should the property go to public auction.

Each neighborhood, or dong (동), has at least a few centers, but you can only register at the center that covers your residence’s location, so you may have to do a bit of walking. 

Once at the right location, you will need to fill out a remarkably short and simple application (in Korean) asking you for your name and address. You will also need to have a copy of your lease and your alien registration card. The process takes about ten minutes and mostly involves the clerk helping you punch data into a computer.



Leave a Comment