Whether you’re a seasoned expat in Korea or if the thought of moving to this dynamic metropolis is just a thought at this point, finding an apartment to rent in Seoul can seem like a daunting task. While the process of finding a new place to live in such a unique city can be challenging, it’s often quite manageable if you break it down step-by-step and give yourself time to handle the due diligence for each part. In this article, we will give you seven steps to help make your move as successful as possible.
To rent an apartment in Seoul, first you need to decide what your priorities will be while you are here. What will your life be like, and what role will housing play in it? Are you here for studying only? Do you plan to have guests over? What is your budget? Are you planning to live it up, or try to get by on the most basic lifestyle? What are your priorities in terms of housing location, price, cleanliness, age of building, size, floor, amenities, elevators, furniture, and noise? Get out a pen and paper and figure out which of these are most important to you and which you’re willing to sacrifice on. This list may be changed later as you go through the 7 steps, but it’s good to have a base to start with. Note that there are many different types of housing in Korea (villa, officetel, apart, goshiwon, etc.), so knowing this will help you decide which type to focus on.
Now it’s time to map out key points that you will be frequenting often while you are here. If you’re new to Seoul, it may be challenging to know how long it takes to get from place to place when you mapping out key places. A good solution to this is to look at the Seoul MRT subway map here and use that as a guide to figure out the time between destinations. While there are buses that may be able to get you there faster, it’s a good way to gauge your daily travel time. Where is your university or workplace? Do you prefer the city or the suburbs? Do you want to be near parks? Will it be a benefit to be near the major bus terminals? Get a map of Seoul and mark the key areas you plan to be.
Once you have your key points mapped out, it’s good to settle on 3 places you want to consider living in. Doing research online will be helpful, but also know that you will likely not be able to find everything you need until you start talking to people directly or see the place for yourself. As a general rule, distance from the city center usually correlates with lower rents and older buildings, but this is not always the case. Many newer developments in and around Seoul are popping up all the time, so you won’t know what they’re like until you either see firsthand or do detailed research.
Now that you have 3 areas narrowed down, it’s time to see what is available in the areas you’ve chosen based on your priorities in step #1. You can do this any number of ways, but we’ll suggest a few. First if you can read Korean, you can use Naver’s Peter Pan site to search real estate listings here. If you don’t know Korean, you can contact the Seoul Global Center which is a government agency that helps expats in Korea. Click on their “Living” section and follow the links to find a list of real estate agents who speak English and other languages. If you need some resources for email templates or terminology to use when contacting real estate agents, we have a free quick-start guide available to get you heading in the right direction. Talk to the real estate agents and let them know your move date. Look at places either in person or through photos, and decide if this is the right area for you. If you find that the apartments don’t fit your needs, then it’s time to make adjustments. You can also look into different types of housing in Korea and or move on and find a new neighborhood for your search. If the housing is in the right ballpark, make sure to look at as many places as necessary until you feel like you have a good estimate on what you can get for your money.
By this point, you should have narrowed down the search to 3 areas that have apartments that fit your criteria. Now it’s time to negotiate. Typically the real estate agent can do this on your behalf. Things happen quickly in Korea, so usually the negotiations are done within 1 month of the move-in date. You should be prepared to sign the contract in person and also to give a 20% deposit towards the total key money (housing deposit). For example, if your key money is 5,000,000 won, you should expect to deposit 1,000,000 won when the contract is signed and the remaining 4,000,000 won on the move-in day. Be sure to negotiate the real estate agent fee prior to signing the contract if it is above the minimum amount required by law. This amount can be calculated from the chart in our quick start guide.
Once you have the move dates set, get ready to move in and furnish your place. The Seoul Global Center has contact information for movers that can help you pack up and move all of your belongings if you are in Korea already. If you need some furnishings for your new place, you can find almost anything you need delivered to your door in only a few days on GMarket or 11th St.
Once you rent an apartment in Seoul, make sure you stay on top of the contract dates. Leases are typically 1-2 years, so mark your calendars. You need to let the landlord know your intentions at least 30 days prior to the end of the contract. If you don’t, the lease automatically renews for the original lease period. If you want to leave after the renewal period, you must give your landlord 3 months of advance notice before you can get your key money back. It is possible to leave earlier, but typically the landlord won’t want you to leave earlier than 3 months unless another tenant is found to take your place.
That’s a broad overview of the steps you need to rent an apartment in Seoul. Take your time, research the different types of housing in Korea, map out a strategy, and you’ll be in a great place in no time. Best of luck!