Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

    Helo welcom 2 my websight

Finding a room in Korea

With all the uncertain-about-my-future stress out of the way, it was time last week to stress about the next step in my university adventure: Finding a place to live in the biggest city in Korea, a city with as many inhabitants as our entire kikkerlandje put together.

I had checked the phone apps called 직방 and 다방 before actually travelling to Seoul since my friends had recommended that to me but what I saw certainly didn’t exactly fill me with confidence…

Would you prefer paying a €5,000 deposit and €500 a month to live in your own kitchen, €0 deposit and €350 a month (slightly more than what I’m paying for my room in Daegu) to live in your own shower or €5,000 and €450 a month to live in a closet? We’ve got it all!

Before I speak about my specific experience, I’d like to share a bit on how to get an apartment in Korea for those of you who might be looking for some information about this.

Actually, finding a place to live in Korea is way easier than in any of the other (two, lol) countries I’ve ever lived in. Generally, the whole thing can be concluded within a day.
You start by going to the area you’d like to live and finding places called 부동산 (real estate agency). They usually have big yellow signs with red letters. There tend to be dozens of them around university areas. The more popular the area, the more 부동산 you’re bound to run in to.
The 부동산 ajumma/ajusshi don’t play around. They have no time for pleasantries so just tell them straight up when you come in how much you’re willing to spend on 월세 (monthly rent) and 보증금 (deposit). Deposits tend to be very high in Korea. In Daegu,  €2,000 was about average, but in Seoul €5,000 is considered extremely low and many places require a €10,000 ‘security deposit’. If you can’t afford to pay that much all up front, usually a  €5,000 decrease in deposit can be negotiated against a €50 a month rent hike.
After that, they will go through their files a bit, complain at you for coming in with so little money, lament about the fact that they don’t really have much at this price range and wonder out loud if there’s really anything they have to show at this budget before going out with you and dragging you along to the places they have available at your price point.
They will show you as many places as you want, as long as they have places to show, and although some of them can be extremely pushy (You will never find a place as good as this! You’re going to regret it if you don’t sign now!) due to the rushed nature of Korean society (it is completely normal here to sign a contract after only looking around for like a couple of hours) they are usually very understanding, especially if you speak some Korean.
Once you found a place you like, it is entirely possible to have everything signed and done within the next hour. It is often possible and indeed recommended to negotiate on all kinds of things – replacing the flooring, fixing that leaky pipe, taking a couple of 만 원 off of the monthly rent, including the internet in the price, that sort of stuff.

In Seoul, many rooms come furnished with at least a bed and a desk. Anywhere in Korea, rooms come with a laundry machine, fridge, gas range and aircon. These are always included in the price and you’re not allowed to get rid of them. If your room comes with furniture and you don’t want it, ask your home owner before signing the contract if he can remove them for you.
As mentioned utilities are usually not included in the rent and will have to be paid separately. Electricity is dirt cheap here, however it still adds up in summer when you use your aircon and in winter when you use an electric heater. The reason electric heaters are recommended is that gas is pretty damn expensive here. Ondol floor heating is amazing, but it sure isn’t cheap.
It should be noted by the way that most rooms have a 관리비 separate from the rent and utilities. This tends to run about 30-50,000 won and is the price you have to pay for someone cleaning your building (not your room) for you once a week. Yes, I also think this is a huge giant rip off.

If you happen to have any questions that I didn’t touch upon here, let me know either in the comments, on my facebook or by sending me an e-mail. I’ll gladly answer them.


Now as for my own experience this week…
I was lucky enough to be offered a place to sleep at my friend’s house on the complete opposite side of Seoul making me take a 1 hour subway ride to even get to my university where I’d start my search but on the other hand also providing good company, video games about being a teenage girl and top tier banter. As I mentioned I wasn’t really looking forward to this considering what I’d seen online but the weather was nice, the sun was out and I had slept decently so I decided to just go into this first day of house hunting with a positive mind.
I was planning on spending about 3 days searching for a place, since I’m not one to easily decide on such ‘permanent’ish things.
It was about…10 steps? away from the exit of the subway station that I ran into the first 부동산 and what they had to show me already made me feel a lot better about today.

What they had to show wasn’t exactly amazing, but it was within budget (though the deposits were too high, I had heard you could probably talk those down a bit) and the rooms were quite decently sized after I told them that I didn’t care much about if the place was new or old. I explained how I lived in Daegu right now and so am used to a bit of a large room and the ajusshi seemed to get it and showed me some pretty decent places while we talked about the differences between rooms in Seoul and in Daegu.

The next 부동산 was never more than a few minutes away, and after a few hours I had already seen dozens of rooms. It was then that I was shown the room that I thought would be mine:
I know, this picture doesn’t exactly make it look amazing, but the price was right (5,000 down and 430 per month including internet) it was a second story room with a big window, located right next to the university and had all new appliances.

As I was on my way to the next 부동산, I was already thinking I probably wouldn’t be able to find anything better than this, but the next 부동산 blew me the fuck away.
Apparently, they specialized in half basements. That sounds really gross, but man the rooms they showed me were pretty, new and large enough if I didn’t bring my giant bed with me from Daegu.


I had been told about how half-basements come with their own sets of problems both in winter and in summer though, and it is very important for me to get at least a bit of sunlight in the house, but compared to the other rooms these places were just so good looking and, even more astonishing, all perfectly within budget.
The 부동산 ajusshi was also very nice and very impressed with my Korean, so while showing me places we talked a lot about this and that and I felt like the 부동산 people in Seoul must be a lot nicer than in Daegu..but it could’ve also been the fact that I could barely speak when I was looking for a room here.

Anyway, as the sun was going down and we were heading back to the office a lady in a red coat stopped us and talked to the 부동산 ajusshi about if he wouldn’t like to show me her place as well. He asked me and I was like ‘Why not?’ and we walked a little while the ajumma chit chatted away like crazy about her place, the French teacher who used to live there (but she didn’t speak a word of Korean, not like you!) and how she’d totally give me a good discount. When we arrived at the building, not more than 5 minutes away from my future university, the girl who was still living in the room was busy brushing her teeth and not giving a single fuck about three random people just walking into her room to look around. I made a little video to look back on later when it would be time to decide, so I uploaded it for you:

The room was nice, big, well taken care of and with a separate kitchen. Plus apparently they were going to renew the kitchen before the next tenant would move in. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the somewhat old looking washing machine though and I didn’t like how both the 부동산 ajusshi and the home owner kept telling me how much of a discount they were giving me and how there was already a girl who came to look before me who said she was really interested in the room so if I wanted it, I’d have to take it now etc. so I told them I would consider it and left it at that.

However…I couldn’t just leave it at that.
I wasn’t going to sign for a place without consulting my 형 but he lives an hour away and at that time there was only like an hour left before the 부동산 would close for the day and I sure as hell wouldn’t be making it back here on time the next morning. So I called my 형, sent him the pictures and video and he said that from what I told him it sounded like I wanted to get that room. Did I? Or was I being tricked into wanting it because of the supposed time limit that might just be another sales trick?
Regardless, I decided to go back.
I knocked on the door of the 부동산, apologized for coming by again so late in the day, visited the room again, apologized to the girl living there for having to look around again and….made up my mind.

The home owner was a really interesting person. The original price of the room was €10,000 down and €500 rent + €50 관리비, but she understood my situation of being a poor student, having to beg my parents to even get the €5,000 I could offer together and being here on a scholarship so she lowered the deposit to €5,000 and the rent to €460, including internet and 관리비. I think more than just my situation, it also seemed to be the fact that I could speak Korean, she was a 대구 사람 (someone from Daegu) just like me and that for some reason she just liked me being white and not American. Later that day, when I signed the contract, she kept patting me on the back, talking about how lucky it was that we met and how great it was that ‘our Richard’ was going to live in her building and how amazing it was that I could speak Korean this well and it would be so comfortable in the future if there were any problems with the room compared to that French teacher that used to live there. It was like talking to a proud mother ㅋㅋㅋ She even gave me a ride to the subway station after all was signed and done. I think..I think this is gonna be okay.



One comment on “Finding a room in Korea

  1. Cael
    7 December 2016

    Loving your work bb <3


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This entry was posted on 14 February 2016 by in Diary, Korea and tagged , , , , , , , .

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