Want to Get an Apartment in Korea? Here’s Some Must Knows!

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If you want to get an apartment in Seoul, you should know about Korea’s housing system. Korea’s housing system may be very different than what you’re used to in you own countries. Also, you might want to check out what kind of housing options are available. Make sure you know the types of housing, and what kind of money you’ll need!

Note: This article mostly focuses on apartments in Seoul for foreigners, but is applicable to apartments in all parts of Korea.

 

Rental System in Korea

1. 전세 (jeonse)

For those with some serious cash

This is by far the most expensive, but also one of the most money saving options you have for getting an apartment in Seoul. Doesn’t make sense? Well, the jeonse system allows you to stay in your Seoul apartment totally rent free! Rent free?! Of course there’s a catch, though. If you want to stay in your Seoul apartment without paying rent, you’ll have to put down a huge security deposit, which is essentially the jeonse system. This huge jeonse deposit can range anywhere from 30,000,000 won to more than 100,000,000 won (approximately $26,000 USD to more than $90,000 USD) for a small studio apartment in Seoul. The owner holds onto this money for the duration of your contract and gives it back in full when you’re ready to move out. The basic idea is the owner is supposed to invest that money somewhere else, and make money for themselves. So if you’ve got that kind of money to spare, this is one of the best options out there!

Tip: Many people unfamiliar with the jeonse system are weary of lending out so much money. But generally, it’s a pretty safe option. This system wouldn’t be around if all landlords were a bunch of crooks, right? 😉

 

2. 월세 (wolse) – Monthly Rent

For those with less cash… (but still kinda a lot)

Generally, most foreigners who are moving to Korea don’t have the kind of money needed for jeonse. So monthly rent is the more popular option. But the thing is, you can’t be totally broke if you want to get your own apartment in Seoul. That’s because the security deposit (aka key money) for housing in Seoul is quite high, even if you’re going to be paying wolse (monthly rent) for your Seoul apartment. Security deposits can range from 5,000,000 won to 20,000,000 won for studio apartments in Seoul (approximately $4,500 USD to $18,000 USD). Of course, if you’re looking for something bigger than a small studio in Seoul, the more expensive the key money will be. Rest assured that you’ll get it all back when you move out, but renting an apartment in Seoul is no joke, yo. You need some serious cash to front.

Tip: Try negotiating! Landlords in Korea will usually be willing to drop the price of monthly rent if you give a larger security deposit.

Tip: To find places with smaller key money (i.e. 1 months rent), try searching Itaewon (이태원), the foreigner district of Seoul. Generally, the monthly rent will be higher, but you won’t have to front millions and millions of your hard earned won!

 

Types of Housing in Korea

1. Villas (빌라) Apartments in Seoul

For those that like… character 😉

Villas are residential buildings that exist all around Korea. Most of these are around two to five stories high, typically without elevators. These buildings are located in residential areas and are typically older buildings. Villa apartments in Seoul are usually characterized by bathrooms without separate shower stalls and furnished and unfurnished rooms (you may or may not have to get your own refrigerator, washing machine, gas burner, drawers, desks, etc.). These are also usually cheaper than the other options on this list.


Check out your homie Keith‘s villa apartment in Hongdae, Seoul!
(note: loft and included furniture is not always common)

 

2. Officetel (오피스텔) Apartments in Seoul

For ghetto fabulous

Officetel is a combination of the words “office” and “hotel.” As the name suggests, these are used as both offices and residences, and for single people (or couples) looking for a nice apartment in Seoul, you might want to check this out as they are considered the “nicer” apartment options. Officetels can be found in metropolises across Korea, and they feel mega modern because they usually come with refrigerators, washing machines and drawers that are built into the walls of these Seoul apartments (cool!). The buildings are usually fairly new, and they are often located close to subway stations or major transportation hubs (sweet!). The buildings also have stores, restaurants, cafes, nail salons and other businesses located on the bottom few floors. So that means you can wake up and go downstairs to eat some breakfast at a restaurant, get your nails did, play some screen golf, get a massage, and go back to your apartment in time for daytime Korean dramas! Holla!

Tip: Of course, nicer buildings with furnishing will come at a price typically more expensive than apartments found in villas. If you want to live in an officetel rather than a villa apartment, expect to pay 100,000 won (approximately $100 USD) or more for similar sized apartments in Seoul.

 

3. Apartments (아파트) in Seoul

For families or ballers

The meaning of the word “apartment” in Korea and in your home country may have two very different things. The word “apartment” (아파트) in Korea usually refers specifically to an apartment in an apartment complex. Typically, “apartments” in Korea are for families, as they offer the most amount of room. But since these are bigger, you’ll have to have a decent chunk of cash to get an apartment in Seoul. Think anywhere starting from 250 million won (approximately $250,000 USD) to buy. Of course these also have jeonse and wolse options as well, but that’s still a big chunk of cash. If you’ve got the goods, good for you homie! The rest of the readers on this site might want to get a 2nd job in Korea 😛


This is a high-end apartment, so pretty expensive. But nice!

 

Bonus: Goshiwon (고시원)

Renting a Closet

No, the byline isn’t a joke. You are pretty much renting a closet that can fit a bed and desk. This is by far the cheapest option for those looking for a place to rent in Seoul. Essentially functional as a dormitory, you have your own closet-spaced room that squeezes in a small bed and table. Typically these are reserved for students but are also rented by anyone that needs to save some cash. Usually there’s free internet and TV, and sometimes even free rice and kimchi included starting at the very cheap price of 200,000 won a month (approximately $180 USD) without the crazy key money you’ll need for the other apartment options. It’s not very comfortable, but at least it’s a closet-room you can call your own!

 

Now that you know the deal with apartments in Seoul, here’s how to get your own apartment in Korea!

About Keith

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea.Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeithe-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com

41 comments

  1. Simeon

    Officetels look legit! I really like your apartment in Hongdae as well. Can’t wait to move there!

  2. Cari

    Hey there, how much harder is it to get an apartment that will allow two old cats? I’ve checked out Simon and Martina’s vids… they make it seem like it shouldn’t be a huge issue as long as you aren’t some crazy pet hoarder :p I know it might limit my options but I can’t really see myself leaving my 10 and 13 year old kitties in the states 😉

    • trisha

      I’m wondering the same thing as I’m moving there in a few months and I have 2 kittens that I can’t leave.behind so if u found a place let me know.please and thank u

  3. In my experience, typically every W5,000,000 of key money will lower your rent by W50,000 per month. For example, if your place is W700,000 with a 5 million won deposit, it will be W650,000 per month with a 10 million won deposit. Or vice-versa, if the landlord is asking for a 10 or 20 million won deposit that you don’t have, most of them are willing to take a lower deposit in exchange for higher monthly rent.

    I spent 3 months in a goshiwon at one point, haha. Not one of my prouder moments!

  4. Hey! Here was my first Korean apartment! I definitely lucked out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDjcqqIHRcI

  5. Andre

    “approximately $26,000 USD to more than $90,000,000 USD” ?! Definitely a few more zeros in the last number than should be…

  6. Maeva

    I love space and goshiwon are way too small for me but if I go to Korea as a student, I’d rather live there. I prefer spending my money on trips to visit Korea than in my comfort. A comfortable bed is all you need.

  7. I’ve just booked an apartment for my South Korean holiday. It was quite easy to find holiday apartments on airbnb.com
    They are like a middle man for locals that are renting out their apartment for holiday stays :)

  8. OMG! I would deff feel sufocated in a 고시원. Jesus!

  9. Artur

    Napkins at “entertament room”. FAIL.

  10. yoona

    how about roof top? how much is it?

  11. Songhwang

    My friend is moving next month. If u’re interested in a cheap room and near subway, go to that link

    http://seoul.craigslist.co.kr/apa/3765310490.html

  12. Elley

    Are you looking for house in Korea?
    I am looking for house mates who can teach me English and be my friend.
    I am 38 years old female, go to work during daytime, live alone at a small apartment in Anyang city(near Seoul) and can provide a room for you for free.
    It is a normal house for Korean to live, having near E-mart, in front of Bus station, taking 10 minutes using bus to take a Subway.
    You can experience korean culture while you live in Korea.
    If you are interested in my propose, contact me to [email protected].
    only female is acceptable.

  13. Faviola

    Elley, I’m looking for an apartment in Korea. But a house sounds better. I know no one in Seoul, I’m going over there to study, and it just happens that I know English. I’m a female & I’m 17 at the moment. But I’m planning on moving there next summer. I’m interested in your proposal, if you’re still looking for a room mate of course. If you’re interested, contact me to [email protected] Thank you, hope to hear from you.

  14. Callie

    SIMON AND MARTINA ARE HERE!! YYAYAYAYAY! srry…. I really glad to know that officetels are one of the cheaper options! but then again i might go for the Jeonse way too (as i have roughly four years to save …) THANK YOU SOOO MUCH FOR TELLING ME ABOUT THIS!! i really want to move there for a year (or longer) and this really helped!

  15. I have the money for a jeonse, but if there is no rent… does that mean that I don’t have to pay for the electric, internet and water bills?

  16. Pasindu

    I’m looking for possibly an officetel that is in Gangnam, or maybe even outside Gangnam, close to Daechi 4-dong. I would like to know more about the prices, how do we pay, how do we go about booking one? and any other info about the officetels! thanks

  17. Pasindu

    I’m looking for possibly an officetel that is in Gangnam, or maybe even outside Gangnam, close to Daechi 4-dong. I would like to know more about the prices, how do we pay, how do we go about booking one? and any other info about the officetels! thanks

  18. This is a great post. I have seen all the post and I have to say: are great.
    Anybody know a website for search rent apartment in Seoul? Thanks :)

  19. ZM

    Hi, just curious. When they quoted the room price, they usually quote them in fractions for example 1000/45. Any idea what this means?

    Thanks!

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  23. Tina

    I am jealous of your apartment keith, I really like the studio apartments, but I have a question can you buy an apartment and stop paying rents? and then maybe resell it?

  24. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who
    was conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me
    breakfast due to the fact that I discovered it for him…

    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this topic here on your website.

  25. darwiis

    i was just wondering if you guys knew where i can find a place to rent apartments in the following building: Hyperion Tower or Samsung Tower Palace 3

  26. Tina

    for an officetel you said expect to pay 100,000 won is that per month?? and isn’t there any deposit money?? and could you please guide us to a website that allows us to look for houses and be in English like airbnb please, thank you in advance Keith.

  27. Chanel

    I was wondering how things are with houses and mansions in Korea? Are there any close to Seoul?

    • Tina

      there must be, because celebrities live in Seoul

  28. Eden

    When I went in Korea, I used a company that rented a place for me and ended up in a goshiwon, but it was at the -2 floor, the “window” only showed a wall, and I had my bathroom, kitchen, bed and desk in there. It was so small, I couldn’t even unpack my luggage. I’m claustrophobic so I totally lost it ^^’ I think it might fit some people, in my case, the company didn’t notify me that I would live in such a small place (the pictures they sent me were of a bigger place) or I would have directly requested if something else was available. I was there to study, so I was spending time inside, comfort was important. In the end, I was able to get a bigger room similar to the one in the first video (but without the second floor) although it was still underground.

    • Tina

      for how much was that second room you got??

  29. wylie

    is there any special paperwork you need to rent apartments? like green card etc.. can you rent one on a tourist visa? like for the 90 days?

  30. Hi,
    Im hoping to find a place like yours or an officetel- How should I go about finding good places online in English? Other than craigslist I am struggling to find studios/officetels online.
    Any advice would help!
    Maddie