Renting is, by far, the most popular option for most expats in Seoul. It’s easier than obtaining a mortgage, and it’s also much more affordable since land is so expensive and there are so many possible complications connected with foreigners purchasing a home in Korea. To rent is quite easy in comparison – all you need is a passport. Generally, there are no credit checks done before you sign a lease with the only exception, perhaps, being if you pay rent or other apartment related costs with a credit card. Certainly, you do not have to pay anything until you are ready to sign the lease, and until you have reached an agreement with your future landlord concerning your monthly rent, your intended length of stay and anything else you think should be included in your lease. The next few paragraphs should help you understand the basics of renting in Seoul and the things you should be aware of when looking to sign a lease.
Types of Rent
There are several options for those who wish to lease a home or business centre in Seoul.
One is called Jeonse. The tenant pays a large deposit on a home (for Seoul, this can be anywhere between $20,000.00 and $500,000.00+ USD, or 25 to 70% of the property’s value) and the landlord, instead of collecting a monthly rent, collects the interest on the key money every month. When your lease is up, your key money is returned to you. This is a good option for families who have the money for a large deposit.
Another, known as Wolse is where the tenant pays a smaller deposit on their home, and then pays a monthly rent in addition. The rent payment every month is not usually very expensive, but of course, this depends on your area of residence in Seoul as well as the type of housing you choose (houses, condos or high rise apartments – depending on size – will have a higher monthly rent than a villa or officetel apartment in a low rise building). If you don’t care about your location and want a smaller apartment, this could be a good option for you.
There are also leases that require you to pay the entire lease up front, for example, if you sign a lease for two years, you pay two years worth of rent. Another type of renting system involves no deposit and a monthly rent – however, this type of housing is not as common as those that require a deposit. You could also work out a wolse/jeonsecombination with your realtor or landlord, if it better suits your lifestyle.
While it’s possible to find an apartment without involving real estate agents, it is inadvisable and often a frustrating, problematic process. While real estate agents are sometimes known to be dishonest in the process of selling property, if you plan on renting it is largely your landlord the realtors will be dealing with. They will be more honest in the process, but it is still advisable to ask lots of questions, make sure you get all of the agreements/promises made in writing and, if you’re parting with a large deposit, register your lease with the local gu-office.
To register your lease is easily done – for example, if you lease an apartment in Seocho-gu, go to the Seocho-gu office (to find exact locations, each gu has an English website with a telephone number and address – see the list below), tell them why you are there, fill out the appropriate form, show them your alien registration card and you’re registered.
A typical lease agreement in Seoul will include building and apartment maintenance, (sometimes) building security, acceptable reasons for terminating the lease earlier than anticipated (this includes diplomatic clause as well as any other possibility for early termination) and anything else you want to negotiate with the landlord. It is important, if you don’t speak Korean, to have a Korean friend or coworker present to help you negotiate and understand what’s going on, as the realtor and your landlord will be speaking in Korean. Since any damages at the end of your lease will be taken from your key money, make sure you negotiate how you are allowed to decorate your apartment and whether pets are permitted on the premises.
Leases in Seoul are typically one to three years in length. If you have to terminate your lease your landlord should not charge any fees if you have been living there for half or more of the lease period – again, make sure everything is in writing in the lease agreement. If your landlord is slow in giving your deposit back to you at the end of your lease, you can go to the local gu office where you registered to file a complaint, or you can visit this website for help with taking legal action: http://www.klac.or.kr/
The price of deposits and rent largely depend on the type of housing you choose as well as the area in Seoul. The areas of Seocho-gu, Gangnam-gu, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Jongno-gu and Songpa-gu are examples of areas with extremely high housing costs. If you pay a jeonse, expect at least $20-30,000.00 USD for a one or two bedroom villa/officetel (which are the least expensive housing types in Seoul) and upwards of $1,000,000 or more for a more luxurious apartment, condo or house.
Other gu with lower housing costs are usually far from the action and are still fairly expensive, but you could find a one or two bedroom villa for a $20,000.00 USD deposit and a high rise apartment or house for $100,000.00 USD to $500,000.00+ USD. Penthouses and condos will always be the most expensive option and prices will generally be constant throughout the city.
Gu Websites for Registering your Lease:
- Dobong-gu: http://eng.dobong.go.kr/
- Dongdaemun-gu: http://english.ddm.go.kr/index.asp
- Dongjak-gu: http://english.dongjak.go.kr/
- Eunpyeong-gu: http://www.ep.go.kr/CmsWeb/viewPage.req?idx=PG0000001180
- Gangbuk-gu: http://english.gangbuk.seoul.kr/
- Gangdong-gu: http://www.gangdong.go.kr/
- Gangseo-gu: http://www.gangseo.seoul.kr/
- Geumcheon-gu: http://www.geumcheon.go.kr/
- Guro-gu: http://english.guro.go.kr/
- Gwanakgu: http://www.gwanak.go.kr/servlets/rnl/gwanak/portal/main/service/MainServlet
- Jongno-gu: http://www.jongno.go.kr/portalMain.do
- Jung-gu: http://tour.junggu.seoul.kr/tour/index
- Mapo-gu: http://english.mapo.seoul.kr/
- Nowon-gu: http://www.nowon.kr/foreign/eng/index.jsp
- Seocho-gu: http://www.seocho.go.kr/
- Seongbuk-gu: http://english.seongbuk.go.kr/
- Songpa-gu: http://www.songpa.go.kr/
- Yeongdeungpo-gu: http://english.ydp.go.kr/
- Yongsan-gu: http://www.yongsan.go.kr/site/kr/index.jsp
For more information on renting in Seoul, you can check out the Seoul Housing Realty Consulting web page here: http://www.seoulestate.com/index.html
You may also want to try one of Seoul’s English newspapers for up-to-date listings for pricing comparisons: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/index.asp