Housing terminology in Seoul can be confusing for an expat who has not been in the country for a long time and is trying to find a home. The first thing you should remember, particularly if you are coming from the United States, is that Korea practises the metric system and, therefore, their housing vocabulary will be set in meters when referring to size, not feet. It is always vital to ask questions during the house searching process to clarify exactly what is meant by certain phrases. Since Korea is well known among expats for being ambiguous at the best of times, things may not always be as advertised!
Housing units are measured in pyong, which equals 3.3 meters or 35 square feet. If you are reading an advertisement for an apartment that is 12 pyeong, you can tell that the apartment will be far too small for a family, while 46 pyeong will be large enough for a family with two or three children.
If an apartment is advertised as “furnished” remember that the word is highly subjective in the Korean real estate market. Furnished can mean the bare minimum when you were envisioning a fully functional, ready to live in apartment or it can be, in fact, fully outfitted. You always need to look before renting a “furnished” apartment to decide if you will have to buy more furniture than you were originally willing to purchase.
Apartments in Korea are generally well laid out. If you choose to live in a villa or an officetel as opposed to a house, high rise or condo apartment, there may be some inconsistencies with the lay out. If you like your Western comforts, living in a villa or officetel apartment is probably not the best idea.
The average Korean apartment in a high rise building will have a front door leading into a hallway. At the end of the hallway is a large, spacious living room and a kitchen in the adjacent room. The bedrooms and bathroom are usually toward the back of the apartment, but if the apartment has more than two bedrooms advertised you will probably have one or two just off the hallway near the front door. In Korean apartment blocks, one type of apartment is usually found in one area (i.e., two bedroom apartments are all found in one building, three bedrooms in the next building, and so on). Condos and penthouses will be close to the same lay out but, obviously, far more spacious and luxurious. Houses in Seoul tend to be two stories with a similar lay out to most Western style houses.
If an apartment is advertised as “Western” style, that usually means there is a bathtub and working toilet in the bathroom. Sometimes, you will also find an oven in the kitchen (Koreans usually just use gas range stoves).