1. Stays of 1 ~ 3 months
(1) Budget option
1) Gosiwon (고시원)
- USD 400 ~ 500 per month (utilities inclusive) + deposit 1 month
- Min.1 month rent
- Extremely small – you can touch all four walls of the room while standing in the middle
- Sometimes private bathroom included, sometimes shared
- No online reservation website available – need to contact each Gosiwon by phone to ask for availability
- Can reserve 1~2 weeks in advance
- Usually in convenient locations near subway station or university campus
2) One-room-tel (원룸텔)
- USD 500 ~ 600 per month (utilities inclusive) + deposit 1 month
- Slightly bigger than Gosiwon
- Everything else similar to Gosiwon
3) Hasuk (하숙)
- USD 400 ~ 600 per month (utilities inclusive) + deposit 1 month, mostly also includes 1~2 meals
- Slightly bigger than Gosiwon, many times shared bathroom
- Feeling of a private student dormitory
- USD 450 ~ 600 per month (utilities inclusive)
- korea-homestay.com, homestaykorea.com, Airbnb.com(search for private room or shared room), etc.
- Private room sharing with a family or locals
(2) Mid-range option
1) P2P Rental websites
- USD 700 ~ 1500 per month (utilities inclusive)
- My blog, airbnb.com, bnbhero.com, etc. (search for entire apt/home)
(3) Luxury Option
1) Residence hotels
- Google it!
2. Stays of 3 ~ 11 months
(1) Budget option
- Although sublets are very very rare, you can find them on Craigslist.com or Korean websit (p-pan.com) on a rare occasion
(2) Mid-range option
1) P2P Rental websites
2) Short-term rental apartments in Gangnam(=Kangnam)
- USD 800 ~ 2000 per month (utilities not included) (sometimes fully furnished, other times not) + 1 month deposit
- Many of the realtors in Gangnam area cater to foreigners so you can probably inquire them in person
- If you find the Gangnam(near Gangnam, Yeoksam, Selleung station) area convenient, you may try this option. It’s an hour away from most universities but may be close to companies and club areas.
- seoul-apartment.com, etc.
- Realtor commission is about USD 250~500 depending on the rent
3) Regular apartment (see the next part for details)
- (USD 400 + deposit USD 3,000) ~ (USD 600 + deposit USD 10,000)
(utilities not included – you usually pay for water, gas, electricity) (sometimes furnished, other times not – you will have to buy your own beddings, kitchen supplies, etc.)
- If you are staying almost a year, it may be cheap to find a one-year contract apartment and just pay 12 months rent.
- Realtor commission is about USD 200~300 depending on the rent
- Not always easy to find landlords that are willing to do 1-year contracts. Many prefer 2-year contracts.
3. Stays of 12 ~ 24 months
(1) Type of regular housing
1) One-room (원룸)
- Built as small single or couple housing for young people
- Sometimes hastily built on the cheapest material available – might have problems with noise, smell, leakage, etc.
- Still, best option for young people
- Deposit is usually 3,000,000 / 5,000,000 / 10,000,000 Korean won
Some landlords prefer higher deposit, lower rent, others prefer opposite
- Tenants usually have no trouble getting the deposit back after the lease is up, unless there is unpaid rent.
Although the timing may be a problem – foreigners would want to get the deposit back one or two days before leaving Korea, but the landlord needs to get the deposit from the next tenant to return to the current tenant – this will work out, though.
- Go to local real estate agency (부동산) – commission is about USD 200~300 depending on the rent
Provides English contract and is officially safer in case any problem arises
- Use Korean websites like p-pan.com where current tenants look for the next tenants to take their place
A little riskier, need to have a Korean friend who has experience in housing contract (for example, checking the debt status of the landlord, checking the status of the room)
2) Office-tel (오피스텔)
- Built as a live-and-work space or live-or-work space, has nice furnishings, beter construction
- Usually in convenient locations as they are meant to be used as offices as well
- High utilities cost… (compared to one-rooms at least 2~ 2.5 times)
- For the same money you get 30~50% smaller space than one-room & higher utilities cost
3) Apartment (아파트)
- Mostly expensive and too big for one or two persons, but has nice furnishings, best construction
- Usually a little far from subway stations (at least 10 minutes)
(2) Be careful
- Moving out early
In case you move out early, very nice, humane landlords will let you leave with your deposit after deducting 1 month rent + realtor commission, but, in most cases, you have to pay rent until you find the next tenant yourself. To find the next tenant, you can ask the realtors or use websites like p-pan.com
- Management fee
The landlord usually charge “management fee” other than rent. It’s for cleaning the buildings, keeping the lights on in the hall, etc. but it basically just is rent. Management fee ranges from 10,000won to 70,000won so keep an eye on these.
- Check the building’s deung-gi-bu-deung-bon(등기부등본)
This shows any debt the building bears. Also you can check to see if the landlord’s identity matches the person who claims to be the landlord. When you use a realtor, he will explain these to you, if he can communicate with you. This is important because deposit is big and there’s a chance you may not get it back if the building has too much debt.
The landlord usually has the obligation to fix all the malfunctioning things in the house including air conditioning, heating, water, washing machine, kitchen. You should buy and change your own light bulbs though 🙂
Ask the landlord before you change the wallpaper or fixtures, paint anything provided by the landlord, nail the wall, etc. The landlord has the right to ask you to restore it to the original status or deduct money from the deposit. Be sure to check if there’s anything changed by the previous tenant, take pictures of them and show the landlord before settling into the house.
I’m writing this from my personal experiences of running a few guestrooms (and living there time to time), renting my own one-rooms and officetels for myself, living temporarily in a gosiwon, living in apartments all my early life with my parents, and helping numerous foreign friends find housing.
The prices are based on my own research during 2011~2012 and are focused on relatively “good” and “trendy”, but affordable areas. If you go near universities, you may be able to find cheaper options as those area tend to be more humble. Or if you go to some “very residential” areas, you may be able to find cheaper options.
Please comment if you have any question, or have anything you want me to update or revise.