*Photos are for informational purposes only*

*This article should not be used as legal advice*

Before Visiting Real Estate Agencies

Real Estate Agency

1) Research where you want to live (neighborhood, area of town, etc) and also look online or visit the windows of real estate agents to browse open accommodations. In Korea, there are a variety of popular phone applications to search for housing. In the case that the properties you saw online are unavailable, the real estate agent should show you similar properties depending on your needs, budget, and availability.

2) Calculate the maximum you are willing to pay for both the security deposit (보증금) and monthly rent (월세) or jeonse (전세). Prices published are normally what the building owner prefers but these are somewhat negotiable depending on what the building owner will accept as a minimum deposit and rent. Some properties may have the option to pre-pay your monthly rent payments upfront.

3) Determine your preferred apartment size. For your preferred apartment size, the agent may reference an old area measurement called pyeong (평). Although, these days all housing should be listed in square meters.

4) Know the preferred floor that you want to live on. Take note that normally basement and 1st floor apartments can be slightly cheaper than upper floor apartments. Also, not all buildings will have elevators. If mobility is an issue, you may only want to look at buildings with elevators or available first floor apartments.

5) Determine what options you would like in your apartment. Options include things like a washing machine, refrigerator, bed, and other furnishings. Sometimes options can be negotiated into a lease contract. Fully furnished units are called full-option (풀옵션).

6) Determine when you want to move in (an estimate is fine). You don't want to go to the real estate agency too soon, 2-4 weeks before you want to move is a good timeframe.

7) Know your preferred term of lease. The lease terms in Korea are normally 1 or 2 years but sometimes less than a year is negotiable depending on the building owner. Note: Korea has a “Housing Lease Protection Act” which stipulates the following regarding term of lease:

“Article 4 (Term of Lease) (1) With respect to a lease, of which the term is not fixed, or is fixed for less than two years, the term of such lease shall be deemed to be two years: Provided, That the lessee may claim that the term fixed for less than two years shall be valid. (2) Even though the period for lease has expired, the relations of lease shall be deemed to continue until a deposit is repaid to a lessee. [ This Article Wholly Amended by Act No. 8923, Mar. 21, 2008]

Article 5 Deleted.

Article 6 (Renewal of Contract) (1) If the lessor fails to notify the lessee of a refusal of the renewal, or to give notification to the lessee to the effect that he/she would not renew the contract without any change in the condition, six months to one month before the term of the lease expires, the lease shall be deemed to have been renewed under the same conditions as the former one at the time the term expires. The same shall apply to cases where the lessee has not notified by one month before the term of the lease expires. (2) In cases of paragraph (1), the term of the lease shall be deemed to be two years. (3) With respect to a lessee who has failed to pay the rent by up to two installments thereof, or who violates remarkably obligations under the lease HOUSING LEASE PROTECTION ACT (Supp. 46) 316 contract, the provisions of paragraph (1) shall not be applicable. [ This Article Wholly Amended by Act No. 8923, Mar. 21, 2008]

Article 6-2 (Termination of Contracts in Cases of Implied Renewal) (1) In cases where a contract has been renewed pursuant to Article 6 (1), notwithstanding paragraph (2) of the same Article, the lessee may notify at any time the lessor of termination of the contract. (2) The termination referred to in paragraph (1) shall enter into force upon the lapse of three months from the date when the lessor has received the notification. [ This Article Wholly Amended by Act No. 8923, Mar. 21, 2008]”

The full English version of the Housing Lease Protection Act can be found here.

8) Are you a pet owner or planning to have a pet? It is up to the building owner and your contract terms to determine what pet is or isn’t allowed. Some properties put limits on types of pets, breeds, or sizes. Keeping a pet without letting your landlord know could result in eviction.

Dogs must have tags and/or a microchip implant with the owner’s name, address, and phone number. You can be fined if your dog does not have identification. Besides identification tags, dogs need to be registered with the government. Dog registration was implemented to prevent people from abandoning their dogs and also to reunite lost dogs with their owners. Registration is normally done at a pet store or vet office. You are also required to leash and pick up after your dog. Failure to do either will result in fines if caught. Smaller pets have less strict regulations, however, you should be aware of any applicable laws before acquiring and living with a pet. Also, pets aren’t allowed on public transport unless they are in a carrier. That is, unless they are a service animal, you must keep your pet in a crate or carrier on buses and the subway system.

Quick Checklist (Real Estate Agency Pre-visit)

  1. Preferred location

  2. Max Deposit and Max Rent Amount or if you want to pay via jeonse.

  3. Preferred housing size

  4. Preferred floor

  5. Preferred options

  6. Move-in Date

  7. Term of lease

  8. Pet owner or planning to get a pet? Yes/No

Visiting Properties with a Real Estate Agency

Under Building Parking

After determining what kind of property you want, it's time to visit real estate agencies. It is better to call real estate agencies in advance and schedule an appointment so they can prearrange property visits. However, visiting a real estate agent with no appointment is also fine. There are some real estate offices with staff that speak other languages but having Korean language skills is preferred especially when reviewing a contract. Visiting agencies may also be challenging due to adoptees looking Korean but not being native Korean speakers.

I encourage you to visit multiple real estate offices to see a variety of property listings as well as to find an agent that works well with you. If you visit multiple properties in the same neighborhood, remember where you have been as different real estate agents may share regions, neighborhoods, or property listings. Note that some large apartment complexes have their own exclusive real estate agents.

You may verify if a real estate agent is registered by contacting the local gu office with the agent’s name and business registration number.

Property Visits with a Real Estate Agency - Things to Keep in Mind:

1) Management/maintenance fees associated with the building: Officetels and apartment buildings usually have the highest monthly fees. These will vary per property.

2) Parking space & regulations: If you own a vehicle be aware of available parking and/or regulations associated with parking around the property.

3) Security features: Is there CCTV as well as coded locks on the building and individual units? Is there security staff in the building at all times? Does the elevator have CCTV or a required keycard to use it? Are the windows and doors lockable and in good working order?

4) Utilities: You should find out what utilities are included if any. Some properties include Internet and TV in their rent price.

5) Pets: As stated earlier, if you have a pet or plan to get a pet, make sure to tell the real estate agent so they can show you pet-friendly properties.

6) Building owner: Your landlord may or may not speak another language besides Korean. Sometimes the building owner is available when you see a property but often times only the real estate agent will show properties. I found it was nice to meet the building owner to see what impression I got regarding how they would be as my future landlord.

7) Building/apartment maintenance: As you view properties, clarify with the landlord who is responsible for the cost of repairs to your unit as well as public areas of the property. Also, check to see if the flooring and/or wallpaper will be replaced before you move in and after you move out as well as who is responsible for paying. Mold can also be a problem in Korea due to the humid summers and poor ventilation in bathrooms. Confirm who is responsible for cleaning up mold before you move in and after you move out.

8) Furnishings/Options: When you view properties, confirm with the real estate agent and/or building owner what is included with the property (Options such as appliances, furniture, etc).

Quick Checklist (Property Visits with Real Estate Agency)

  1. Management/maintenance fee

  2. Parking

  3. Security features

  4. Utilities

  5. Pet ownership rules

  6. Building owner

  7. Building/apartment maintenance

  8. Furnishings/Options

Whatever terms you discuss with the landlord and real estate agent, make sure these are included in the lease in writing, especially those that relate to maintenance and/or repairs.

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The next post will cover the contracting process. What experiences have you had with Korean real estate agencies? Leave a comment below! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me here.

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