When: April – June, 2014
Why: Our good friend, Marie, has been living in Seoul for a couple of years. We couldn’t be this close and not spend time near her!
Where within Seoul: Seocho (near Gangnam District ,the new-money, posh neighborhood mocked in the song)
Street address: 1679-1 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu 301, Seoul, 137-071 South Korea
How we found it: Airbnb, although in retrospect I’ve gotten a bit lazy in my housing searches and hopefully we can save someone else a few dollars. I’ll add some other ideas at the bottom.**
How much: USD $1,500/month (after some negotiating) for a 285 sq. ft. studio with a loft.
- Location. We’re smack dab between 2 subway stations, so depending on which direction we’re headed, we can get to numerous tracks by walking 650 m in either direction. It’s great being in the heart of downtown, especially in a city like Seoul where we have a coffee shop, beauty salon, and billiards bar in the building, a 2-3 km beautiful wooded trail immediately beside our building, a 20-minute walk to the riverfront, and everything from free museums to multiple national parks all accessible directly off the subway lines.
- Storage. This little place has more storage than any other apartment we’ve rented! Koreans know how to live in small spaces, and not a nook nor cranny is wasted. We aren’t using half of the cupboards.
- Water. As best as I can tell (our landlord doesn’t speak much English), they turn the hot water heater off during the day when everyone is at work and it doesn’t come back on until 7 pm. This is somewhat inconvenient and resulted in some uncomfortable showers until we figured it out.
- Kitchen supplies. Our landlord appears to be a bachelor in his 20’s, and it would appear that he furnished the kitchen personally. There are 2 plates, 2 spoons, 2 forks, 2 sets of chopsticks… you get the idea. If we use a utensil to cook we have to wash it before we can eat! We had to buy a few necessities like vegetable peeler, and we’re doing without a colander and a grater. On the other hand, it’s a good Korean kitchen with a huge rice cooker!
**Seoul is a difficult town to find housing, even if you’re a permanent resident. The standard rental agreement requires a huge (and I mean huge: in the neighborhood of $20,000) deposit called Key Money, so going through the usual channels isn’t an option for us.
We did, however, find a few alternatives once we’d arrived and looked around a bit.
- Craingslist has a lot of summer sublets right now so that students who will travel or go home for the summer can cover their rent while they’re gone. The ads are almost all in English – but as we’ve found, that doesn’t mean your potential landlord speaks English!
- Once you arrive, there are a ton of realtor offices. Someone told me 10% of Seoul’s populace is made of expats (hard to believe, but maybe…), so there’s a thriving real estate industry which caters to short-term housing for expats while they look for more permanent housing. This free translation service, offered by the Korea Tourism Board, may be of some assistance if you need help calling around. I hear they’re very helpful.
- Depending on your budget, there are numerous executive apartments (more expensive, luxury short-term flats) and a few apartment services. Try www.seoul-apartment.com, which has short-term apartments (178 – 1,000 sq. ft) from $600 – $3,200 / month and the deposit is only one month’s rent. (I have no experience with them myself – best to do your due diligence!)