Welcome to part 3 of the One Room Searching series!
In part 1, we reviewed How to Search for a One-Room in Seoul, and covered the definitions and basics of the most common monthly rental system, the weolsae (월세) for one-rooms in Seoul.
In part 2, we described Finding a Studio Apartment, specifically, What to Expect on Your “One-Room” Viewings in Seoul with your real estate agent.
Here, in part 3, we will review what to expect when signing your one-room contract.
At long last, upon viewing a number of one-rooms with your realtor and assessing the pros and cons of each space, it has finally happened. You’ve found a space that fits within your budget, meets your amenities and furnishing priorities, and will closely suit your lifestyle. You are now ready to lock down your new home by signing the lease agreement.
Non-refundable room ”hold” deposit
First, you will need to secure your new one-room with a non-refundable “hold” deposit. This deposit merely takes your one room off the market until the day of your signing, often scheduled within the same or next day. No need to fret, however, as this fee will be lumped into your key money deposit (보증금) when you sign the lease.
The non-refundable hold deposit is often 1% of the total key money deposit. For example, if the key money is 10,000KRW (~US $9,000), your hold deposit will be 100 thousand KRW (~US $90). Be sure to collect your receipt when paying the deposit.
Below are the items you will need on the day of your signing:
2. Passport (as additional identification)
3. Bank book (통장)
4. (Partial) Key money deposit
Expect to pay 10% (to up to 20%) of your key money deposit on your signing date. You will pay the balance on the move-in date.
For example, if the key money is 10,000KRW (~US $9,000), your 10% deposit will be 1 million KRW (~US $900). Be sure to collect your receipt when paying your partial deposit.
Also, on your move-in date, be sure to pay the key money balance minus the 1% non-refundable “hold” deposit, which, as previously described, has conveniently been lumped into your total key money deposit amount.
Be sure to confirm the move-in date key money balance with your realtor and landlord, who will also be present at the signing. After wire transferring the partial deposit to your landlord’s bank account, be sure to request a receipt.
And, depending on the landlord’s rental terms, you may also be required to pay the first month's rent on your move-in date. Ask your landlord about this, as the monthly rental fee may be pre-pay (선불) or post-pay (후불) based on the start or end date, respectively, of each monthly rental period.
You’ve already covered much ground with the one-room search process, and now you’re at the finish line. Here are some things to expect and do on the day of your contract signing.
1. Meet your landlord
This is your chance to feel out and get to know your landlord. Try to develop a friendly rapport with him/her as this will help build trust and facilitate a smoother landlord-renter relationship over the course of your stay.
2. Reconfirm the major details
While your housing contract will list the details of your rental agreement, feel free to use this opportunity to go over the major facts and figures before signing. Here are some items to confirm:
Contract start and termination date (1- or 2-year lease)
Fee details (key money deposit 보증금, monthly rent 월세, maintenance fee 관리비)
Contact information (names and contact details of all major parties)
Special instructions (where/when to throw out the trash, damage fees, parking lot move-out cleaning fee, etc.)
3. Logistics/Housekeeping items
Ask how to pay for your utilities (water, gas, electric, etc.) and how to request local cable and internet services.
Request the respective banking information of all service entities to wire transfer payments.
And of course, be sure to collect your new building and one room keys or passcodes.
4. Pay your realtor the “finder’s fee”
Your realtor will charge a finder’s fee for your new studio. This commission fee is standard in the world of real estate, and Korea is no different. While the rate is based on a percentage of your key money deposit and monthly rent ratio, the rate varies from one real estate office to the next.
A large real estate franchise, for example, may charge more than the independently run mom-and-pop office. As a reference, from my own rental experiences and those of both my Korean and expat peers, the finder’s fee has often ranged between 250 to 350 thousand won (US $225-$315) based on a standard one-room priced listed at the average market price.
As this fee isn’t a fixed rate, try your hand at negotiating. Even if you can knock off 5,000 KRW, you can buy yourself a “welcome” floor mat at your neighborhood mart with the money saved.
5. Sign and seal
The contract signing process includes many signatures and stamps across 3 original sets of the lease (1 each for the realtor, the landlord, and you-the renter). And, just when you think you’ve signed all the copies, the contract pages are fanned out for additional signing across the overlapped sheets. Oh, Korea! Once your lease is signed, you’re almost finished with the one-room rental process!
(1) Notify the Immigration Office
All foreign residents, including overseas Koreans, must report their new home address to the Korean Immigration office within 14 days after the move-in date. You can do this in one (1) of the 2 ways below:
1. Visit the Immigration Office
As the Immigration Office does not take walk-ins, be sure to make an online appointment through their official website and visit the office that services your new district. On the date of your appointment, you will need to bring with you:
2. Visit your district office (구청) or Community Center (주민센터)
Fortunately, the other way to notify the Immigration Office of your new home address is simply by visiting your local district office (구청) or community center (주민센터). The latter is more accessible as they service multiple neighborhoods (동) of your district (구).
At your visit, bring with you the above-listed 4 items, and the clerk will register your address to the national residence database, which automatically links to the Immigration Office. The clerk will also update your new address on the back of your ARC*. For good measure, feel free to confirm with the clerk that you do not need to make a separate visit to Immigration.
*A minor detail to note is that the district office has been known to laser-print your address on your ID card, whereas some community services may only be able to hand-write it (and seal with Scotch tape). So if aesthetics is important to you, register your home address at your local district office.
(2) Register your key money deposit
Registering your key money deposit will be the final, important step for your new rental contract. As discussed in part 1 of the One Room Searching series, the landlord will return the key money deposit (보증금) to the tenant at the end of the lease, provided that the one-room is left in reasonable condition. While your contract protects this agreement, it is highly advisable to register your key money amount with your local registry office.
Your local registry office is simply the Community Center (주민센터) that services your new neighborhood (동). Confirm the name of your new neighborhood (동) with your real estate office and ask where your community center is. Note, if you opt to notify the Immigration Office of your new address at a community center, this is the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Visit the office and secure an official record of your key money deposit paid to your landlord. Bring with your ARC, passport, and housing contract. Show the clerk your newly signed contract and request a “확정일자.” Literally translated as “the fixed date” or “the inconvertible date,” this stamp acts as proof of your deposit and amount and is officially registered by the local and district office. The nominal fee for the registration stamp is about 2,000 KRW.
And, that’s it. Congratulations! You are finally and officially a renter of your very own one room in Seoul. Enjoy and make the most of your new home for the next 1 or 2 years. Here’s to many home shopping sprees at Daiso and at-home chicken and pizza parties to come!