There are various types of housing available in Korea. Long-term residents with families may lease an apartment, which usually requires signing a ‘jeonse’ contract (depositing a key money of more than 50% of the selling price of a residence that is returned at the end of the contract).
Otherwise, smaller and cheaper options are also available for singles. ‘Gositel/gosiwon,’ ‘one-room,’ ‘hasukjip’ and guesthouses are a few examples of popular housing among university students and working individuals. They usually require signing a ‘wolse’ contract (paying a security deposit and monthly rent). Moreover, it is fairly easy to move from one type of housing to another.
Gosiwons (고시원) are residential facilities with small rooms, usually furnished with a bed, desk, and mini-fridge, on either side of a corridor, as well as a common washing room, restroom, showers and laundry room on each floor. Originally occupied by students preparing for various national exams, gosiwons today provide homes for young working individuals. Most gosiwons separate floors by gender, while some are open exclusively for women. Monthly rents range between 300,000 won and 500,000 won, and security deposits range between 100,000 won and 1 million won. Rents vary by building location and facility, and room size and type, and must be paid in advance. Gosiwons are also known as gosi-tels, one-room-tels and living-tels.
As the name suggests, one-rooms are studio apartment rooms each equipped with a kitchen and bathroom. Favored by single university students and working individuals, one-rooms are concentrated near university campuses and commercial areas. They can be easily found on advertisements or through real estate agents. Monthly rents and security deposits greatly vary by building location and facility, and room size and type. The rule is the higher the deposit, the lower the monthly rent. In addition, one-room housing incurs monthly management or utility fees, including electricity and water bills, which range between 30,000 won and 100,000 won. One-room seekers are highly advised to have a budget plan, and to ask for the details of management costs and taxes before signing a contract.
Hasukjips (하숙집) are private boarding houses each equipped with single, double or both types of rooms, communal bathrooms, a laundry room, and other facilities. Meals are often included in the monthly rents, which range from 300,000 won to 500,000 won.
Guesthouses are ideal for backpackers. They feature not only single and double rooms, but also dormitory-style rooms with bunk-beds for 4, 6 or 8 people. A dormitory room costs around 20,000 won per night. Room rates may vary by season and length of stay. The longer the stay, the cheaper the room rates are.
There are several important things to keep in mind when signing a housing contract.
As for one-rooms, searching and leasing are usually done through a real estate agent; we recommend talking to at least three different agents. Once you have chosen a one-room to lease, the corresponding agent prepares a contract for you to review and sign. Subsequently, you must pay the agent a commission fee called ‘bokbi,’ which usually falls between 0.3% and 0.5% of the transaction amount (the sum of the key money and total rental security deposit). For example, if a one-room lease costs 5 million won as key money and 600,000 won as monthly rent, the total rental security deposit is 60 million won (600,000 won x 100), and the transaction amount is 65 million won (5 million won + 60 million won). The bokbi, at the rate of 0.4%, therefore is 260,000 won (65 million won x 0.04%).
As for gosiwons, contracts are prepared by the gosiwon owners, and usually include your room number, monthly rent, and gosiwon rules. If a gosiwon requires a security deposit, make sure to obtain and keep a receipt for the deposit.
As for hasukjips, contracts are prepared by the house owners, and usually include your monthly rate and hasukjip rules. However, not all hasukjips may require signing a contract. If a hasukjip owner demands a security deposit, make sure to obtain and keep a receipt for the deposit.
Finally, as a general rule, the higher the key money or security deposit, the lower the monthly rent; the deposit amount can be negotiated. Once again, we highly recommend reviewing, and having a Korean friend or colleague also review the housing contract and any other relevant documents before signing them.
* Please feel free to use the sample deposit receipt (below) when no receipt is issued.