Whether you are PCSing to Korea unaccompanied or moving with your military family, apartment hunting in South Korea is very different than it is in America. From the way Korean homes are set up to the way you discover what homes are even available, the process of securing a home is quite an adventure in itself!
As you begin to move to Korea from the U.S., it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly-endless to-do list. It’s important to remember that your installation’s housing office is always there to provide guidance.
You’re not in this alone! Our AHRN team is also here to provide valuable PCSing resources regarding your move. Here are our top tips to help you with the process of moving to Korea from the U.S.
The first task to add to your moving to Korea checklist is to shop around for the perfect realtor. In the United States, people typically stick to one realtor to help them find their ideal home. However, in South Korea, it is perfectly acceptable to meet with a few realtors until you find the one that works for you and your family.
This is because realtors in Korea have ties to different rentals. Therefore, they expect renters to hop from realtor to realtor depending on their personal preferences in a home. If you discover that one realtor isn’t showing you homes that fit your needs, it is suggested that you contact the next realtor to see what they have available.
Don’t worry! You won’t have to hunt down quality realtors on your own. The housing office at your new installation will have a list of realtors in the area that come recommended.
Even if you are simply renting, you’ll need a realtor in South Korea. This is because you don’t do the manual work of hunting for an apartment or house; your realtor does it all for you. Furthermore, they will be the ones to negotiate your contract.
As such, it is common practice to pay a realtor commission for their completed work in finding and securing a place to live for you and your family. Typically, this fee is the same amount as one month’s rent, but it can vary.
Define Your Needs
Once you find the realtor right for your military family, you’ll want to describe what type of home you need. Korea has many different kinds of homes you can pick from and telling your realtor exactly what you need within a specific budget will help them streamline their search.
When collaborating with your realtor, consider your preferences as they relate to the following aspects.
Types of Homes
The most common types of homes you’ll find in South Korea are high rises and villas. Unfortunately, the least common types are single-family stand-alone houses. A high rise is just what you can expect, which is a building with five or more floors. Conveniently, these high-rise complexes come with additional amenities such as fitness centers, playgrounds, elevators and even parking garages.
Similarly, villas are considered apartments in smaller buildings that are usually four floors or less. Villas don’t often come with the same amenities that can be found in high-rise apartments. Although they don’t have those additional perks, they are known for being quite comfortable and much quieter than the larger buildings.
The single-family homes in South Korea are a bit smaller than those in the U.S. On the off-chance that you do get to view houses for rent, you can look forward to having your own yard and a bit more privacy than what you’ll find in villas and high-rises.
Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms
Are you moving with your family or are you PCSing to Korea unaccompanied?
Settling on a number of bedrooms and bathrooms will help your realtor pinpoint properties within your preference and budget. Keep in mind that properties across South Korea may be smaller than what we are used to here in the United States.
In addition, Korean apartments have “wet” bathrooms. This means there is no curtain and the entire bathroom serves as a shower. There is a drain in the floor and a raised surface to keep the water from draining outside of the bathroom.
Like in the United States, bathrooms in Korea range in size and functionality. Typically, at least one bathroom in the home has a bathtub. However, there is usually only one bathtub, with the other restroom serving as a wet bathroom.
More Like This: Thinking about being a geo bachelor during your next PCS? Here are the Pros and Cons of Geo-Baching.
Smaller Kitchen Amenities
When home hunting in Korea, it’s crucial that you go into it knowing what to expect. For example, kitchens in Korea are very similar to those in the United States, except for their size. Korean kitchens come with smaller appliances, such as ovens, microwaves and dishwashers.
Refrigerators and sinks are the size we are used to in the United States; however, it isn’t common to find a sink with a garbage disposal. Knowing what amenities are standard in Korea and which are rare will help you determine your priorities in a home.
Proximity to Your U.S. South Korea Base
There are numerous U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine and Navy South Korea bases and camps, and knowing how close yours is to residential living is a crucial part of house hunting. You’ll need to determine how far you are willing to commute and relay that to your realtor.
Keep in mind that traffic in South Korea can extend the length of your commute by a lot. You wouldn’t want to tell your realtor that you would be willing to live 10 miles away if that 10 miles takes you over an hour to navigate.
We recommend calculating the commute time for each home you view. This way, you aren’t surprised by an extremely long drive to work after signing a lease.
Parking can sometimes be a challenge in Korea, depending on your location. Single-family homes will often come with parking spots or designated street parking. On the other hand, high rises have limited spots in parking garages. These areas fill up fast, especially if it is a crowded high-rise. However, when you can secure a spot, they do offer protection from the hot summers and cold winters.
The villas rarely have parking garages but do have open parking or street parking. Like with high-rise apartments, villa parking often fills up quickly. While attending showings with your realtor, make sure to ask them about the area’s parking situation to help you determine if the area is a right fit for you.
Always Ask What’s Included
With each home showing, make it a habit to ask your realtor about what amenities are included. This will help you determine what amenities are included. These included monthly amenities are a significant perk, lowering the total bills you have to pay each month. Ask your realtor these questions to help you determine the conveniences that come with each home:
- What bills are included with this apartment/villa/house?
- Is a membership to the gym included with my rent?
- Do I have to pay for parking or is it available?
- What are some of the nearby attractions?
- Are there parks or grocery stores close to this location?
Even knowing what types of stores surround the area can help you make a housing choice. Since parking can be pretty hectic in South Korea, it’s always nice to be able to leave your car and walk to the nearest grocery store or restaurant.
The majority of high-rise apartments come with Internet, cable and a membership to the building’s fitness center. Understandably, villas have even less included amenities on average, with some having Internet and cable included. If you rent a single-family home, you can expect to have to pay for all bills.
Ready for your OCONUS Move?
PCSing to Korea is a major move. As an American moving to South Korea, there may be some cultural differences that may take some time to get used to. But that’s part of the fun, right?
Although the homes in Korea may be a bit smaller than we are used to, they are built to be both efficient and convenient. With plenty of storage for your belongings and mindfully-designed rooms to fit all the necessities, you’ll fit right at home in no time.
Review our article, What is Your PCS Weight Allowance? PCS Packing Guide and Tips for more helpful information to get your outside the continental United States (OCONUS) move started!