My house hunting experience in Seoul – Part 2

In continuation of my previous blog post about my room hunting experience in Seoul, in this posting I will highlight on several aspects to look out for while doing the room check prior to signing the contract, the contract signing process and what to look out for! I guess I will leave out the process of shifting from the dormitory to the room for now because I haven’t experienced that yet hahaha.


So after deciding on the room I wanted to rent, I contact the agent again to view the house for the second time. My agent gladly obliged and I purposely chose to view the house again at night after sun set (the first time I viewed it was on a gloomy afternoon). It was raining cats and dogs that evening but it worked in my favour because I can also then check if there is any leaking anywhere.

Here are a check list about important stuff to check:

  1. Boiler – Make sure it is working for both hot water and floor heating (mine has 2 separate buttons for each function). Gas fees can get really expensive in colder seasons. Newer boilers take lesser time to heat up the floor and water, thus more conservative on the amount of gas used. For a point of reference, my room floor heats up almost immediately (i.e. when the floor heating button was turned on, in around 5 seconds I can feel the floor warming up). For water tap, it took around 2-3 minutes for the taps to produce warm water.
  2. All lights (toilet, room, front door automatic light, and even lights outside of your room at staircase area) – Ensure all lights are brightly lit, if not request the agent to change/repair it.
  3. All water taps and shower hose – Ensure water pressure is OK, no leaking.
  4. Toilet bowl flushing system – It may feel a bit weird that this is actually something important. Older toilet systems with older pipes or certain design of toilet bowls may not have a flush that is powerful enough to flush down toilet paper (this is why in Korea they either provide really thin toilet tissues in public toilets or provide a dustbin in the toilet area for us to throw used toilet paper). The toilet flush in my dormitory is pretty strong but still it got blocked for a few times in the past year. #noescape
  5. Windows – any holes on mosquito net, if the windows can slide open smoothly.
  6. Furniture – If the room is fully furnished (full option), check all cupboards and drawers to see if it is clean (depending on individuals but this is important to me).
  7. Kitchen – Most newer onerooms have induction stoves instead of traditional gas stoves. You may want to consider the amount of stoves because my friend who only has 1 stove said she wished she had two stoves so she can multitask while cooking instead of doing her dishes one by one #shehasapoint. Mine has 2 stoves btw.
  8. Wallpaper – Some owners may opt to change the wallpaper every time a new tenant moves in. If the room’s wallpaper is a bit dirty or run down, try check with the agent to see if it is possible to change.

Next, after confirming everything is OK it was time to sign the contract! Contract fee is normally 10% of total deposit and there is also a separate agent fee. All of these details will be listed in the contract. The contract should start on an agreed date (the date when you move in, NOT the date you sign the contract unless you are moving in right after signing lol) and the duration of contract must be stated clearly on the first page of the contract.

The biggest tip I could share is, make sure everything is ALRIGHT AND CORRECT before signing the contract! The agents are normally busy and they tend to rush us into signing the contract even before we manage to read everything. To be honest, I was rushed into signing the contract but I withhold the contract fee until I ensure everything in the contract is OK and the owner of the building has a clean record. I would prefer if I could sign it after letting my Korean friends check the contract. Fortunately everything turned out OK for me but others may not be so lucky!

Basically the signing of contract is done in the agent’s office. For my case, the agent has the name stamp of the building owner so on behalf of the owner himself, the agent acknowledged the contract using the owner’s stamp. The contract itself has three pages, the first page bearing important information like monthly rent, maintenance fees and what it includes (differs by room and negotiation results), amount of deposit, contract fee (normally 10% of contract fee), my ARC number and other personal details like handphone number, full name etc, the owner’s full name, house address and agent details. Make sure to check EACH AND EVERY details listed and request to change if there is ANY mistake no matter how small the mistake might be. The subsequent second and third page are basically information about the room like nearest bus stop, subway station, schools (primary, secondary, high school), size of room, condition of wall paper, water taps, boiler system etc. To me every information in the contract is IMPORTANT, so if there is anything you don’t agree with, for example if the wallpaper is dirty but in the contract it is stated as new/clean, request to either change the wallpapers or request to change the details in the contract. Ensure that all details regarding the room is tally with the contract to avoid discrepancies in the future when you move out!

Before finally signing the contract and paying the fees, there are TWO very important things to do. The first one is to check the 허가 번호 (registration number/authorization number) of the real estate agent.

You can do it here: http://www.kar.or.kr/pinfo/brokersearch.asp

The webpage is all in Korean but basically we just have to select the filters that indicate the area of the agent’s office (address is normally found on their name cards) and viola~ agents that are registered can all be found on this webpage. Once you verify the authenticity of the agent, then you can move on to checking the 등기부동분 of the building. This is a pretty complicated process and it is ALL in Korean. You would need to download an app called 인터넷등기소 on Playstore. It cost 700 won per check and you would also need to key in a phone number (for them to send the results to) and a Korean ID number. This is where you will need a Korean that you can trust to help you. The report will be in 2 pages. I am also not really sure on this part but from what I know, as long as the building doesn’t have multiple owners, the owner is debt-free and the building is not under mortgaged then it is OK. The report for my room shows none of these so it was an all clear.

P/S: The reason why multiple owners can pose a risk is because most likely the deposit you paid will be split across these owners so you will get into potential trouble if one or more of them runs away with your money.

After all these checks, it is time to sign the contract and wire the contract fee to the owner’s bank account as stated on the contract! Technically, we would have to wire the monthly rent to the same stated account too. Also remember to counter check if the person you are wiring the money to is indeed the building owner himself and not somebody else!


After signing the contract, it is time to make plans to shift! I know I would surely miss Gwangju when I leave because I got used to the life here already. But on the other hand, I am excited to start the new chapter in my life in Seoul! Having my own space and being able to experience living alone is also something that is pretty exciting and I am pretty sure it can be life changing too! Till then, I’ll continue enjoying the remaining weeks here I have in my language year~

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My house hunting experience in Seoul – Part 1

June has come and gone so quickly and in less than one month’s time we will be finishing our Korean language year! So with one month left, I had to make a trip to Seoul for room searching because I have decided not to stay in Yonsei’s dorm. Before I share my experience and also some tips/important matters about looking for a room outside of campus, let me first share with you the reasons WHY I don’t want to live in a dorm anymore.

I have been living in Chosun University’s Global House Dormitory for over 10 months now. Although the stay has been good so far because I am blessed with a really good room mate, there are also down sides of dormitory life where in my opinion, could be easily resolved if I lived outside by my own. Here are some of the down sides of dorm life that propelled me to make the decision:

  1. Ok so this is not exactly the down side of dorm life in general but for my case, Yonsei’s dorm is really expensive AND we do not get a special discount as KGSP scholars either. Other friends heading to other universities have certain discounts and one of my friend is going to get it for free too! Why would I pay such a high monthly rental to stay in a 2-person room if I can live by my own outside with a similar cost?
  2. Dorm life is very restrictive. Curfews aside (my current dorm has a curfew of 1am – 5am daily), there is not much privacy in the dorm building itself because cameras are EVERYWHERE, at EVERY CORNER. And we are also restricted from using the air conditioning during summer and heater during autumn and winter too! The AC and heater are time controlled for energy saving, but it is really uncomfortable to live under these restrictions especially in hot summer days.
  3. Risk of having people entering your room while you are away. The presence of CCTVs is not a hindrance to these people because the office has a master key to all of room doors. So for whatever reason like room check, pest control etc, they do use the master key to enter the room if no one is in. This itself sparks a problem because me and my roomie had a case few months ago where we realise our toiletries are being used (i.e. amount lessens mysteriously). I started realising it when it happened to my newly bought (never used) shampoo. Initially me and my roommate thought it was just us who sometimes used each other’s stuff but that was not the case. Made a report to the dorm office on this, but till this day there were no follow up.
  4. Lack of private time and movement space. Sometimes after a long and tiring day all I want is just spending time alone somewhere. I have a really nice roommate and we do enjoy living together and doing things together. But private alone time is also very important to me and the lack of time alone actually stresses me out because I gotta be constantly on the watch out so that I do not cause a disturbance to my room mate and also dorm neighbours in the things I do. Also, dorm rooms tend to be quite small and tight (duh, imagine putting 2 beds, 2 tables, 2 cupboards in a room that is smaller than an average hotel room) so there is not much space for me to move around!
  5. No personal kitchen. Our current dorm only has a microwave at every floor. Most dormitories have shared kitchens but I still find it uncomfortable to use because it tend to be really dirty and smelly. #OCD Eating out, especially in Seoul can be really expensive so it would be better for me to cook small meals myself to save on food expenses.

So, here is how I get started on my house hunting. Prior to going to Seoul, I did the following:

  1. Determine which area I wanted to live in (which neighbourhood, nearby subway station/bus station)
  2. Determining my budget. Contract for oneroom is normally 1 year, depending on the location, deposit can range from 2 million to 5 million won (or even 10 million won). The monthly rent I was looking at was 500,000 won (inclusive of maintenance fees and other bills like water, gas and electricity)
  3. Download apps like Jikbang, Dabang etc and have a look on the rooms available. You can also call up the agents listed on the app to make your appointment too!

Step 1 and 2 is really useful as it is very VERYYYY important to know what you want in terms of the room of your dreams. Different people may have different requirements and it is also important to remember that the lower your budget is, the lesser “requirements” i.e. you gotta be less fussy when it comes to picking a room.

To be honest, step 3 stated above is only a reference point BECAUSE once I was in Seoul, I found out that those “nice and affordable”, “new” rooms are actually non-existent. I went to this particular neighbourhood with hopes to find a new and big room at my budget but when I got there, none of the rooms showed to me looked anything like the ones I saw in the app. After asking several agents, they said those rooms are there on the app to attract people to visit the agent and deals that seems too good to be true are indeed, too good to be true.

But fret not, even though those photos/agents in the app could be fake or non trust worthy, at least you have a rough idea on how much rooms would cost in that particular area and what transportation is available near the area you wish to live in! Next comes the trip to Seoul! I planned a 4.5 days trip to Seoul and booked an Airbnb near Sinchon Rotary area. I was initially planning on looking for a room in Sinlim area but at the same time I kept my options open and tried visiting as many agents as possible to see what they have to offer!

It was really difficult for me to speak on the phone and set an appointment with the agents because none of them speak English or Mandarin. So I got my Korean friend to set some appointments for me, but due to last minute changes I actually ended up cancelling prior appointments I made and just do walk-ins to the agent’s office.

Before I continue, here are some of my requirements and budget that I had in mind for my room:

Initial Budget: 2 million – 3 million won for deposit, monthly rent of 500,000 won inclusive of maintenance fees, water, internet, gas and electricity

Revised Budget (after talking to agents and looking at some houses: max 5 million won for deposit, monthly rent of 500,000 won, excluding maintenance fees. Total monthly rent inclusive of maintenance and utilities 560,000 won tops.

Area: Sincheon, walkable distance to Yonsei University OR Sinlim (but with a cheaper budget to take into account transportation fee)

Room criteria (in order of importance): Clean room, spacious, good and safe location for girls to walk about, full option (all furniture inclusive)

Optional stuff that would be of great advantage: Elevator


I am very fortunate to have my Malaysian friend who can speak good Korean to come with me on the first day as we randomly walked into the agent office. She also shared some great tips with me which I think is VERY important. To be honest there are a lot of room hunting tips online but most, if not all that I have seen so far are in Korean.

Here are some tips from my friend and also myself after experiencing this first hand!

  1. Windows are important. Size is important because it is important to let the sunlight in and also to be able to look outside. The Airbnb Goshiwon that I stayed at for 5 days did not have a window and to be honest it nearly drove me crazy because day seems like night and night seems like…night LOL. I read somewhere that sunlight is important for a lot of very important health related reasons. On top of that, it is also important to see which direction your window is facing and if there is any tall building that may be blocking sunlight to your room. If your window is facing a busy street, it would be really noisy and dusty. And if there is a tall building right next to the window, chances are the sunlight will be blocked. Some people may not like the sun to directly shine into the room during sun light or sun set, so depending on your preference, ask the agent which direction is the window facing before making your choice!
  2. In relation to the above, some people may say that it is best to view your room on a sunny day to see how much sunlight goes into the room. But it depends on individuals because I viewed my room on a gloomy day and surprisingly it is still pretty bright. I went to view it the second time at night when it was raining outside. I think it is important for me to view the house again not just to check stuff in a more detailed manner, I specifically chose to go at night after sunset to see the condition of the building itself (if it is bright, is it dangerous to walk alone etc). AND since it was raining, I also took the opportunity to see if there is any leaks or water splattering into the room through the window.
  3. DON’T DECIDE BY IMPULSE. Putting this tip in caps because this is so important! You may find a room that you like a lot at the early stages. But give yourself more options and try looking for more because you may not know what will come up! Agents will always try to push you to sign the contract but make sure you thinking about it over and over. Ask your friends, your Korean teachers, your parents because sometimes they might see things that you don’t! Personally I waited 2 days before signing the contract because I needed time to think rationally!
  4. Negotiate! Every agent I met tells me the same thing, “You will not be able to find a room in this size at this price here in this neighborhood”. WRONG. I have seen big and small rooms at various locations in the same neighbourhood. They are all quoted in similar prices so it is important to try negotiating! Always remember not to be pressured by the language barrier or how pushy the agent is because ultimately they want to do your business and they want to close the deal! After choosing your room, talk to your agent to reduce the rent! I managed to negotiate for 10,000 won from maintenance fee and I am glad I did. It may seem to be a small sum but I actually save 120,000won per year!
  5. Underground rooms can be cheaper and bigger than other rooms located on a higher floor. But there may be underlying problems like bugs, lack of air circulation, high levels of humidity in the room which can lead to discomfort and molds and also the room being super cold in winter and very hot in the summer. I read about these issues online and also asked some of my friend’s opinion. I was intending to sign for an underground/basement oneroom but pulled out in the end.
  6. Tip from agent: Rental for rooms that has elevator tend to be more expensive.
  7. Another tip from agent + online reviews: Newer buildings have newer floor heating system, which means it takes lesser time AND gas to heat up the water and the floor. Super old buildings with old heating/boiler system may lead you to a very expensive gas bill in winter! So check the boiler before signing the contract! (More details in part 2 post)
  8. Go with a friend who can speak good Korean! Even though I can speak rather decent Korean sometimes I freak out when I am nervous and I wouldn’t be able to remember what to ask and HOW to ask!
  9. Do your homework! Aside from all the issues I have highlighted above, before and after signing the contract, there is SO much to do (paperwork, checking information of building owner etc) and every single process is quite tedious and can be pretty complicated. FYI, the contracts, verification of owner etc are all done in Korean so be mentally prepared!
  10. But fret not, before you go for house hunting, make sure you liaise with 2 to 3 Koreans who will be able to read through the contract for you on the day you seal the deal. I got my Korean teacher and 2 Korean friends to read through it for me to check if there is any weird discrepancies or things to be corrected. Once I get an all clear from them, then only I paid the contract fees.

House hunting is a pretty tiring process but it can also be very fun and rewarding! It adds to the excitement and the reality of us being able to move to Seoul soon finally started sinking in! I hope the tips highlighted in this post will be of great help to those who will be going for house hunting in Seoul. I will go into more details on important matters to check before signing the contract and what to do after signing the contract in more detail in my next post!

Mudeungsan in Autumn

Nine months into my stay here in South Korea, I have been to loads of festivals and tourist sites around Gwangju. My parents have also visited me a couple of times and last autumn, we went for a short hike at Mudeungsan! This is a super back-logged update because I am technically two seasons late haha! But even after two seasons, I must say that the beauty of Mudeungsan in autumn is still lividly remembered~

It is my parent’s first autumn experience abroad so of course autumn leaf viewing is a must in our itinerary. Before heading to Mudeungsan Hiking Trail, we took a stroll around Chosun University campus because it is really pretty during autumn too!

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 And then, I brought my parents to a restaurant in our back gate area that serves super delicious hangover soup!

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After a sumptuous lunch, we took a bus to Mudeungsan hiking trail! Even though it is late November, autumn leaves are pretty much still in full blast, with a lot of fallen leaves on the ground too! Which means…. Lots and lots of beautiful pictures!

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As we walked on the hiking trail, we came across a small temple~

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After a short stay at the temple grounds, we continued hiking up.

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And of course, how can we forget to kick up piles of autumn leaves? HAHAHA so much fun.

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It was sunset by the time we left. Our trip did not stop at beautiful autumn leaves because when we were almost at the end of the hiking trail, it started snowing/raining for about 3 minutes! Even though it wasn’t heavy at all but I guess it does count as my first snowing experience. Even my parents are excited because it has been a long time since they last seen snow too!

One more at the entrance before leaving~

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I would definitely recommend Mudeungsan for autumn leaves viewing. It is not a tough mountain to hike and given it’s vast coverage area, I actually been to Mudeungsan 3 times at different spots and seasons and every area has something different to show.

Shall update more on the other places we visited once I have more time! Bye for now~

Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival – Day 2

On the second day of my trip to Jinhae Gunhangje, me and my friends went to Gyeonghwa Train Station and also Anmingogae Hill for more cherry blossom viewing! The itinerary for the second day is pretty relaxed and we even managed to grab some Mcdonald’s for breakfast! Sadly there is only two Mcd outlets in Gwangju and they do not deliver to my dorm so for the past year the only time I ate Mcd was when I am out for trips haha!

It was a really sunny day with bouts of cold wind, which means perfect day for taking photos and hanging out outdoors~

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Glorious Mcd brekkie
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A look at Changwon town where our hotel is located
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Even though it is a small town, it is still very modern
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Took the bus to Gyeonghwa Station

Gyeonghwa Train Station is also one of the most visited placed during Gunhangje and as expected it was also people mountain people sea (human tsunami) in that area. There were many local Koreans AND also foreigners so for every photozone that we want to take photos at, we had to wait for about 30 minutes because the queue was crazy! But nevertheless the scenery was really pretty. The iconic Korail train stands in the middle of cherry blossom trees lining on both sides. And when the wind blows, romantic cherry blossom petals fall off the trees~

I’ll let the photos do the talking…

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People mountain people sea
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Selfie first
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The side view of the iconic Korail train (which is the main character of this place)
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Front view of the train AND the crowd
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The only angle without humans in the photo is upwards haha
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Full bloom cherry blossoms
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Festival food stalls under the sea of cherry blossoms
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Lynn was here
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Another selfie
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Another side view of the train hahaha
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Queue to photo zone in front of train
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My turn finally came after 30 minutes hahaha
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Must take two shots because I waited for 30 minutes!
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Groupfie~
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Romantic vibes~
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Friend bought this cotton candy for photo purposes hahaha

After hanging around for an hour or so, it was time to move on to the next destination. I found out that Anmingogae Hill is also one of the hot spots for cherry blossom viewing so I was expecting another human tsunami to happen over there. But little did I know, although it is a REALLY beautiful place for cherry blossom viewing, there wasn’t any crowd on the hill!

But it was really hard to catch a cab to the hill from Gyonghwa Station though because taxi drivers that we stopped refused to send us there for reasons that is still a mystery for us now. Fortunately after a few attempts we managed and we got the taxi to send us to the peak area and from there we walked downwards while enjoying the cherry blossoms!

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Endless cherry blossom trees on the hill side
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How serene
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It was pretty windy
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There is a small walking path on the side for hikers
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More cherry blossoms!
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Taking risks by going into the middle of the road for a shot
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Scenery on the hill
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At one of our rest stops
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I like it when there are some petals on the floor
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How my hair looks like is directly proportional to the amount of wind experienced
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Look up and we will see this
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Ok last shot

It was a really relaxing day well spent with beautiful flowers. Overall, this trip has been really fulfilling. It is no doubt that cherry blossoms are the main characters of spring here. But there is always more to come after the cherry blossoms~ Stay tuned!