Tuesday, January 27, 2015

closer and closer

The thought that I should move to Ilsan for the semester didn't become truly serious until yesterday—the first day I decided to venture out to Dongguk's Ilsan campus to see just how easy or hard the commute would be. We were told via email that the commute would be about 90 minutes, and that's about right, especially when you factor in the subway-to-bus transfer and the walk to campus after you get off the local bus.

I'm at the Ilsan campus right now, typing this entry. The building is bright, open, and deadly quiet, except for two cleaning ajummas who are talking down the hallway. Yesterday's visit was mainly to reconnoiter the campus—figure out where my classrooms were, what the Wi-Fi codes are, etc.; today's visit was to follow up on the idea of moving out here. So I took some pictures of studio-apartment buildings close to the campus, including pictures of the large real-estate-office banner ads hanging off the telephone poles, then made a list that I hoped was a match for the real-estate phone numbers and their seemingly associated properties. I assumed that, if an ad was close to Property X, it must be associated with Realtor X. This turned out to be false.

I sent text messages to two realtors. One responded quickly by phone, saying he could meet me in five minutes. The other never replied. I met the first gentleman out in front of the building I was in (the Jonghap Gangeui-dong, if you must know—sort of an all-purpose building with plenty of classrooms and lecture halls, which houses the classrooms I'll be using starting in March), and he immediately drove me back to his real-estate office. I waited in his SUV for a few minutes, then we drove about a fifteen-minute walk away from campus to a set of buildings I hadn't photographed. I imagine that each real-estate office has its own "turf," so this guy's turf wasn't near the campus itself. That was a bit disappointing, but the studio-apartment buildings that he took me to were less than a mile away. If I do move into one of these places, my situation won't be so different from when I lived in Hayang.

As we drove, we talked price. At first, it sounded as though I wouldn't be able to afford the places he was showing me: he wanted 10 million won down for the security deposit (bojeung-geum) and about W500,000 a month for the rent. I told him frankly that I couldn't do that—I've saved up only three million. He said he could probably make do with three million, and I would definitely get it all back at the end of the rental period.

The two places we visited were in buildings that stood across from each other. The first studio was on the third floor, and I was relieved to see the building had an elevator: this would make move-in a hell of a lot easier. The studio was surprisingly large, and was roughly divided into two rooms with no door between them, but the rent for this one was W550,000, which was pushing my envelope: I was prepared to go no higher than W600,000, knowing that I'd be paying utilities (electricity, gas) on top of the monthly rent. W550,000 was getting dangerously close to that ceiling.

The second place was several pyeong smaller (a single pyeong is about 3.95 square yards, or almost six feet by six feet), but I liked its simple, open design. This place was an even W500,000 a month, and it was on the first floor, which meant that, once again, there'd be little problem with move-in. The realtor told me I'd have to choose between these two, and that there were no empty apartments in the buildings I had originally wanted to see.

All in all, I'm mostly sold on this smaller place. It'll serve me well for a few months, then I'll move down to Daechi-dong and get free housing in a spacious 26-pyeong apartment. There are a couple problems, however, mostly related to furnishing. The studio comes with a kitchenette and washing machine, which is nice, but there's no bed, no desk, and no nightstand. I talked with my buddy Tom about this, and he said it should be no problem to find cheap, used furniture locally. This has been my experience elsewhere, and I did see some gagu-jeom (furniture stores) while I was on the bus and heading toward the campus.

So I'm mostly sold on the idea of moving to Ilsan. I'll still need to visit my office at the Seoul campus every now and again, if for no other reason than to do all the admin-related bullshit that Dongguk is infamous for. (I'm sure there's a permission form for wiping one's ass—and in which direction to do it.) But those visits ought to be rare: the Ilsan campus has most of what I need, including copying services. Local restaurants appear cheap, and in theory, the huge hospital across the street has its own bargain-basement cafeteria if times get financially tough.

I'll need to rework my budgetary numbers. I'll probably also need to borrow cash from someone for a month or two, since my coffers are going to be utterly drained by this damn security deposit. And I'm going to talk things over with some other people before I finalize my decision to move. I told the realtor that I'd get back to him on Thursday; this will give me the time to speak with some folks I trust. But assuming I go through with this, I'll be out of my yeogwan and back into a studio apartment by the beginning of February. That'll give me plenty of time to settle in and get used to the new neighborhood before the semester begins.



daeguowl said...

You should download the 직방 app to your phone. This will allow you to serach easily for all property in a certain area filtering for price etc. and then let you know the agent for any specific property that takes your fancy.

daeguowl said...

A quick scan shows a couple of places near the uni in your price range and a whole bunch more in the greater area. There are also a lot more asking for a 5 million deposit that may be flexible. The only thing you have to be aware of is that they probably won't like a short-term contract.

John (I'm not a robot) said...

Sorry, but I had to laugh when you said the apartment was a mile from campus. This coming from the guy who walks 15,000 steps everyday.

Don't forget your passport tomorrow.

Kevin Kim said...




The realtor, in typical Korean fashion, was a bit optimistic in his estimate of the walking time. He said it was a ten-minute walk, which was obviously bullshit as we drove farther and farther from campus. So that's what miffed me.

John from Daejeon said...

There are so many smaller apartment buildings opening up in Daejeon that you can easily find some cutthroat deals around the 300,000-350,000 won range with many taking small security deposits instead of key money just to get income to pay off their recent construction costs and many of these apartments are nice and only a block or two behind main thoroughfares. It's just that agents are going to do their best to get more money for themselves as you can see by your agent's reluctance to come down much on key money price.

You meed an insider into the local real estate market (maybe a co-worker at your school), or the time to do the actual "legwork" yourself by going door to door and speaking to the owners/managers of newer apartment style buildings just off the main streets to really understand the market. By talking to owners/managers, you can explain your situation in person and might be able to forgo paying key money by paying slightly higher rent without having to deal with the agent's commission.

For a little comparison, this is the going rate this is for a 1 bedroom loft in RichVille Tower in the center of Daejeon right in the middle of all the hubbub on the main drag. If that's the current cost in RichVille, those looking for apartments in Daejeon have a starting point in which to work down from, especially those living far off the main drag with no views and far less conveniences.

Kevin Kim said...

Daejeon John,

Good monthly rate on that apartment, but the 5 million up front is a downer. Still, it's too bad I'm not in Daejeon.

I've installed the "jikbang" app recommended by Daeguowl, above. That ought to do most of my legwork for me.