Come in! Come in! Searching YouTube for videos of what the houses looked like in South Korea was what we were most excited about when preparing for our move here. We appreciated every video that we were able to see so we could get an idea of what to expect. So, here’s our new home to add to the mix. Hope you like the video!! Keep reading through because after the video I write about making friends, the housing office process, money (rent & utilities), getting a realtor in Korea, and move-in day! We live in Area IV, Daegu, Korea – so our experiences detailed here could be especially helpful for anyone being stationed in (working in) Camp Walker, Camp Henry, Camp George, or Camp Carroll and living off-post. This post is especially geared towards the US military with dependents. Be sure to call and/or contact the agencies listed for any up- to- date information.
A few corrections from the video
Floor heating. The floor heating does not have GAS running all through the pipes under the entire floor but rather HOT WATER heated by the gas (not the electricity). I guess that was why I kept saying that over and over that it won’t greatly affect your electric bill when you turn on the heat. (My hub is worried about what the electric bill will cost us as he was briefed during the housing briefing that the electricity prices progressively increases once you reach a certain level of usage.)
Water filter. You can leave on the water filter’s hot water switch if you want to. That is probably more convenient than turning it on and waiting for 20 minutes if you know you will use it. In fact, in order to save electricity (here we go again!) we used the gas stove to boil water and then we made our drinks. That technique only lasted one day. LOL. Now we turn on the hot water switch and wait when we want hot water but I imagine that that waiting will get old pretty quickly and before you know it we will surely just leave the darn thing turned on all the time!!
Trash. So right now, (in the video) we do have plastic trash bags hanging everywhere from the cabinets filled with sorted recyclable trash in it (in case you were wondering about that). I know that is so tacky! Remember, we are still moving in and will eventually find / or buy things to make this new place our home. I should have taken a photo before I asked my son to go and take out the trash to the recycling bins so you could really see what it was like! I’ll do another video about the trash recycling situation here later. If you have been stationed in Germany, you know about the recycling. In South Korea they have taken it to the next level as most things are sorted out (by you) and recycled! This is great for the environment and it really cuts down on your trash costs (as you only pay for what can’t be recycled). It will take some patience (and maybe some labeling) to make it easier on everyone to remember what goes where.
ACS Lending closet. Army Community Service (ACS) is currently located on Camp Henry, but eventually it will move to Camp Walker in the One Stop building. (Daegu falls under AreaIV of the Pacific area region.) Find a ride (or catch a cab) to transport the items you check out for your new home. You can borrow them for 30 days and can request an extension as well if needed. I provided my military ID and a copy of our orders (bring your lease as well, if you have it) to the ACS desk in order to use this service.
Realtor. I did mention in the video that we had a bad experience with (only) one of the 4 realtors we used when looking for a place, read below for details on realtors. Basically, as these realtors are showing you different places to rent, just know that you will be working with (or through) this person for the duration of your stay. Beware of any realtors who do not listen to what you want and refuse to let you leave their car because they want to show you “a great place that’s good for your family.” The first place they show you may be a misunderstanding but after the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th place you may decide like we did to just be happy to be allowed to leave and know that you will NEVER return this person’s phone call. Not ever. Never again. No matter how many times that they call you or your hotel. (Yikes!!)
First look inside our South Korean villa apartment home in Daegu near Camp Walker Area IV
Situational. Yes so the kids and I caught a ride with a stranger* (*use your judgment people!) the second day we arrived here in Camp Walker, Daegu, because it was pouring and we needed to get back to the hotel. (It didn’t even occur to me that we could have had someone call an on-post taxi!) Thankfully, some woman offered my soaked children and I a ride and guess what? She lives in my neighborhood! The American community feels smaller because we are all in the same boat. (THANK YOU to helpful strangers!)
Intentional. At every post worldwide there is a PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) (or something like it). Before I arrived, I found the one here and connected with them using Facebook (PWOC Area IV). I went there to meet people and to begin making connections. To me, the friendships we make in a new place help us to feel that we are home. Come look for me there, if you check it out! (We meet in the Camp Walker post chapel building.) Anyway, I almost forgot why I’m mentioning PWOC in the first place… oh, so I met a friend from my new Bible Study class who saw me coming out of housing on Camp Henry. My husband and I had just signed our lease. She sincerely asked us what we needed and so I said, “sheets”!! I’m so thankful that she helped us out by loaning us three sets of sheets, pillows AND blankets until our things arrive PLUS a ride to/from the ACS lending closet. (Our vehicle hasn’t arrived just yet!) (THANK YOU to our new friends!)
Old friends. The Lord helped us tremendously during our whirlwind move by providing two families we knew previously to move here first and answer many, many questions about life in Daegu. One family we were stationed with back in Baumholder, Germany and the other family we met at our last duty station in Fort Lee, Virginia. It is so good to see people we know happy here in this foreign land! I got to check out their apartments once we got here (they both live in two different high-rise apartments) which was helpful for me to have a better idea of what we could expect and what to look for when looking for our own place to live. (THANK YOU to our old friends! This world is so small like that.)
Military Housing office (Area IV)
If you are authorized to live off-post (if not, you will need to submit an exception to policy unless there is no space for you on-post), after you find a place housing will give you an inspection date and the lease signing date. They will NOT do this until you have attended their mandatory housing briefing (even if you have all the documentation in order and went ahead and found a place on your own that you’d like to rent). This was our experience. After the sponsor attends this required briefing, the necessary dates are then scheduled.
Housing inspection. During the inspection, the owner, the realtor, the housing inspector, and you will meet at the place you hope to rent. The inspector will look it over for any safety deficiencies and will provide the realtor a date that any repairs will need to be made by in order to proceed as scheduled. (For us, the carbon monoxide detector was malfunctioning and so they had until Sunday to fix it; our lease signing was scheduled for a Monday.)
Lease signing. You will have to sign in your realtor at the Camp Henry gate in order to obtain a visitor’s pass to bring your realtor and owner onto the base and escort them to the housing appointment. During the lease signing, the housing person will tell you your move in day (for us, it was 2 days later on a Wednesday). This is the day that your OHA begins (and you will need to check out of lodging as finance will not “double pay”) and your temporary housing furniture will be delivered.
- Now that you’ve signed your lease you can contact the movers to schedule your Household Goods (HHG) and/or Unaccompanied Baggage (UB) delivery!
- If you have school aged children, don’t forget to then go by the School Transportation Office to get new bus passes created with the new bus stops.
Housing furniture request. There is a limit on what you can borrow! I didn’t know this and so I requested away! Um, so we had to go right back there and complete a new form (this time using the correct form).
Money, Money, Money, Money… MONEY!!
COLA. (Cost of Living Allowance.) Your COLA begins the day you arrive (sign-in) in country. You receive COLA twice a month; type in “KR045” into the Overseas COLA Calculator to see your rate here.
OHA. Rental Allowance starts on your move in date. You will only receive the amount of your rent listed on your lease UP TO the maximum amount of your rate. Type in “KR045” into the OHA Calculator to see your rate here. Your first payment will be for the prorated amount of rent (if this applies to you; it did for us as we moved in on the 24th so we paid 8 days for October), the following month of rent (November), a month of rent for the deposit (you can request this through Housing at your lease signing if you like but if so you are required to pay back all of it to Finance when you move) and any fees (for us it will be the one-time dryer “hook up fee” (35,000 KRW) and the water filter installation free (15,000 KRW). You (we) will pay any rent and utilities monthly in won through the realtor. Don’t forget to get your receipt stamped as proof! (I’ll update this in a few days after we make our initial payment if anything is different or I misunderstood anything.)
OHA. Recurring Maintenance Allowance / Utilities also starts at your move in date. You can keep (pocket) any leftover money from this amount, if there is any. Hopefully there will be something!! (I asked the realtor about the previous tenant costs; I will list the amounts paid for the month of August 2018 in orange for you to have a general idea of what your utility costs may look like.) The following are the Utilities that we are required to pay (for my home). These will all be paid through the realtor (along with the rent); be sure to get your receipt stamped! (You may be fortunate enough to have some of these utilities covered as a part of the rent but that needs to be worked out and identified on the lease.) Utilities covers the Maintenance Fee (which includes internet and cable) (230,000 KRW *this is by far the highest fee of all the places we have seen or heard about), electricity (138,850 KRW) (see above for progressive electricity chart), gas (heating & hot water) (17,530 KRW), cold water (11,000 KRW), the cost of buying special trash bags (5,000? KRW) (I’ll make a separate video explaining the trash), and water filters/cleaning (optional service) (15,000 KRW). (Adding up all the orange (previous tenant’s costs for August) it amounts to 417,380 KRW = $367.)
Money exchange. I know that we will need to pull out dollars and then convert it to Korean Won to pay the realtor, however, I haven’t used this process yet. I’ve heard lots of things and I don’t know which is better so I’ll just leave this at that for now and will edit this portion later. Let me know if you have any recommendations!
Realtors in Daegu, Korea
If you are looking for off-post housing in Korea, let me start by advising you with what everyone else told us- use several realtors. It’s not like the States where available places are listed on a MLS (Multiple Listing Service) that all the realtors have access to. No, instead, here each realtor has their own separate listings. There are lots of realtors (and realtor agencies). So the way it works is that the owner who wants their place rented goes through a realtor to get their property rented. Each realtor has their own specific apartments, villas, or homes (aka listings) to offer to you. (Now savvy realtors may work with other realtors to help you find what are looking for and then share the cut.) This is why you should check with different realtors because they have different listings.
However, whichever realtor you end up going with, just remember that THAT realtor is the person whom you will interact with during your entire stay, not just throughout the procurement of your new place. You will contact your realtor for any issues with your place and they will operate more as a property manager and a translator. They will be the go-between for you and the landlord / owner or between you and the “engineers” (‘everyone is known as an engineer here’ our sponsor jokingly told us) that need access to your place for any repairs. The realtor will also be the one you go to each month to pay your rent (if you pay month to month). (The civilian employees pay their rent and utilities up front for the entire year; some owners prefer this type of renter verses the month to month rent(er) as they can use that lump sum of cash for other things (and they might even get more money over all doing it that way). Military personnel will only be paid by finance the “month to month” monthly OHA – overseas housing allowance.) So, since you will interact with your realtor throughout your time here, it would behoove you to take notice of the type of service they offer to you, the level of communication you have with them as they show you around the different apartments, and if you feel like you can trust them to be there as later you may need them to help with repairs.
Do you have school aged children coming with you? You might want to think about the bus stop location if they will attend the DoDEA schools. We confirmed with the School Transportation Officer the distance from an apartment we were thinking about renting and the school bus stop (even though the realtor informed us where it will be). One place we found we really loved with a beautiful living room view of the mountain but discovered it was a 15 minute walk to the nearest school bus pick up location. That was a deal-breaker for us. Sigh.
In the end, we talked with 4 different realtors (different agencies) because we really wanted a 4 bedroom place (there were lots of 3 bedrooms available but not 4 bedrooms) that was near the subway and the bus stop. We thought about parking and most important for us was the distance to the base and the monthly rent (and the maintenance fee) amount. Know what you want and don’t be afraid to keep looking. Be open and honest with your realtor and they will work hard for you, if they want your business. I have found that if they can get you what you are looking for they will definitely try their best.
The villa we chose was shown to us by 대구 부동산 Daegu realtor Kevin from Okey Dokey Realty. We were connected to him through our sponsor who highly recommended him. He picked us up to take the kids and I on our second day in Daegu. I didn’t really like this place he showed us at first (which we now call home) so that is why we kept looking around at other places and through other realtors. I’m choosing to recommend our realtor, Kevin, with anyone that is looking for a realtor because he has consistently provided excellent customer service to us. He provided a map when we first met, took time to explain features and answer questions (no question is a stupid question with this guy), informed us up front for any fees and showed us proof or explanations when available. (I would definitely be skeptical if people are speaking in a different language around me and then spring on me that ‘I owe’ or ‘it costs such and such’; that has not been the case with my experience with Kevin.) Kevin responds quickly to texts or calls and is very organized by providing documents (in English) about basic things that he probably has gotten asked all the time by Americans when we come here. I like that he labeled items around the house that were in Korean, especially on our dishwasher and stove. He arranged for the water filter and the dryer hook ups to be completed on our move-in date without us even asking. There was a leak we discovered on our move-in date and when we showed him, he took video and sent pictures to the owner. He responded the next day that he contacted the engineer but that they were busy but then called the day after to see if we were available and it got fixed. Perhaps this is normal service here but after talking with our other friends whom we knew previously that also rent off-post, I’d say Kevin offers great service, his English is perfect and he is not pushy! (THANK YOU to our realtor for your great customer service! Hope it’s okay to include your info in my post!)
Move in day!
Check out of your hotel by the appropriate time. We were staying in Camp Walker Lodging. Take with you everything that’s yours. Befriend someone with a truck (our sponsor already has his ready) and transport your things to your new place! Maybe your ride will also even take you to the post Commissary so you can begin to fill your fridge and cabinets. (THANK YOU to our sponsor!!)
Our realtor came over a few hours later to help us change the locks (no one uses keys here it seems), show us how to properly operate everything, where to record the gas, water and electric usage, how to use the video doorbell, how to properly dispose of trash, how to set the floor heaters and welcomed the water guy and the dryer engineer. Whew!! (I can’t imagine this process going any smoother!)
On 8 September we turned in the keys to our rented home back in Virginia and now on 24 October we moved in and got to enjoy our first “we made it at home” meal courtesy of all the support we have received along the way. What a long journey!
I hope this has been helpful for you. Let me know what else you’d like to see/read, maybe I can create it for you. Please take a look around and find more blogs like this here at https://sejanashines.com/.
If you are military, you might be interested in the Military Life category.
Also there is the Korea category here: https://sejanashines.com/category/korea/ .