Sunday, April 6, 2014

Renting an apartment in Seoul

I received several text messages on my Korean phone from the agent.

Where are you?

Will you be here soon?

By the last text message, I was at the ground floor waiting for the elevator with a couple of minutes to spare.

I knocked on the door of the company and a woman opened the door.  I asked if this was the leasing agent.  Luckily, she spoke a little english.   Behind her was a room filled with some junk.  The plate on the door had the leasing agent's name on it.  How could I go wrong?

"No. Try next door".  So I did and it turned out to be the right place.  I was greeted at the door and ushered into the office.  There was a table with two well-dressed middle aged women seated side-by-side.

The agent greeted me and asked me to sit with the two women who he introduced to me.  After the greetings we just looked at eachother.  I couldn't speak Korean and they couldn't speak American english.

The agent came and sat with us at the end of the table.  He had three copies of the lease.  Luckily, the lease was in both Korean and English.  He laid them all side-by-side.

A Korean lease is really very simple.  It was about three or four pages long, but if you remove the English, it would all fit on two pages.  Whereas, a Texas standard residential lease is 7 pages long.

"The owner has told me that she replaced the old air conditioner with a new one," said the agent.

I smiled to express my thanks.  The entire apartment had been refurbished and the aged, yellowed A/C unit in the corner of the living room of the apartment sort of stood out like a sore thumb.

Then he and the owner both took out what looked like a short, zippered pencil pouch.  They were about two inches long.  They unzipped them and pulled out what looked like a tube of lipstick.  The agent also pulled out an ink pad that looked like it had been used  a LOT.  The ink pad was mushed up and looked like someone took a hammer to the pad and distorted it horribly.  But all that ever occurred was years of gentle use.

Then the agent began taking an end of what turned out to be a stamp and stamped the inside edge or rather the two touching edges of the leases.  Then the owner did the same thing.

"Now it's your turn." the agent said to me.  But instead of using a stamp, that I didn't have, I wrote my signature.

The agent folded the first page exposing the back and placed his stamp on the edge so that half was on the blank back and half of the stamp was on the page under it.  The owner did the same.  They did this for each page.

"Ok, now it's your turn".  So I signed my name in the same manner.

The ceremony was over.

Now, the really horrible problem in S. Korea is that most landlords require anywhere from one to two years of rent/deposit in ADVANCE.  I was lucky to find someone who only required 6 months.

The agent looked at me with concern "Gary, when will the money clear our bank?"  From that point on until the money actually cleared the Korean Bank, the poor young agent was sweating bullets, daily texting or emailing me asking about the money.  I guess I must look like a real low life.

A few days later when the money cleared the agent's account I sent him a text message saying that he could finally sleep tonight.  He sent me back a smiley.

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