Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Working with Realtors

So now I know that I am not spending all my free time at the market, but I’m still not quite sure exactly where I have been spending it. Mostly be I believe that the free time was spent trying not to go back to the apartment, and then further looking for my own place. Once the word came in that the apartment at the dorm was not going to happen the Boy met me at the school for lunch and apartment hunting in the neighborhood around the school where I would like to be living.
Rather a surprise to me there was a surprise Friday afternoon lunch going on and so I ended up asking if the Boy could come since we already had planned to have lunch together. Alas it was Korean style floor sitting to eat soup, which is really not the easiest thing to do, and we both felt a touch uncomfortable in the very crowded restaurant. Fortunately lunch ended quickly and the two of us were on the way to find an apartment. We knew that in order to do this we had to find a real-estate agent that was in the area in which I wanted to move.
This was discovered when wondering around one day near the university the Boy and I walked into a real-estate agent office and he offered us lots of apartments in the area near the university, but nothing outside the area causing us to surmise that this was the way it was. It was for the most part an accurate guess. So we walked away from the school, towards the neighborhood that I was interested in living in, and started looking for an open realtor.
Apparently, however, realtors don’t really find it necessary to work at all, so as we walked and walked and walked we found several offices, but all were closed. Mind you, we were walking on a dreary damp Friday with a nice clingy misty ran. I was getting frustrated and irritable when we stumbled up yet another realtor. This one had a number on the door and a note saying back in a few minutes. So, I tried to call the realtor and with my limited Korean skills make it clear that I wanted to rent an apartment. He promptly hung up on me, and then for good measure took the battery out of his self phone in case I tried to call back, which of course I did.
So, I was annoyed but not dissuaded as I intended to find an apartment on this Friday. I was not about to give up on it. So, I stopped a passing Korean gentleman riding his bike, typed in the land number (ha, try to unplug your battery now!) and handed him my phone. Again, trying to make clear in my limited pigeon Korean that I wanted to rent an apartment. The nice bewildered biker called up, explained that there were some crazy waygooks hijacking passersbys outside the realtors office, and asked what time he would be in. He told us that the realtor should be back around two, and I checked the time noting that it was about fifty past one, so settled in to wait while the Boy wandered off to look for a different realtor.
Around 2:00 I was annoyed and started trying to call the realtor again but with no luck, however the Boy in his scouting had managed to find a phone number for a different real-estate agent tacked to a phone poll. We called and I gave the phone to the Boy who explained in almost perfect Korean that where we were and what we were looking for. The agent said he would meet us at the nearest big landmark, so we walked up the street to wait for him. In a few minutes my phone was ringing again, and the real-estate agent, a cheery, young, round faced Korean gentlemen was quite surprised to see the two soaked through waygooks that started towards his car. Apparently the Boy had pulled off a coup de Korean and the agent did not realize we were not Korean.
We hopped into his nice, dry, car and were off to see the first apartment he could show us. It was a nice two room place, with a very small kitchen, but it was pretty. Unfortunately it was also pretty expensive. Here is the aspect of renting in Korea that I both like and fear, the junsay. The junsay is what is also called the key deposit or the down payment for an apartment. The rent, if you have to pay one, is directly proportional to the amount of junsay you put down on an apartment. Unlike the first and last months rent that one might pay out to secure a place in the states, the down payment on a Korean apartment is usually invested by the landlords and they take the interest from the money as part of the rent. So, an apartment where you pay around 100 dollars a month for rent might have a junsay of 8,000 dollars. Of course, you do get the money back in the end, sans interest, but for the most part it is a good system. Aside from the fact that you need to have the money for said key deposit.
I did have the money, but not so much that I could afford the deposit on the first place and the rent, which was really high considering the junsay, at around $460 a month, so we asked to see another place. He looked in his book, walked us down to the car and we were off again. The second place shown was also a two room, although this one was occupied. The tenant was apparently moving out that month, and had been asked if it would be okay to show the apartment while still living there, but I don’t think he was expecting to be caught in his sweat pants by a couple of wet waygooks. The second place was also nice, with a big spacious front room and a small bedroom. However it again had a junsay and rent that was higher then what I wanted. The realtor explained that we could bring the monthly rent down by paying a higher junsay, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. I was looking for a place with a junsay around 2 million (2 grand) and a rent around 300 a month, as that is the amount the school was willing to pay for a monthly housing fee. So we thanked the agent and were back off into the rain.

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