Mastering the minutiae of apartment hunting

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Mastering the minutiae of apartment hunting

Finding a great apartment at an affordable price is easy. All it takes is a little research and a lot of footwork.

The advantages of living on your own often outweigh the drawbacks: For a relatively low price, you get freedom, the opportunity to manage your affairs and a chance to cut down your commute, since you'll probably choose a place closer to school or the office.

This second and final segment of our series profiles two more young people living on their own, answers questions about making a successful move and lists stores in Seoul to get great deals on new and used furniture and appliances.

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Lee Sang-ji

After graduating from college and getting her first full-time job at a company, Lee Sang-ji found herself with enough money to handle a deposit for her own place. But the 23-year-old office worker decided that going for a lump-sum payment, or jeonse, would be a bit of a stretch. Since she receives her salary on a monthly basis, she figured that monthly rent would be the most logical payment plan.

Ms. Lee had found that getting home after company functions or social events in the evenings was particularly difficult, so she made it a priority to locate a home within reasonable proximity of her office.

Finding an affordable place in the high-end Gangnam area wasn't an easy task, but with the help of a local Realtor (and a fee amounting to 300,000 won or $250) Ms. Lee was able to locate a suitable apartment. She has been living there for nine months, and although it's on the small side, she says that it's just right for living alone.

Her advice to those living on their own for the first time: Although you'll have to shell out some cash, consulting a real-estate agent is the best bet, since you'll lessen the chances of being swindled by a homeowner. Take into consideration your financial capabilities: Taking a loan to pay for a higher deposit may create money problems later on. Set limits and choose wisely. And for women: As a safety precaution, make sure your apartment is near a well-lit street.

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Park Hye-ji

Park Hye-ji wanted to live on her own in order to cut her commuting time and have a more leisurely life. Her long train ride to school had made morning classes particularly agonizing, and nights out with friends had often been cut short to catch the last train home.

Living for the first time on her own, Ms. Park, 22, had been concerned about all the household appliances she would have to acquire, but she managed to find a place that was furnished with a refrigerator, stove and washing machine.

She manages her rent and expenses by working part-time. She says that the best thing about living alone is that, with a place of her own, she's able to manage her time more efficiently, which has led to a fuller school life.

Her advice to those who are living on their own for the first time: Don't judge a book by its cover. Ask, and then check for yourself, to make sure the ceiling doesn't leak, the electrical sockets work and the plumbing works.

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Q&A

Any tips on effective moving?

Most people living on their own for the first time won't have a lot of baggage. So instead of hiring a moving company, organizing everything to fit a small rented truck will probably be the most cost-efficient option. When packing your stuff, be sure to mix heavy and light items, packing them in medium-sized boxes for easy moving. Always label your boxes with contents, room for unpacking and whether there are any fragile items.


I'm planning on living with a roommate. What are some points I should keep in mind?

Keep your finances separate, and firmly establish who's to be responsible for what. Overlooking these matters because your roommate is a close friend can lead to a bitter end when the contract is over. Be clear about dividing the expenses. And when buying household goods to be used together, keep in mind the possibility of living apart later on -- and buy accordingly. In some cases, buying separate appliances for each person may be a wiser choice than sharing one and arguing over who will be the one to take it when you move out.

Respect your roommate and always do your share of the chores. Also, respect each other's privacy. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend over is fine, but make sure your roommate can tolerate it.


How can I make my tiny apartment appear roomier?

Be aware of your home's size when you buy furniture. If you're newly independent, take care not to make impulse or unnecessary purchases that you'll later regret. Short-storage boxes and racks for hanging clothes are great for small apartments. Use racks instead of armoires, and a low Korean-style table instead of a desk and chair.


Is it a good idea to live in the same building as your landlord?

It depends. Having your landlord close by can be useful when you need repairs. But when your landlord is constantly meddling into your affairs, you may wish you had chosen a different place.


Where do I find Internet access with support service in English?

Some Korean companies offer high-speed Internet connections with service in English.

Thrunet: 1588-3488, wait through Korean message until a recording in English is heard.

Sinbiro Shark: 083-101, press 9 for English service.

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SHOPS

For attractive and useful household items:


Modern House: Located in the chain of 2001 Outlet stores throughout Seoul, where you can find a variety of aesthetically pleasing household goods, including kitchen items, bedding supplies and bathroom staples from both domestic and international makers. With the motto, "The feel and look of a department store, with discount store prices," Modern House appeals to a younger audience with its handsomely crafted goods at affordable prices.

Open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


Jayeon Jueui (Naturalism): Located in E-mart stores throughout Korea, this store offers a variety of household goods with a naturalistic theme. From bedding to pottery to objets d'art, you can find environmentally friendly household goods at reasonable prices.

Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.


For affordable electronic appliances:


Himart: One of the biggest chains of its kind in Korea, Himart is known for its large stores, wide variety and affordable prices. Himart has an extensive network of 240 electronic appliance stores nationwide. For a location near you, send an e-mail to himart@ gohimart.co.kr.

Open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.


Junja Land 21 (Electronics Land 21): In 1988, Junja Land 21 became the first Korean large-scale electronics store. With a wide array of products and shockingly low prices, it was a pioneer in the electronics market in Korea. Today, it's the largest electronics mega-store in the nation, with more than 6,000 retailers in one location. Located in Yongsan district, it's popular for its wide variety and low prices.

Open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily.


For used goods:


Yongsan Recycling Center: A wide array of used household goods and appliances can be found here. The center has an in-store repair shop and offers reliable after-service. Delivery is available, for 5,000 to 10,000 won in the Yongsan area, and for 10,000 won and up for other areas.

Have any used items you want to get rid of? The recycling center will pick them up free.

Located across the street from the War Memorial Hall in Yongsan district.

Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.


Junggo Jonghap Gajeon (Used Electronics and More): From new models to cheap used items, this store has practically every kind of electronic appliance you'll need at reasonable prices. Other household goods are also available.

Located near the Noryangjin Fish Market, Youngdeungpo district.

Open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.


Junggo Gajeon Gagu Baekhwajeom (Used Electronics and Furniture Shop): With electronics on the first floor and furniture displayed in the basement, this is a one-stop place for used electronics and furniture at affordable prices. Three months' after-sales service for electronic appliances is available.

Located in front of Shindaebang station, subway line No. 2.

Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.


Translated and adapted by Moon Hee-won


by Han Yoon-jeong, An Ji-sun

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