CONTRIBUTED BY STACEY PETERS
I walked into this apartment at Miso City building in Daegu, South Korea and instantly felt like I was home. All I wanted was a modern apartment, with a view. It had to have at least 4 bedrooms, and a lot of light. Bonus points for a balcony, anything not near one of the military bases or a school, preferably downtown, so we could walk to bars, restaurants and shopping. It took 3 months, we looked at more than a dozen apartments, went 100,000 Won over budget, and the fourth bedroom is more like a study, but we ended up with exactly what I pictured in my head. That was almost two years ago and in a few months, I’ll have to do it all over again.
The Apartment Search
I must have seen 20 apartments with 5 different real estate agents before finding this one. We had two deals that fell through. One the owner wanted more than we were willing to pay and the other one chose another couple over us. Oh, well. We look back on those experiences and say it worked out for the better, because knowing more about the city now, those locations would not have been ideal for us.
You may also be interested in an inside look at off-post housing and where to rent in Daegu South Korea. With pictures, descriptions of amenities, services and personal opinions while hunting for an apartment of my own, take a look at The Daegu Apartment Guide for Off Post Housing.
Why I Chose This Apartment
I must admit, I had no idea what to expect when we moved to South Korea. We knew we weren’t allocated housing and would have to live on the economy, but there just wasn’t any information out there to ease my nerves. I contacted a couple of the real estate agents but no one returned my emails or phone calls. Luckily my husband’s sponsor’s wife (say that 3 times as fast as you can) stepped in and let me know that that there were lots of options and it would be based on our arrival date. Kristin was a godsend to me when I arrived; everyone should be so lucky.
Knowing neither one of us have apartment living in our future plans, we wanted to get the most out of our experience in Korea. With that in mind, and the fact that we wanted to travel A LOT and we would probably be a one-income household, there were a few things we always kept in mind each time we looked at a prospective apartment:
1. Is It In Our Budget?
Pay and housing is based on military rank and years of service, we are paid monthly and it includes rent, maintenance fees and utilities. So, when you arrive you know exactly how much you can pay for rent and not come out of pocket and the housing office has a ceiling based on square footage and amenities. The apartment we chose was slightly over, but it seemed like a small sacrifice in getting most of what we wanted.
2. Is It Energy Efficient?
I love our heated floors. It gets cold in the winter when I need to be warm and hot in the summer when I need to be cool. We have three air conditioners in the apartment, one of which was installed after we moved in because my amazing husband negotiated it. The floors are heated during the winter.
South Korea’s utility companies are high even though they are owned by the government. The military subsidizes our pay for utilities, but it was important to maximize those funds and not come out of pocket. So a modern, well insulated building outweighed a few of the other checklist items on my list. We haven’t come close to maxing out our utility budget yet.
**Ask to see the utility history, so you know what you are likely to pay for all the seasons, so you can make an informed decision.
3. Does It Have A Modern Kitchen & Appliances?
My kitchen is pretty small for Western standards but huge for Asian ones. It’s compact, but I love the color of the cabinets, center space and layout. All the appliances are built-in, including the refrigerator and dishwasher and there is plenty of room for my dining room table. I don’t use dishwashers, so it serves as additional storage. There’s a fair amount of storage over the fridge, a glass-fronted cabinet, in the kimchi (second) kitchen and a pullout spice rack. I decided to get creative with the storage of my little wine collection as well.
The Kimchi Kitchen
Sounds like a yummy restaurant, right? A kimchi kitchen is a small kitchen (includes a fridge, stove top, vacuum cleaner and washer dryer) to cook foods that are, let’s say extremely aromatic. You can close it off to the rest of the apartment. I use it to store the 7ft Christmas Tree I had to bring with me, luggage and empty boxes we kept for appliances and electronics. It wasn’t until recently that I found out everyone doesn’t have one of these.
4. Is There Outdoor Space?
There are no balconies in my apartment, but there is an inside-outside area with double doors that runs the length of the apartment that I use as a library and my happy place. This is my space.
It has a large plant ledge that is blocked by a gate where I could put a large bench to enjoy the breezes. And although it’s not real outdoor space, it feels like it in the summer and I can sit at my wine barrel table and watch the world go by below me. One of the bedrooms has a small plant ledge as well, where I have my smoking friends step out to have a smoke. There is also an outdoor area on the 3rd floor that includes seating, a putting green and children’s play area.
5. Does It Have A Gym?
We wanted to live in a building that had a gym. The gym here is very modern and has all the necessary pieces of equipment, classes as well as a Korean sauna called a jjimjilbang. We both signed up for the first year, but did not renew for the second because we thought it was too expensive and we can go to the gym on post for free.
6. Does It Have Security?
There is 24-hour security on the premises. And each apartment is equipped with a security monitor and intercom. There’s even a security monitor and TV in the master bathroom. I also like that I can call the elevators from inside our apartment.
7. Is It Big Enough?
When we started our apartment hunt, several of the realtors tried to steer us away from the downtown area. They said the apartments were too small, we’d get a bigger apartment in the other areas of the city. Our apartment is 34 Pyong which is 1,210 sq. feet. We saw a couple of apartments that were twice that size and cost less, but again, I knew what I wanted.
8. Does It Have A Good Layout?
The master is on one side of the apartment and includes a walk-in closet and the large bathroom with a tub and shower. Everything else is on the other side of the apartment, which lends itself to guests IF we ever had any. Which brings me to…
9. Is There Space To Entertain Overnight Guests?
Why do I need more than 1 spare bedroom anyway? We don’t. This isn’t our first rodeo. We lived in Europe for 3 years and everybody and their mama said they were coming to visit. The only ones that made it were my mom and my daughter, who had joined the Navy. I refuse to get a huge apartment that we must pay extra to heat and cool it when we don’t need it. That’s extra wine and travel money. My hubby uses one as his military closet, one is his office and I use the other one if his snoring gets too loud. In two years, we’ve had three guests – two friends who drank a little too much to go home and my son, who is stationed two hours away.
10. Does It Have Modern Plumbing?
Yes, you should ask about this. Why? Some of my friends live in apartments where they cannot flush toilet tissue. They actually have to toss in into a trash can and take it out daily. Yes, it sounds gross, but if they don’t they will stop up their toilets and that’s even worse.
I recommend you save yourself the hassle and only buy single ply TP.
11. Is It In A Great Location?
I can walk out my door and hit two malls in 5 minutes. Granted, I’m only hitting the food courts when I do. You’ve heard me complain about the driving… well it’s worse downtown. Thankfully, we are 5 minutes from the Metro and bus stop, a minute and a half from a taxi and we can walk to most of our haunts in less than 20 minutes.
A Few Other Things to Consider…
1. We left a lot of the larger furniture in storage. Rooms are small, but elevators are even smaller and I have seen many large couches left in the trash bins. Looks for creative ways for storage.
2. As I’ve said, storage is in short supply, and I brought TOO MUCH STUFF. I have an entire pallet in storage with a Korean storage company. I stored all my heavy artwork because my walls are either marble, wood paneling or wallpapered.
3. I brought our mattresses, and left the bedroom furniture, and I highly suggest you do too. The military does provide mattresses but they are extremely hard and uncomfortable.
4. I love that this building has 3 elevators. Even then, the building has 28 floors and I still have to wait from time to time. So seriously consider the number of elevators in your complex.
5. I think it’s important in a small apartment to carve out individual space. My husband enjoys the office space and one of the spare bedrooms for all that military gear, while I’ve decorated the indoor/ outdoor space and the yellow bedroom in a more feminine manner to suit me.
When we learned we were traveling to Daegu almost two years ago, I searched for information about military life, apartment hunting and what to expect in South Korea but found very little. I hope this post helps ease the transition anxiety of military spouses and civilians who find themselves moving or traveling to Daegu, South Korea or any of the beautiful countries in Asia.
This article was originally published on DuffelbagSpouse. It has been modified and republished here on Overseas Yes with permission.