Just FYI: Outsiders often mistake Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri as distinct entities, but the truth is that KCK is actually an extension/suburb of KCMO. In fact, if you get lost driving around either city, you might be surprised (and mildly irritated) to notice that you keep passing “Welcome to Kansas” or “Welcome to Missouri” signs (so buy a GPS, dammit!). Some other key facts about life in KCK include:
Cheap and easy: Great news for budget-conscious leasers: The cost of living in KCK is about 25 percent less than the rest of the country, and rental prices average less than $600. In fact, unless you want to live in one of downtown’s spacious luxury lofts or a 3BR-plus unit, you couldn’t spend more than a grand even if you wanted to. So you can save your money for life’s more important things, like Chiefs tickets and world-famous Kansas City barbecue.
Don’t forget your Dale, Jr. sleeveless tee: KCMO is undoubtedly a gridiron city, but in its sister town across the border, NASCAR is king. The Kansas Speedway regularly hosts racing events and is perhaps the city’s hottest attraction, so don’t forget to pack your arsenal of Ricky Bobby quotes. Family-friendly hotspots include a nearly 400-acre water park and the revitalized shopping/entertainment district in West Village. As for you night owls, you might be a bit underwhelmed by the conservative smattering of after-hours entertainment venues, but luckily, downtown KCMO is a mere ten-mile trek.
No border wars in today’s K.C.: Interesting historical footnote to impress your buddies at the racetrack: The American Civil War essentially kicked off on the Kansas-Missouri border, as abolitionists and slave owners went musket-crazy on each other in the mid-1850s, earning the Jayhawk State the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.” Never fear, modern Midwesterners: Tempers have calmed down since then, and it’s not unusual for Kansas City folks to live on one side of the border and work/play on the other. Just be aware that, because many KCK residents work in KCMO, traffic inevitably backs up during rush hour (public transit is nonexistent). Compared to other places, though, the gridlock is far from nightmarish, and travelers can typically get from home to work and vice versa in less than a half hour.
Snagging a Super Sweet Pad
Like most Midwestern suburbs, KCK is more geared towards homeowners than leasers, but there’s no cause for alarm, tenacious tenant, because plenty of rental units remain available. The housing surplus that’s swept much of the nation in recent years has left its imprint on KCK, and nearly ten percent of the city’s residential dwellings sit vacant, just waiting for peeps like you to claim them. Some things to consider before signing the dotted line:
Take your pick: Ultra-vintage… More than half of all KCK residences were built prior to 1970, while nearly 20 percent sprung up prior to 1940. So unlike some other KC suburbs whose neighborhoods are riddled with cookie cutter lodgings, KCK ‘hoods like Rosedale, Strawberry Hill, and Argentine have a distinct old world quality to them. So especially if you’re looking to rent a house rather than an apartment, you’ll have a variety of well-established/historic homes to pick from.
Or ultramodern: If you’d rather shack up in a bright, shiny new apartment/condo/townhouse (and let someone else handle grass-cutting duties), you’ll find an ample number of those, too, especially in the new-and-improved downtown area and the western parts of KCK. Many of these rentals come complete with all the modern amenities (W/D connections, remodeled kitchen areas, rec rooms, etc.) and quite a few even pick up your utilities tab (which means if your landlord ever ticks you off, you can show him who’s boss and leave all the lights on!)
A renter’s market: If KCK apartment managers tell you that units aren’t available, it means you did something to tick them off and they want nothing to do with you (You weren’t wearing any Missouri Tigers paraphernalia, were you?) Seriously, waiting lists are practically nonexistent, and move-in specials are standard, so play the field and be picky. Landlords compete heavily with each other to entice new tenants, and many property managers even offer to re-paint your new lodgings (using the color of your choice) before you move in. Whether you want hardwood or plush carpet, a single floor or a multi-level unit, or anything else, you’ll find no shortage of options.
Bring along the basics: Make sure that when you’re ready to submit a leasing application, you bring along paycheck stubs, banking statements, and rental/residential history info. Also, consider picking up renter’s insurance (less than 20 bucks a month in KCK), since you are moving into the part of the country that weather guessers … er, meteorologists … call “Tornado Alley.”
Choosing the Prime Location
Generally, the more affluent and modern neighborhoods are clustered in the western parts of KCK, while the old school, economically-priced digs are located in the central and eastern districts. It’s not unusual to find apartments and rental homes in western ‘hoods like Maywood and Wolcott, which put you in prime location for the city’s shopping and entertainment venues, in the $1500-$1700 range. The further east you go, meanwhile, the more likely you are to find rentals for $600 or less. What’s important to realize is that the various ‘hoods of KCK (unlike so many other Midwest “sprawls”) have their own distinct character, so be sure to visit a prospective area in advance to gauge its vibes.
Quick reference point: Modern rental homes and newly-constructed apartments are situated heavily in the west. The downtown area is your best bet if you want to live in a high rise or luxury unit in an urbanized environment. And the neighborhoods immediately surrounding downtown and further east offer a mixture of well-established single-family homes for rent and smaller, older apartments.
Hope this helps, and happy hunting in KCK!
-By Kera Zacuto
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