The average price range is about $350 - $1200 in the city, but for any ol’ average place you’re probably looking at about $500 - 600 a month, give or take. Rental homes are abundant, as well as apartment buildings of the larger variety. Two or three-flat buildings, mobile homes and duplexes are also an easy find, so rest assured that you have a lot of options to choose from. As a general rule, dwellings closer to the center of the city will be smaller, newer (or newly restored and renovated) and possibly more expensive, whereas further out will feel a lot more rural. Historic and vintage digs can be found, but most places are newer construction (1970s and onward) so they will be well equipped with appliances and amenities for your modern life. As far as bringing your pets along with you, this is something that varies considerably landlord-to-landlord, so always make sure to ask.
One Stop Shopping
A unique feature to Springfield living is the utility system. All utilities (including electricity, natural gas, water, cable/phone/internet, and even public transit) are provided by one company: City Utilities of Springfield. Despite the arguable convenience, it’s not terribly difficult to bypass it altogether and find a place with all or many utilities included in the rent…except for public transit.
Now that we’ve established the “who” and the “what,” let’s get to the “where” and the “how.” By far, the most popular ways to find rentals in Springfield are through the Springfield News-Leader (the local newspaper) and online apartment hunting resources, like this website. Interestingly enough, there are also a few unlikely places you’ll find rental listings. Springfield has both official and unofficial city neighborhoods, many of which have their own neighborhood association website. Quite a few of these sites either have listings or contact information for realtors that specialize in that particular area. Of course, the hitch here is that you have to work with a realtor (which may be more trouble than it’s worth for a rental), and it’s essential to know what part of the city you’re interested in. We can’t really fix that first part, so let’s focus on the second one by getting you familiar with Springfield’s neighborhoods.
A Dip Into the Spring(field)
There are about 30 official city neighborhoods, so we’re going to focus in particular on a few rental-friendly areas to get you started…
Downtown: We’ll begin with the obvious. Despite being a statistically low-income, high-poverty area, the lively and historic downtown Springfield is currently making a comeback. Old buildings have been restored and turned into retail, trendy boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and, abundantly, into cheap new loft apartments and housing (key word here is cheap!). Historic theatres, venues and businesses in the area are getting a facelift and a second chance, being supported by the growing young urbanite population and local events and festivals that bring in the crowds. Living downtown is a great option for students, artists, or those who like to be smack in the middle of everything.
West Central: Just west of Downtown’s hustle and bustle, but quieter, with a more family-friendly air. West Central is a mix of owners and renters filled with beautiful historic (and cheap!) houses. Rentals are denser on the eastern border with Downtown. Many neighborhood parks make for great biking and recreation, and access to downtown and nearby expressways makes for a short commute.
Grant Beach: Still considered an urban neighborhood due to its proximity to downtown, Grant Beach is a safe area of working class families who occupy older rental houses, duplexes, and 2-flat buildings. Rents are higher than downtown, but by all means still affordable…we’re talking in the 400s, on average. (grantbeachneighborhood.org)
Ravenwood: Hey, not everybody wants to get caught up in the rush of the city; some of us desire a little rural flavor, or a more suburban existence. For the renter who knows what I’m talking about (You know who you are), you might want to check out Ravenwood. Rents are a little higher here, but much of the housing is newer and the population is made up of younger white-collar couples and families. For that rural flavor we were just talking about, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center is just Southwest of this cozy community.
Phelps Grove: Right next door to Missouri State University’s campus, Phelps Grove houses many staff and students among its patchwork quilt of renters and owners. Tree lined streets are a common sight here, filled with bungalows and dotted with parks. It’s a little more expensive than other areas of the city, but finding a cheap place isn’t a stretch. One thing to keep in mind, though, Phelps Grove, as well as other neighborhoods surrounding the college, have a number of neighborhood peace-keeping ordinances that govern parking, noise, outdoor furniture, and even the number of people allowed to inhabit a house. These ordinances are put in place to prevent the wilds of college life from leaking out (sometimes literally…) into the rest of the neighborhood. (phelpsneighborhood.org)
The Savvy Citizen
Here are a couple more scrumptious informational tidbits to keep in mind when considering making Springfield your home base.
One thing you’re likely to hear a lot about Springfield living is the weather. It’s been dubbed “the city with the most varied weather in the United States” by Forbes magazine’s 2007 list of America’s Wildest Weather Cities. While this can easily mean it has four distinct seasons (hey, that’s varied, right?) its location on the Springfield Plateau of the Ozarks makes for many windy days, and puts it at the northern tip of tornado alley. Springfield has the flat and field-y terrain of the central plains, with low rolling hills and scrub-shrub pastures, making the outskirts of the city a good place for farming and agriculture.
The City Utilities of Springfield runs a small public bus system with about 14 daily routes and 4 night/evening routes to popular destinations. They don’t run 24/7, but are offered year-round every weekday, most on Saturdays, and some on Sundays. In closer-knit and urban sections of the city, such as downtown, walking or biking is common, but Springfield is definitely not a city for ditching your car. The overwhelming majority of citizens drive or carpool to work on a daily basis.
Despite a relatively low population density for a big city, Springfield is currently on the rise, so naturally crime is becoming an issue. Springfield’s crime rate may be a bit above the national average, but theft, burglary and drug crimes make up the bulk of statistics. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a relief, but it means crimes in Springfield tend to not be violent or life threatening. Playing it safe and doing some research prior to your move is always a good rule of thumb. Crime varies by neighborhood and proximity to downtown or college campuses, so keep that in mind. Population growth isn’t a bad thing, though; younger singles, married couples and college students make up more than half the population here, which is probably why America’s Promise Alliance recently ranked it among the 100 Best Communities for Young People three years in a row.
While it may not be the groundbreaking American metropolis that most of us come to imagine when we hear the words “big city”, Springfield is still a very prominent fixture in Southwestern Missouri. It serves as a central hub for hundreds of thousands of friendly folk, bringing shopping, culture, and urban life to the quiet and traditional American heartland. An interesting combination of flavors, indeed. Now get out there and find some sweet Springfield digs, the Queen City of the Ozarks is a’waitin’!
-By Kera Zacuto