Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines and the surrounding 'burbs are home to 58 neighborhoods, each with its own set of assets. So where should you begin your apartment hunt?
Downtown Des Moines sits squarely on the banks of the Des Moines River, it is home to the Des Moines Metro Opera and Civic Center, and, obviously, it is the major commercial center of the city. But downtown Des Moines contains some surprising housing options for the Midwestern urbanite. For instance, the historical neighborhood of East Village has a wide variety of mixed-use condominiums and lofts in both new construction and older, renovated buildings. East Village is no misnomer, as this trendy enclave is home to a strip of restaurants and bars along Court Avenue similar to ones found in its New York City counterpart.
Western Des Moines
Sherman Hill and Beaverdale may be the neighborhoods for you. These regions are full of older homes and apartment buildings, though there are various area bars and restaurants. Adjacent to Beaverdale, there's the neighborhood of Drake.
The 'Burbs and Far-flung Des Moines
Des Moines' many suburbs ring the city from all sides and provide alternatives to city living. The suburb of West Des Moines has an abundance of rentals close to the premier regional shopping center, Jordan Creek Town Center. Southside Des Moines is a developing area that has large, affordable rentals and a plethora of shopping centers.
Let's get down to brass tacks, but don't worry, these brass tacks are probably the nicest ones you'll ever meet. Kiplinger has ranked Des Moines number seven in its best cities of 2010 guide. What does this mean for you? Well, renting in Des Moines is a process as friendly as the people you will encounter in your new hometown. Though most realtors recommend starting your apartment hunt 60 to 90 days before your move in date, the wide variety of housing options and extensive vacancies make it fairly easy to find an apartment that suits your needs.
What about cost?
Well, once you've left the downtown area--where rent is generally $100-200 above average--prices for rentals are pretty much standard across all neighborhoods. Expect to pay between $500-600 a month for a one bedroom and between $750-900 a month for a two bedroom. Larger and newly renovated apartments may cost slightly more, but overall Des Moines' apartment pricing system is pretty much the same.
Apartments and Duplexes and Condos, Oh My!
The type of rental you're looking for will determine whether or not you need to seek a realtor's services. No surprise, each neighborhood of Des Moines--with the exception of downtown--has rental opportunities in apartments, single-family homes, condos and duplexes. Real estate agents provide the best access to larger apartment buildings, condominiums and town houses. The high-end lofts and condominiums of downtown Des Moines are brokered by realtors and management companies. However, smaller apartment buildings, single-family home rentals and duplexes are frequently rented without the aid of a real estate agent, through rental websites and newspapers.
The Dotted Line
Before you can put your John Hancock on a lease agreement, most realtors and landlords require an apartment application, a processing fee of $20-$35 and a credit check. Be prepared to sign a lease of one year to 18 months and pay a security deposit, as well as first and last month's rent.
Commuting and Public Transportation
Des Moines is the home of the touted "19-minute commute," as locals claim that the drive time to downtown from almost anywhere in the metropolitan area can be done in 19 minutes or less. Great news for drivers, but the carless, too, can get around relatively easily. There are over 300-miles of bike trails and on-street bike lanes throughout the city. The extensive bus system, known to locals by the acronym DART, can get you to all of the major neighborhoods of metropolitan Des Moines for $1.75 one way. In addition to short drive times and an extensive bus route, the D-line bus--a free old timey trolley--services the downtown area weekdays every 10 minutes until 6:00 PM.