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City Guide
St. Joseph
St. Joseph, Missouri

Greetings, one and all, and welcome to the one-stop nerve center for your St. Joseph, MO apartment hunting needs! Situated on the banks of the Muddy Mississippi, 30 miles north of Kansas City, St. Joseph is a popular residential destination for families, retirees, and students alike and boasts some of the Show-Me-State’s most affordable rentals. Interesting in finding a place to call home in the city “Where the Pony Express Started and Jesse James Ended”? Just take note of the following ten tips and we guarantee you’ll be kicking back in your St. Joe dream dwellings in no time at all …

10. Open a savings account.

Chances are, you’ll need one while living in St. Joseph, where the cost of living index is more than 16 percentage points lower than the national average (meaning the costs of things like groceries, gasoline, utilities, and housing aren’t likely to break your bankroll). The average apartment runs only around 500 bucks, multi-level townhouses can easily be scored for $700 or less, and you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than a grand for any rental property.

9. Know your neighbors before you commit.

No, we don’t recommend going door-to-door and having a heart to heart with everyone who lives in every apartment complex you might move into. It might be important to know, though, whether students, locals, or a mixture of the two inhabit a property. More than 6,000 College Joes and Janes from Missouri Western State University call St. Joseph home, and permanent residents sometimes feel out of place in student-dominated apartments (and vice versa). If you’re unsure whether or not you’ll fit in at an apartment complex, simply call and ask a leasing representative about the property’s occupants.

8. “Get your motor running.”

That’s right, we’re dropping Steppenwolf references on you now. We’re also dropping a warning on you that you better have your own set of wheels in St. Joseph (unless, that is, you’re a student living on/near campus and never plan to leave the modest MWSU grounds). The St. Joseph Transit city buses service much of the city, but it’s next to impossible to rely solely on public transit to bum around town with any semblance of convenience. St. Joseph is characterized by suburban/rural landscapes, strip malls, roads that are less than walker-friendly, and lengthy distances between stores, banks, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc, so prepare to lean heavily on the good old gas guzzler. Fortunately, traffic in the city is child’s play, and even the multitude of residents who make the trek to K.C. for work each day rarely get stuck in major gridlock.

7. Consider renter’s insurance.

Rental insurance costs less than 20 bucks in most cases and reimburses you if something unfortunate happens to your belongings. Our advice: Use common sense, remember to lock your doors at all times (even if you’re just running down to the laundry room for a quick spin) and take out a basic insurance policy just in case the whole “common sense” thing fails you.

6. Get out and see the town.

Famous for being the place where the Pony Express began and the outlaw Jesse James was gunned down by Robert Ford, St. Joseph boasts the Jesse James Home Museum, the Pony Express Museum, and a variety of other historical monuments and landmarks. Numerous parks, trails, and retail hotspots dot the streets as well, helping make the city one of the most desirable mid-sized towns in northwest Missouri.

5. “Kansas City, here I come …”

We won’t lie: You can only gape at Jesse James and Pony Express paraphernalia for so long before getting a wee bit bored by St. Joseph’s cultural offerings. Likewise, the city’s historic downtown area features a smattering of dive bars (mostly geared towards the university crowd), but on many nights (especially during the week), the city is practically a ghost town after 5 p.m. Fortunately downtown Kansas City, with all its charms and debaucheries, is only about half an hour away.

4. Be prepared.

Renting in St. Joseph is as easy as it gets. Waiting lists are unheard of, and even though occupancy rates in apartments near campus spike just before the spring and fall semesters, units are available at most complexes year-round. Still, you’ll need proof of income, banking info, and a modest security deposit (often only around a hundred bucks) to score a lease at most properties. Students with no job, no bank account, no renting history, and no credit (hey, at least you still have your dashing good looks!) will need a co-signer to score their St. Joe dream dwellings.

3. Scout out your neighborhood.

You won’t find many noticeable differences between the neighborhoods of St. Joseph, but we still recommend that you visit an area in advance to make sure you’re comfortable with its vibes. Many of the older, more traditional homes inhabited by longtime residents are located in the southern half of town, while the northern ‘hoods are often home to students and other transient renters.

2. Keep your expectations reasonable.

If you’re in the market for a chic, artsy, ultramodern apartment, you’re barking up the wrong tree in St. Joseph. True, there are some high-quality rentals in the city, and most include basic to high-end amenities including patios/decks, free tenant parking, washer/dryer hookups, and ample living space (a typical 1BR in the $600 range will cover 700-800 square feet). Still, there’s not a whole lot of flash and dazzle to most apartments (think Midwestern sensibility over East/West Coast flair). More than 35 percent of residences (including apartments) sprouted up pre-1940 and an additional 36 percent were built between 1940 and 1969. New apartments rarely pop up in St. Joseph, so hopefully you appreciate an apartment with plenty of old school flair.

1. Eyeball your new place carefully.

Finally, remember that older properties tend to have more infrastructural problems, so be sure to give your new pad a solid inspection (or have someone who knows what he/she is doing take a look!) before signing the dotted line. Make sure the heating and cooling units work, the pipes, sinks, faucets, and showerheads are leak-free, the water pressure and temperature is adequate, the lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, and appliances function, and the ghost of Jesse James isn’t hiding under your bed. Remember that your security deposit is usually only refundable if you keep your apartment looking shiny and new (or shiny and old, in St. Joe’s case).

And now let’s get down to brass tacks and scour the listings for the ideal apartment for you. Best of luck and happy hunting!