Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Apartment Hunting in O'Fallon, MO

So, upon coming back to the U.S. in January, I needed a place to live. I had the apartment in Springfield with a roommate still, but driving 3.5 hours to work from there everyday just wasn't feasible. I needed a place in or near O'Fallon, MO. In the interim, I was staying in a hotel. And oh what a joy that was.

Since my new job was in O'Fallon, I wanted to live reasonably close to the workplace (within a 20 - 30 min drive maximum). Unfortunately, a lot of the apartments in the area are crazy expensive and nickel and dime you to death for everything.

"You want to flush your toilet? That'll be 50 cents per flush."

So I made a list in my mind of requirements for the apartment:
  1. Pet friendly
  2. Two bedrooms
  3. First floor
  4. Under $800/mth preferably
  5. Clean, quiet neighborhood

I found that this list was workable, but the price point was going to be higher. Every complex that I looked at in the O'Fallon area between Hwy 64 and Hwy 70 was nice and in a good neighborhood, but finding a two bedroom under $800/mth was impossible with my salary. I did find several complexes that were based on income that had 2 bedrooms available for around $600 or $700, but my salary was too high for those. Most of the 2 bedroom/1 bath places I found ranged from $850 - $1000 as the base cost. You may be asking why I would want a 2 bedroom apt since I'm single and just live with my cat. That is reasonable. I wanted a place with 2 bedrooms so I could have some storage space and have an extra bedroom if anybody wanted to come visit. I looked online for places in St. Peters and St. Charles, but the prices were about the same if you figure in how much I'd spend in gas each day going to and from work, so I stuck to O'Fallon.

It also seems that the few companies that own the apartment complexes are about even on the prices for extra amenities and deposits. An odd thing that I found was that some complexes would quote you a price for rent, but that rent amount would only be locked in for a few days: they adjusted rent based on supply and demand. I don't know if other places do this, but it's the first time I had ever heard of apartment complexes doing that and was very surprised. Every complex that I looked at also had a crazy-high, non-refundable pet deposit ($250 - $400) in addition to the regular deposit. They also have application fees when you apply to live there and will run background checks at most of the places. Due to this (yet another) extra fee, I only applied to one place. If I was rejected, I would've applied to another, of course.

As far as the nickel-and-diming you to death that I mentioned earlier, tons of things cost extra. Want a car port to park under? That'll cost extra each month. Have a pet? That'll raise your rent a bit each month. Want a garage to park in? That'll be more. Want a storage place? Well, that's not free. Need a washer and dryer but don't want to buy a set? We have some available, but that'll cost ya. By time it's all said and done, you could potentially raise your rent by $200/month if you have a pet, want to rent a washer and dryer, and want a covered place of some sort to park your car. Not to mention that this doesn't include any utilities or cable/internet.

So, did I finally settle on a place, or did I decide that Bessie and I should just live out of a tent along the river? Well, I'm horrible at fishing and don't eat fish, so we finally found an apartment. It met most of my criteria: it's pet friendly, has 2 bedrooms, and is in a good neighborhood. Unfortunately, I'm on the third floor (ooohh, my poor bad knee) and not exactly close to any of the parking areas, and it's definitely not under $800/month. But, I suppose the good outweighs the bad: friendly staff, nice clubhouse (gym, pool table, business center, and a movie theater room), swimming pool, tennis court, sand volleyball court, a trash compactor instead of open dumpsters, gated community (granted, the gates aren't working), package holding at the office, large bathroom, spacious other rooms, easy access to the highways and to work, and it's in a nice subdivision (Winghaven).

The bad would be that ants are horrible (but I've heard they're bad everywhere this year for some reason), stairs kill my knees, a parking spot is difficult to find near my apartment, sidewalks by my apartment flood when it rains, I can hear everything going on outside as if I'm on the first floor with my windows open, and the trash compactor is on the back side of the complex, so I have to chauffeur my trash there. I suppose the "bad" things would be a problem at most places in general, so eh.

Overall, the apartment hunting experience in this area was eye-opening and very different from apartment hunting in Springfield, MO. The extra fees and much higher rent were probably my first major shocks. If you're looking in the area for an apartment (or anywhere), here are my recommendations:
  1. research online first to try to weed out some places.
    Check,, or Google apartments in X city to get a starting list of potential places.
  2. Have a list of must-haves to narrow down the search.
  3. Read reviews.
    The apartment websites and Google will both have review sections from people that have lived there. It's been my experience that the majority of the reviews are negative reviews, so check those out for any potential red flags. It just seems that most people that are happy with their apartment complex don't take the time to post a review.
  4. Scope out the neighborhood.
    Do a drive around the area to check it out, look at crime maps available online, and check the school ratings (if that's important for you.
  5. Finally, go look at the apartment and talk to the staff of the complex.


  1. I couldn't agree more with your tips. I think it's important to look for apartments online first before actually going to the place and see it in person. And when doing so, it's important to call and set an appointment first.

    1. For sure! Some places are incredibly busy and you don't want to feel rushed when you're trying to see a potential place to live. Thanks for finding my blog!

  2. This is the first time I've heard of adjusting rent based on demand. Huh, I always figured they have a set fee and raise it when there's a price hike for services or improvements to facilities were made. Anyway, glad that you were able to find a place. While it may not have met some of your criteria, it beats having to live in a tent by the river. ;)

    1. Thanks for reading!
      I probably would've been flooded out of my tent earlier this year with all the rain we had ;)
      I hadn't heard of the adjusting rent, either. I found it very odd that several places in the area did that, but I think they were all owned by the same company.