Or, why I chose to blow up my housing budget and go with a fancy condo as my new residence.
Looking for housing is tough in the best of times and we are far from the best of times right now. Housing prices are at an all-time high and inventory is at some of the lowest levels since they started tracking them. When I bought the house with my then-partner last year, one of the things I was most excited about was locking in a set level for my housing budget. (Ignoring future property tax increases.)
When I started looking for a new place after the breakup, I had this idea that I’d be able to find a nice place for roughly the same amount I’d been paying in rent before I bought the house. $1,125 a month seemed reasonable for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in St. Louis. I was quickly brought down to earth.
When I say there was little to nothing available in that price range, I mean there were one or two units for rent on Craigslist from one of the most notorious property management companies in the St. Louis area. I’d name and shame, but they keep changing their name to stay ahead of their reputation. I knew I did not want to rent from them.
So, I upped the high end of my budget. Surely there would be something available for $1300–1400. There were a few more units, but most of them required me to make compromises I wouldn’t or couldn’t make. No cats, no washer/dryer in the unit, or over the Illinois border. On a whim, I eliminated the price limit and looked to see what was available no matter the cost. There are some nice units for rent for over $3k a month but those were very clearly out of my budget.
At the end of my time searching, I had two valid contenders. One was a loft style apartment in a building that was originally a school. For $1500, I’d get a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom 1200 sq ft apartment. Not bad. The other option was an owned condo in a building split between hotel rooms and condos. For $1750, I’d get a 2 bedroom, 2.5 ba 1500 sq ft unit. Now, is an extra toilet and 300 sq ft worth an extra $250 a month? Not usually.
In this case, however, it was.
With the school building loft, I’d have to either fight for limited on-street parking or pay $100 a month for a reserved spot. All utilities (electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash) would’ve been my responsibility. With a bare brick wall punctuated by giant windows, it could’ve easily cost $2–300 a month to heat/cool the unit. The building was a fair bit away from work, so I would’ve elected to drive to work on all but the nicest days. I also would’ve been on the hook for getting my own gym membership as the one in the building would not have been good for much (ironic, considering it was a former school building. You’d think it would’ve had a sweet gym setup!).
So much more was included within the rent for the condo. Since the condos share space in the building with the hotel rooms, it would be difficult if not down right impossible to separate out all the utilities. So, all utilities are included in the rent minus electricity and internet. Two parking spaces in a secured, well-lit garage are also included in the rent. Since this space is shared with the hotel, I have access to the hotel amenities which include but are not limited to, a pool and a gym. Last, but not least, the condo is in downtown St. Louis, which means my commute is a hop, skip and a jump (when we go back to working in the building again). This also means I don’t need to worry about traffic, parking, or driving after drinking after attending events at Enterprise Center or Busch Stadium. Walking to Blues or Cardinals games is super easy!
|2 Cool 4 School ($)||The Suite Life ($)||Overall Difference|
* Numbers will be updated on utilities after first bill is paid.
There are some other intangible benefits to my new place that can’t be compared with a simple table. I’m renting privately from the owners of the condo. They are fabulous people who want to do things the right way. I’m not subject to the whims of a property management company out to squeeze every dollar they can out of their tenants. All issues from the condo have been dealt with promptly so far (not that there have been many because it’s a very nice condo). Since my landlord is the original owner of the condo, she designed the layout and picked out all of the materials in the unit. She has excellent taste, so I get to enjoy stunning imported African Cherry wood floors, gorgeous cherry cabinets, granite countertops, and the world’s biggest soaking tub. I could not afford to rent a standard apartment with this level of finishes.
The first thing she said to me when I looked at the condo was that I wasn’t just moving into the building — I’d be joining a very tight knit community. I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming post, but I have been craving a local community here in St. Louis so when she said that, my eyes lit up. So far, all of the neighbors have been absolutely wonderful. They are warm and generous people who have welcomed me with open arms. One set of neighbors invited me over for dinner my first week here. Another neighbor has all-inclusive tickets to the St Louis Blues games, so I was able to see a game with her and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yet another set of neighbors found out I was a big Cardinals fan, so I’m invited to go to games with them as they have season tickets (if/when we get baseball in 2022 with the player lockout going on).
Other super nice to haves with the condo so far include major heat theft from the hotel rooms below me (I have the temp set to 65, the temp stays at 69–71, and I’ve only heard the heat kick in twice in 2 weeks. When the weather outside has been as cold as 0), 15% off hotel rooms for friends and family, super cheap parking, a 20% discount at the hotel restaurant and being super close to the transit station. That will make it easy when I go on trips! No more getting someone to drop me off at the airport, pay out the nose for parking or catching an Uber!
Overall, despite the higher initial hit to my monthly budget, moving into the condo was probably the best outcome I could’ve hoped for. Bartholomew and I are definitely enjoying the “Suite Life”!
As always, thanks for reading! How closely do you evaluate all the details when comparing two potential places? Sound off in the comments below!
The school converted one look beautiful! Love that wooden floor, but the ugly and dangerous looking pipe running across would be an automatic deal breaker for me. $1500 is so expensive for the midwest too. I didn’t know some place in the midwest can be so expensive.
The free airport shuttle must be the nicest amenity out there. You get all the amazing hotel perks without paying the hotel price! Now imagine if the hotel has free breakfast too
Gwen [Fiery Millennials] says
It’s a shame there’s no free breakfast or happy hours for sure. The hotel doesn’t provide a shuttle but I live close enough to the Metrolink that it will be a cheap ride there and back.
And yes, the Midwest can get incredibly pricey, just like other regions. They’re just not every house like DC or LA lol
Solitary Diner says
Have been away for a while — sorry to hear about the breakup and need to find a new place. But it sounds like you have found an amazing place to live! As someone who has lived in shitty places to save a bit of money, it is so worth it to spend more on a nice place if it’s within your means to do so.
Tonya Stumphauzer says
I pay the same rent for a 1‑bedroom here in LA! The place looks amazing though!! 2 bedroom? Might have to come visit! 🙂
Gwen [Fiery Millennials] says
Two bedrooms! Come visit me anytime! The leaves are gorgeous in the fall!