New homes for military families in the River Region
Montgomery, Alabama is home to Maxwell Air Force Base, a large military complex consisting of more than 12,500 combined active duty, reserves, and civilian personnel. As such, there is an ongoing demand for comfortable housing options for military families — some living on-base, and others seeking off-base housing options.
At Lowder New Homes, we have many years of experience providing new homes for military families in Alabama’s River Region. We understand the military lifestyle, as well as the logistical and financial challenges military personnel face in seeking housing that works for them. In this article, we’ll give an overview of how military housing works and your housing options, both on-base and off-base. We’ll also offer tips and resources for how you can become a military homeowner, share insights on some key Montgomery neighborhoods to look at, and answer some of the most common questions we receive from military personnel looking for a home.
We understand that military families often don’t have the luxury of time, and have to move and reestablish their families at faster rates than most people. That’s why we offer reliable, well-built quick move-in-ready homes in safe communities that feature exceptional schools and top-of-the-line amenities. Our team makes the home shopping and home buying process easier by taking the risk out of shopping for a home.
You can rely on our staff to go the extra mile to meet your needs, from helping you identify the perfect floor plan to quickly identifying neighborhoods that will be right for your family. Many of our preferred lenders have extensive experience in originating VA loans and can ensure a fast and easy approval and financing process for your family.
We also have several Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certified Builder Representatives on staff, ready and willing to accomodate your needs in finding your perfect home.
Neighborhoods Near Maxwell AFB to Consider
If you’re going to live off base and are looking for a good neighborhood in which to own a home, here are some subdivisions convenient to Maxwell AFB that are worth a look:
Hedgefield | Prattville | 8.5 miles
Woodland Creek | Pike Road | 18 miles
New Park | Montgomery | 18.5 miles
StoneyBrooke | Montgomery | 15.4 miles
Sturbridge | Montgomery | 13 miles
Grand Park | Deatsville | 13.5 miles
Deer Creek | Montgomery | 17 miles
Hampstead | Montgomery | 14 miles
What You Need to Know About Military Housing
Military members have numerous options when it comes to their housing. There is no right or wrong solution for everyone — the best choice really depends on a number of factors such as rank, marital status, family situation, career direction, and even personal preference.
How Military Housing Works
When you first enlist in the military — as any new recruit can confirm — the military basically decides for you where and how you will live. During Basic Training, you will live on base with other recruits in the barracks with bunk beds, common bathrooms, etc. As you move up the ranks, more housing options become available. On-base options usually include dorms for single men and women, as well as apartment housing or single-family dwellings for married couples and those with families on base. Eventually, you may be given the option to live off-base and become a commuter.
Paying for Military Housing
Many new military recruits worry about the seemingly low pay they receive, especially at first — but their wages don’t reflect their full financial status. The government basically offers two key resources to help you pay for housing:
- The Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The BAH is a monthly stipend provided to military personnel who qualify to live off-base. The BAH is provided in addition to your wages and can be used for either rent or mortgage payments. The amount of the BAH is based on the local cost of living, so if you transfer to another place, the BAH will be adjusted to match. (The cost of living in the Bay Area is much greater than in Montgomery, for example — so there would be a difference in the amount of your BAH if you transferred there.)
- VA Loan. For qualified active duty and former military personnel, the VA loan offers a path to homeownership by providing a government-backed mortgage loan with no downpayment and minimal credit qualifications.
By combining the BAH and the VA loan, it’s easier to become a military homeowner than most people think. Military members can qualify for a mortgage with a VA loan and pay some or all of the mortgage payment with the housing allowance.
Pros and Cons of On-Base vs. Off-Base Military Housing
Is living off base right for everyone? Not necessarily. There are advantages and disadvantages both to living on a base and arranging for off-base housing. Let’s look briefly at the differences.
Living on base definitely has its advantages, including the fact that you have no worries about the cost of housing (the BAH effectively covers it), plus you have a lot of amenities right on base, including a Post Office, shops, and even healthcare. On the other hand, you’re limited to what housing options are available on base, as well as the quality of the housing itself.
Living off base gives you more options and freedom of choice as to where you will live. You can live in an apartment or a single-family home. You can rent, or you can buy. You can even own a new construction home. And YOU get to choose where “home” is. The downside is that the BAH doesn’t always cover the full amount of your rent or mortgage, and you’ll have to get used to commuting.
Tips for Becoming a Military Homeowner
Many military service personnel naturally assume that if they live off-base, they should rent rather than buy — especially if there’s a good chance they’ll be transferred. However, in many cases, it actually makes more financial sense to buy a home than to rent, even if you end up transferring to another city. If you’re thinking about buying a home off base, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Prequalify for financing early. Knowing your budget helps you narrow your options more quickly. Be sure to choose a lender who offers VA loans.
- Look at new construction homes, not just existing homes. New construction homes are as easy to qualify for as existing homes, they require less maintenance, and they hold their value well.
- Ask about incentives and discounts for military personnel. Some builders (like Lowder New Homes) offer additional cashback options for military members. They also may have connections to preferred lenders who specialize in military homeowner financing, as well as certified Military Relocation Professionals (MRP) to assist with the details of moving.
What if You Are Transferred?
One of the most common questions asked by military personnel considering homeownership is, “What if I am transferred and have to move off base?” The thing to remember is when you own a home, it’s not a ball-and-chain or just “a responsibility” — it’s an investment. You have options as to how to handle your investment if you need to relocate out of town, including:
- Selling the home. With property values increasing in Montgomery, most homes sell for more money than you bought them for, even after a year or so.
- Renting the home. You could hang on to your investment by renting it out to friends or family who need it — or you can hire a rental management company to handle the details for you.
Military Housing FAQ
What are the eligibility requirements for a VA loan?
You can qualify for a VA loan under any of the following conditions:
- You were on active duty for 90 consecutive days during wartime.
- You were on active duty for 181 consecutive days during peacetime.
- You have served 6 years or more in the National Guard or Reserves.
- You are the surviving spouse of a military member who died in the line of duty or from a service-related disability.
What are the credit score requirements for getting a VA loan?
The actual credit and income requirements depend on the lender issuing the loan. (The government isn’t lending you money — they are guaranteeing the loan that the lender gives you.) Most VA lenders will qualify you with a minimum credit score of 640 or above, but there are lenders who can qualify you with a credit score as low as 500.
Can I buy a new construction home with a VA loan?
Yes, you can buy a new construction home with a VA loan. If you are eligible for a VA loan, you can use that eligibility to obtain a VA construction loan to build a new home from the ground up, or to obtain a VA new construction mortgage.
What is the commute like in Montgomery, AL if I live off base?
As a moderate-sized city, Montgomery is home to about 200,000 people. On most days, commutes are easy with relatively few delays. A typical commute to Maxwell AFB from the furthest outskirts of Montgomery is about 30 minutes.