If you’re planning a military relocation to Alabama’s River Region, it may help to learn a little bit about the area and how to prepare. Here’s what you can expect when relocating to Montgomery, Alabama and Maxwell AFB.
Welcome to Montgomery, Alabama
As the state capital of Alabama, Montgomery is home to just over 200,000 people. It’s often referred to as a “big small town.” A city rich in history, Montgomery not only played a huge role in the Civil War as the first capital of the Confederacy, but it also served as the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s — the city in which Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on the bus, and the destination of the historic march from Selma. As you explore the city, you’re likely to run across many historical markers and buildings from these points of history.
Today, Montgomery is experiencing a major revitalization of its downtown area and has been recognized as a center for arts and culture in the region. Economically, the city has a large military presence due to its proximity to Maxwell-Gunter AFB. It is also a major industrial hub that is called home by Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama and the Montgomery Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
About Maxwell-Gunter AFB
Located north and west of downtown Montgomery, Alabama, Maxwell-Gunter AFB is one of the nation’s most noted Air Force bases and a significant player in our national security. The base was built on the site of the original flight school created by the Wright brothers. Today, it continues its legacy of flight education as the home of Air University, as well as the home of the 42nd Air Base Wing and the 908th Airlift Wing.
Employing over 12,000 people (including active duty, reserves, and civilians), Maxwell plays a major role in Montgomery’s economy. Between the original Maxwell AFB and the newer Maxwell-Gunter Annex, the combined base occupies over 4100 acres north and west of downtown, with more than 50 miles of road across the grounds. Home to several units, more than 40 tenant organizations, and a major training sector with several divisions, Maxwell-Gunter is one of the country’s most important Air Force bases.
While the base sees many service personnel come in and out temporarily for various training programs, many military families are stationed permanently or semi-permanently here in Montgomery.
Military moves to Montgomery, Alabama
When moving to Montgomery as part of a military assignment, you have two options — living on-base or living off-base.
On-base accommodations are provided for airmen ranked E-1 to E-3 and E-4 with less than three years of experience. Some privatized on-base housing is also available for military families to rent. However, many base personnel rent or buy houses off base in Montgomery and the surrounding suburbs.
Military personnel and their families are free to buy or rent anywhere in the Greater Montgomery area; however, many tend to gravitate toward some of the more popular growing suburban areas where new housing is plentiful. Many service people opt to live in nearby Prattville, located just northwest of the base in the opposite direction of Montgomery; others, however, venture as far as East Montgomery and Pike Road.
Should off-base military families rent, buy, or build?
By default, military families often gravitate to rental homes or apartments in the area. However, given rising rents and Montgomery’s favorable housing market, if you anticipate being stationed at Maxwell for a year or longer, it actually makes more financial sense to buy a home near Maxwell Air Force Base versus renting.
Military personnel are surprised to learn they can actually afford a brand-new home construction for about the same amount as — or less than — they would pay in rent for a similar property. For active-duty military, buying a new construction home makes solid financial sense as an investment in their future. Most servicemen and servicewomen can easily qualify for a VA home loan, which offers low interest and little to no down payment.
It’s even possible for retired military personnel to obtain a VA loan, under the right conditions, for a new construction home.
Tips for a Smooth Military Relocation to Montgomery
Relocation comes with a unique set of challenges for military personnel. A permanent change of station (PCS), as it is called, usually offers relatively little advance notice, forcing servicemen and servicewomen to coordinate a lot of details in a short period of time. Fortunately, there are resources available to help with military moves. Here are some tips to help make the relocation as seamless as possible.
1. Coordinate with your local transportation office.
Once you’ve made your plans to relocate to Maxwell AFB, you’ll want to coordinate with your local base (if you have one) as well as the authorities at Maxwell to arrange shipping. At Maxwell, you’ll want to contact the Traffic Management Office as well as the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO).
2. Access available moving resources
There are dozens of programs available to help military families with PCS relocation, from local business and school information to relocation management services. (A directory should be available at your local installation.)
Again, be sure to contact your installation’s transportation office to help with sending some of your documents and belongings ahead of you. Maxwell has a Housing Management Office that can provide guidance and counseling when you arrive on base to help you figure out your housing options. Other online military relocation resources include:
- Move.mil: The Department of Defense global relocation portal
- AHRN.com: Connecting military community with housing opportunities
- Plan My Move
4. Set up banking in advance.
To avoid any complications accessing funds while you’re in transition, one helpful tip is to set up an account at a bank that has branches both in your current city and your new city. For example, if you currently bank with USAA and like their services, USAA has plenty of ATM locations across Montgomery. If you prefer a local brick-and-mortar banking location, look for a Regions Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, or BBVA Compass Bank in your current city; all three have multiple Montgomery branches. Setting up an account before you move eliminates this task from your list on the other side.
5. Consider buying a home instead of renting.
The military offers numerous resources for finding local housing to rent, but you might want to consider buying a home instead of renting one. Purchasing a home may be more economical than you think, and you’ll be investing in your own future rather than paying rent. In addition, buying a new construction home can be an excellent option because it will be move-in ready and low maintenance — plus it will be easier to sell if you are transferred again.
New Construction Homes Near Maxwell AFB
At Lowder New Homes, we want to make purchasing a new construction as easy as possible for military families, which is why we have Builder Representatives on staff who are Certified Military Relocation Professionals (CMRP). We also offer special benefits for active and retired military personnel.
If you’re relocating to Maxwell AFB, we’d love to talk with you about your options. Contact us today to get started.