Housing & Real Estate In Montgomery County
From charming bungalows and mid-century modern ranch houses near the historic and bustling city of Montgomery to modern apartment complexes with abundant amenities — Montgomery County’s communities offer a diverse selection of housing.
In 2017, more than 226,500 people lived in the county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county is home to the state capital of
Montgomery, the town of Pike Road and unincorporated areas, as well as Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex. The base employs more than 12,500 active-duty, reservist, civilian and contractor personnel, many of whom live off the base in surrounding communities. Additionally, about 17,000 veterans live in the area.
Montgomery County’s communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The Montgomery Area Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Those interested in purchasing a new home can find the expertise and professional services they need at www.alamls.com.
Montgomery County is 784 square miles of gently rolling terrain with fertile soil. Its central location in Alabama’s Black Belt makes it a processing hub for crops such as cotton, peanuts and soybeans. Elmore County lies to the north, Autauga County to the northwest, Lowndes County to the west, Crenshaw and Pike counties to the south, and Macon and Bullock counties to the east. For more information, check out the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce website at www.montgomerychamber.com.
Communities near Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex include Millbrook, Montgomery, Pike Road, Prattville and Wetumpka.
Millbrook, the largest city in nearby Elmore County, is about 10 miles north of Montgomery and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. The city sits near the Coosa and Alabama rivers, with two lakes just minutes away, and Mill Creek makes its way through the center of a downtown park, which all contribute to a peaceful quality of life in a natural setting.
Millbrook’s 13 square miles are home to approximately 15,000 people. Mean travel time to work is 24.5 minutes. Median rent is $860, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,121.
The city’s parks and recreation department maintains seven parks, a state-of-the-art baseball facility, a civic center and walking trails. The city is also home to the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the Alabama Nature Center.
The city of Montgomery, in the southeast portion of the state, is nationally known for its historic and cultural landmarks such as the Alabama State Capitol, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, First White House of the Confederacy, Hank Williams Memorial, Alabama Veterans Memorial, Rosa Parks Museum and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Once the capital of the Confederacy, Montgomery eventually became the hub of the civil rights movement. Montgomery, the home of Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex, also is known for the renaissance of its historic downtown and redevelopment of its riverfront along the Alabama River.
Montgomery’s land area is 160 square miles and its population is nearly 200,000. Mean travel time to work is about 19 minutes. Median rent is $827, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,085.
The city maintains more than 60 parks, trails and natural areas, including Blount Cultural Park, Riverfront Park, a dog park, an amphitheater and a therapeutic recreation center.
Pike Road lies 14 miles east of Montgomery and 20 miles east of Maxwell AFB. The town’s nearly 32 square miles are home to more than 9,300 residents. Previously an unincorporated area, the farming community of Pike Road voted to incorporate in 1997 and has become one of the fastest-growing towns in Alabama.
People began settling and farming the area in the mid-19th century. As more families moved in, more services were needed. By the early 20th century a booming small town had grown up at the intersection of Pike Road and Meriwether Road. (Pike Road got its name from the toll, or pike, one had to pay to travel on it.)
The town is working on a trail system that will connect many of its neighborhoods and parks. The Pike Road Natural Trail system accommodates walkers, runners and off-road bicyclists. At its completion, the trail will be 30 miles long and will have trailheads that provide parking, restrooms, picnic tables and other amenities. Visit the town’s website for updates on the trail’s progress.
Median rent in Pike Road is $1,143, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,522. Mean travel time to work is about 25 minutes.
Prattville is a New England-style village about 14 miles northwest of Montgomery. Known as the “birthplace of industry,” Prattville was founded by Daniel Pratt, who built manufacturing plants in an area surrounded by plantations and farms. Prattville offers multiple recreational and cultural activities, among them the Autauga Creek Canoe Trail and the historic downtown district.
Prattville’s 33 square miles support a population of approximately 35,500. Mean travel time to work is 22.5 minutes. Median rent is $947, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,142.
The city boasts more than 20 parks and recreational facilities, including a dog park, a sports complex, and the See, Pick and Eat Nut Grove, where families can learn about nut-producing trees and sample their offerings.
Wetumpka, on the banks of the Coosa River, is also known as “The City of Natural Beauty.” Nestled in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains about 17 miles northeast of Montgomery County, it combines a scenic location and a storied past, beginning with its founding around A.D. 1,000 as a palisade Indian village.
Wetumpka’s 10 square miles have a population of about 8,150. Mean travel time to work is about 26 minutes. Median rent is $867, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $999.
The city is home to a sports complex, the Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park and the Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, and hosts the annual Coosa River Whitewater Festival.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or the nation, preparation and organization make all the difference.
For military moves, visit www.move.mil for information about moving resources and to learn about the allowances and responsibilities of a military-sponsored move.
Decide whether or not to make your move a do-it-yourself operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs of renting the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org or www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you are packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term financial and emotional commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is a loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
To determine your best choice, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you sign a lease, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
“A Decent Place to Live: Tenant Rights in Alabama” by Legal Services Alabama can be downloaded at www.alabamalegalhelp.org/issues/housing/landlord-and-tenant.
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) and www.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Home Buying Institute) loan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FHA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a
41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it would be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and complete and submit the request form online.
Home Loan Application
To complete a home loan application you’ll need: photo IDs (such as a driver’s license); Social Security numbers; residence addresses for the past two years with landlord contact information if you rented; names and addresses of your employers for the past two years; your current gross monthly income; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers and balances on all checking, savings, CDs, money market, bonds and mutual funds accounts; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers, balances and monthly payments on all open loans (including student loans) and credit cards; addresses and loan information of all other real estate owned; estimated value of furniture and personal property; W2s for the past two years and current paycheck stubs; copies of all divorce decrees, child support documents or any other court proceedings that affect your financial status; verification of any child support payments; and evidence of any retirement or pension benefits. VA or military forms include: DD 214 (veteran), Form 22 (National Guard), DD 1747, Off-base Housing Authority (active duty) and Certificate of Eligibility (active duty).
For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan is invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Alabama provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit www.hud.gov and select Alabama from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
Montgomery Homebuyers Programs
Montgomery Housing Authority provides the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program to expand home ownership opportunities and mortgage assistance for eligible first-time homebuyers. For more information, visit www.mhatoday.org/home-ownership or contact the Montgomery Housing Authority at 334-206-7200 or email@example.com.
The city of Montgomery’s Community Development Division provides down payment assistance for eligible first-time homebuyers via the HOME Investment Partnership Program. For more information, visit www.montgomeryalgov/city-government/departments/planning/community-development.