Planning Your Move
The past few years have seen some change to the Lawton/Comanche County real estate market. After a long period of dramatic inventory increases, the local market seems to be leveling off on supply, perhaps signaling stabilization in the marketplace. Median home prices are in the $113,000 range. Whether you want to rent a one-bedroom apartment or a five-bedroom home in the county, there are plentiful and affordable options not only in Lawton but in the surrounding communities of Elgin, Sterling, Bethel, Geronimo and Cache. The Lawton/Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce offers a collection of quick links to realtors and rental management companies, storage companies and movers in the area. Visit the relocation page on their website. You can also find information about buying and maintaining a home and rental help at the local website for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rent or Buy
The decision to rent or buy depends not only on a person's financial status but also on other key issues that include how much of a commitment you want to make to a home, how long you plan to live in the area and how your personal needs fit in with either renting or owning.
Purchasing a home requires not only a larger financial investment but an emotional commitment. Homeowners get the advantage of building equity, tax breaks and the freedom to do whatever they want in regards to decor, landscaping and upgrades. The flipside of that includes being responsible for all maintenance and upkeep, paying property taxes and a fluctuating real estate market that can mean large drops in equity for some homeowners.
Renting can make moving easier. Many apartment complexes offer amenities such as laundry rooms, pools, parks and gated communities for security. The initial cost is minimal as compared with buying a home, and a landlord is responsible for maintenance and upkeep on the property. Disadvantages include no tax write-offs for rent monies paid, restrictions on personal touches to the property such as painting or upgrading and having to abide by rental agreements that may not allow pets or limit control over the residence.
Review your options and consider your financial situation and future plans then decide on your level of commitment before determining which choice is best for you and your family.
Buying a Home
With the real estate market being more volatile than ever, lenders have become much more stringent on making sure their buyers are qualified to purchase a home. A real estate professional or lending institution can prequalify you for a home loan, giving you an overview of what you can afford to purchase, how much your down payment will be, interest rates, taxes and insurance costs. Loan program rules vary depending on the agency, but a general rule of thumb is a housing payment should not exceed 28 percent of the buyer's income. There are both federal and state loan programs available to qualified buyers, including FHA, VA and USDA. Military personnel may qualify for some first-time homebuyer's benefits in Oklahoma. For more information and to learn if you are eligible for special grants and loans, contact the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency at (405) 848-1144.
Determining the kind of home that best suits your needs is the next step in the home-buying process. Hiring a reputable, licensed real estate agent is integral to being able to see all the houses on the market, as well as researching online via real estate MLS listing services and real estate agencies. You should consider location, school district if you have children, proximity to work or other activities and what kind of amenities you want. Do you want a more rural area, or do you prefer an urban environment? Private pool? Community center or parks? Do you want a newer home with minimal cosmetic issues, or do you enjoy the challenge of a "fixer-upper" and putting in some sweat equity? Other considerations include number of bedrooms and bathrooms you might need and whether you prefer a single family home or the lower maintenance of a town home or condo.
Your real estate agent will be able to direct you toward whatever kind of home you decide on, evaluating your needs and the housing market itself. Once you find a home, the process turns to making an offer to the seller and, once that has been accepted, a written contract. Contracts will include information on the home inspection, what items the buyer pays for and which are the seller's responsibility, as well as the real estate broker's commission and details of the closing dates.
It generally takes about 30 days for all steps to be completed in the purchase, which can vary depending on your loan program requirements, any repairs that the home inspection might uncover or scheduling times for the closing date.
Renting a Home
The median rental price in Lawton is about $704 per month, depending on location and amenities. As with purchasing a home, considering your own budget and financial plan is important when looking at rental properties. You will want to think about what kind of place you want—a house, condo, town home or apartment—as well as how big of a place you will need, whether you want a garage, location and extras such as a pool or security building.
Resources for searching can include local newspaper ads or a property management company. There are also helpful websites such as http://www.craigslist.org and http://www.rentals.com. Make sure you research both the area and the rental unit before making a commitment. Talk to the property manager and make sure there is no miscommunication in what is expected of you as the renter and what is expected of the landlord. Talk to other tenants, visit the neighborhood at various times to gauge activity levels and check with the local police to review the crime rates in the area. If you are renting a condo or a unit in a gated community, look at the homeowner's association rules to make sure you are comfortable with the requirements.
Always do a walkthrough of the property before you sign the lease, making sure to note any issues and getting a signed walkthrough statement. Read the lease agreement thoroughly before you sign it. A standard lease will include your monthly rental amount, due dates and late fees, as well as the amount of your security deposit. The lease should also specify how long you are legally bound to live there, what kind of notice you have to give for moving out and how long it will take the landlord to refund your security deposit.
CenterPoint Natural Gas
602 SW A Ave.
Lawton, OK 73501 (866) 275-5265
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
5 SW A Ave.
Lawton, OK 73501 (888) 216-3523
2310 NW Cache Road
Lawton, OK 73505 (580) 355-3500
American Fidelity Cable
811 SW D Ave.
Lawton, OK 73501 (580) 353-2250