A Guide to Buying a House in: Alabama

(So you can make this YOUR "sweet home.")

Fort Payne, Alabama

So, you're looking to buy a house in Alabama. Well, luckily for you we've compiled a little guide to the housing market of The Yellowhammer State (that's one of their nicknames, by the way). We'll cover some of the factors that just might help you make your decision. Plus, we'll include a bit of fun stuff, too. Let's get started.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Alabama

The first question on a lot of people's minds when moving to a new state is "Where will I shell out the most green?" We've compiled a list of the places with the biggest and smallest money-factors in Alabama, as of the beginning of 2018.

Most expensive cities:

  • Fairhope
  • Madison
  • Daphne
  • Foley
  • Hunstville

Least expensive cities:

  • Gadsden
  • Talladega
  • Anniston
  • Oxford
  • Jacksonville

So now you've got a good starting point for narrowing down your search, if affordability matters to you (as it should). No matter what area you choose to move out to, you can always find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Alabama's Housing Market

Of course, if a place has a groovy housing market, that'll serve as extra inspiration to move there. So what's the market like in Alabama, as of late? We'll dive right in and find out.

Birmingham is THE hottest place to buy a home in Alabama. It's the most populated city and has lots of job opportunities in fields like construction, banking and publishing. There's also a happenin' downtown area. 

The housing market in Birmingham is said to be "low-risk and stable," so that's definitely good. Most properties here apparently sell for $80,000 - $100,000. Plus, the area's been nicknamed "The Magic City", so it's gotta be a big deal. 

The state's also got a fair bit of new construction underway. You'll find the most in central Alabama, in/around Birmingham (see, they told you the place was hot). There's also a good bit in the southwest area of the state, in/around Mobile, and in the southeast, in/around Dothan. 

Up north a bit, there's development underway in/around Huntsville, and further east you'll find some in/around Auburn. So, the state has quite a few shiny new homes to offer.

Home Property Values and Costs in Alabama

So now we know where to find a place to live, but how much will it actually cost, and what are home values like in the state lately? Let's check all that out next.

For starters, home values in Alabama currently average about $126,000. Homes are listed on the market for an average of $203,900, and sales close for around $144,400. The price per square foot averages $101. And as far as home appreciation is concerned, home values have increased 5.3% over the past year, and are projected to rise another 1.3% by the end of 2018. 

That's all well and good, but how about people who are seeking apartments/condos? Well, you can find a place for an average of $917/month in Birmingham, or for $771/month in Mobile. You'll pay a bit more in Mountain Brook, where places average $1,135/month. 

Rent is a bit cheaper in Madison, with places up for around $828/month. You can save quite a bit, though, if you move to Oxford - where you'll only pay about $540/month.

Don't worry, townhouse lovers, we didn't forget about you. The range of rent for a townhouse in Alabama starts on the low end for about $400/month for a two-bedroom, and hits the high end at about $3,600/month for a five-bedroom. 

Hurricane Insurance Coverage is Mandatory in Alabama

Before you buy a house in a new state, it's important to know of any mandatory insurance policies specific to the area. Those who are Alabama-bound haven't escaped this, unfortunately, because this place just LOVES hurricanes. In fact, Alabama is one of 19 states that require a hurricane deductible as a part of their homeowner’s insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. 

Those living in a low-risk area in a smaller/cheaper house might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in high-risk areas in a fancy mansion might pay $30,000.

If you want to avoid this specific kind of insurance policy (not to mention hurricanes in general, which just aren't fun to deal with at ALL), you might consider moving to a state away from the coast - one that's comfortably sandwiched between other states more likely to get hit by those nasty storms.

Quality of Schools in Alabama

Another thing folks typically like to know about before setting their sights on a new state and hitting the "all systems go" button is the school system. So what are schools like in Alabama, you ask? Well, we're about to find out.

Here are some 2018 WalletHub stats about how Alabama schools ranked in the country:

  • #44 overall - #42 for quality of education, and #46 for safety
  • #50 for math scores - only DC scored lower
  • #43 for reading scores
  • #42 for student-teacher ratio: 18-to-1
  • #22 for median SAT scores, and #46 for median ACT scores
  • #5 for highest violence - based on percentage of threatened/injured high school students

Alabama's schools ranked third-lowest in terms of dropout rates for the country. The top-rated schools in the state are Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery, and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Reasons to Move to Alabama (...or not)

Alright, we've covered the important stuff, now it's time to get to more of the fun stuff. Why would people want to move to Alabama, in the first place? Well, don't take our word for it - let's hear a few pros and cons straight from the mouths of REAL Alabamians.

PROs (as voted by real-life Alabamians):

  • Low cost of living: It's no secret that real estate in The Cotton State (another of its nicknames, FYI) is pretty cheap, and taxes are pretty low - we suspect that's just one of the big reasons why 55% of relocators in 2017 chose this place as their new home.
  • Nature + all four seasons: The terrain of Alabama is crazy-varied - they've got beaches, mountains AND forests (oh my!). So, there's plenty of stuff here for all different breeds of outdoorsy types. Locals also like having all four seasons and weather from all over the spectrum - from snow/ice storms to hot/humid summers and torrential downpours in the spring. You never know what you're gonna get, but you won't get bored with Mother Nature keeping you on your toes.
  • Music: Because of its location, The Heart of Dixie (yup, another nickname) draws lots of big-name musicians each year. The Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores is the state's largest annual music event. Important people in all genres - ranging from jazz to rock 'n' roll to country - show their faces here.
  • Food: Alabamians are die-hard foodies. In fact, the town of Birmingham alone has a whopping 28 different food festivals this year - that's more than two per month! Among them are the Exceptional Foundation Chili Cook-Off, Taste of Homewood, BBQ for Building, Girls Inc. Cajun Cook-Off and BHamBurger Battle. Seriously, don't eat anything for a while before you arrive here - you'll be stuffing your face in no time.
  • Proximity to major cities: Nashville, Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis are just day-trips away - you'll probably only need to prepare one playlist for the drive. Alabama’s location allows for opportunities to see all kinds of festivals, concerts, museums, state parks, shopping attractions and more.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Alabamians):

  • Humidity: Make that winter humidity. While no one will sugarcoat that the humidity in summertime is bad, it's the winters that separate true die-hard Alabamians from the wannabes. The extra moisture causes normally cold temperatures to feel RIDICULOUSLY frigid. Locals say that it's not uncommon for a 45-degree day on the thermometer to feel more like 10 degrees. If you're not into sweating buckets in the summer and shivering so hard you burn calories in the winter, this might not be the place for you.
  • Severe storms: Along with the good of having varied weather also comes the bad - and Alabama's got plenty of severe storms that aren't our idea of a good time. For starters, it's one of the most active tornado states. You've also got your crazy-heavy thunderstorms and screamin' hurricanes. On top of that, seemingly random downpours plague residents whenever they feel like it, no matter the season - but apparently they can stop as quickly as they start. Locals joke, "If you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes." 
  • High poverty and obesity rates: Alabama "has the worst poverty in the developed world," as of the end of 2017. The poverty rate is at 40% in some counties. And according to the CDC, Alabama is tied with Arkansas for the third-highest obesity rate for the country - at 35.7%. 
  • Lack of nightlife: We're taking the locals' word for it here, but apparently the nightlife in this place is seriously unhappenin'. If you're looking to have fun after sundown, you just might have to create it yourself. 

Stuff to Do in Alabama

Cool, so now we know a bit about WHY people move here - but we still need to find out WHAT people here do. Let's check out a few insider's secrets to having some fun in this place, from museums to sporting events and more.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Located in Huntsville, this museum has access to  historic Shuttle Park and Rocket Park. It also has cool and unique artifacts from the country's space exploration. It's the world's largest space museum outlining the history of the U.S. space program. It's also home to the annual, highly anticipated Space Camp program featuring the Aviation Challenge, which trains students in flight simulators. What cool kid WOULDN'T wanna check that out? 
  • Vulcan Statue: In Birmingham, the world's largest cast iron statue stands at a neck-craning 56 feet tall. Vulcan, the Roman god of the fire and forge, represents the state's roots in the iron and steel industry. He's kind of a big deal - in his 100th birthday year of 2004, the park drew more than 100,000 visitors. 
  • Cathedral Caverns State Park: Located in Woodville, this state park offers cave tours, campsites, backpacking and hiking. It has the widest entrance of any commercial cave in the world, and features a sparkly Gemstone Mine with a gem mining experience available to all ages. It's fun AND pretty. 
  • Talladega Superspeedway: AKA NASCAR's "biggest and baddest" track, this is located in Lincoln, and features the annual NASCAR race that fans lose sleep waiting for - the GEICO 500. The race runs 188 laps, covering just over 500 miles. Now that's a lotta high-speed left turns.
  • Alligator Alley: Located in Summerdale, this swamp sanctuary has an elevated boardwalk featuring a too-close-for-comfort view of hundreds of alligators and different kinds of wildlife. If you're into staring one of mankind's biggest natural predators practically right in the face, this is the place for you.

Movin' on in, in Alabama

Alright folks, that's our little guide to all things house-buying in Alabama, brought to you with a bit of fun insider's info for an added treat. While there's always WAY more to learn about a state than we could possibly cover, we're hoping we've at least helped to answer some of your questions.

So, if it seems like Alabama could be the next place you hang your hat, we urge you to check it out for yourself. We also highly recommend looking into an affordable home insurance policy within our trusted network.

Good luck.

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