Oklahoma No Longer Among ‘Best Places’ to Buy a Home
For as long as I can remember, and one of the reasons I personally opted to settle in Oklahoma, was the shockingly low average cost of living.
For decades that low COL has enticed people from all over the country and landed the Sooner State consistently high on the list of 'Best Places to Buy a Home' across the country, but that's quickly changing.
We all know that things never stay the same. Just look at our economy. It has been up and down in a steady pattern over the course of my lifetime. Some years are good and some are bad. It's just the natural ebb and flow of first-world living, but ultra-cheap Oklahoma has become enough of a desired place to live, prices are going up.
Like most homeowners, I stopped looking at things like average house prices and average rental rates when I signed my mortgage years ago. It wasn't until I refinanced at historically low rates in 2020 that I realized things were quickly escalating. Even more surprising, things haven't slowed down, even in this hyper-inflated economy.
While home prices have been steadily trending up, it's the rental rates across the state that send most people into sticker shock.
It's understandable too. The last house I rented in Lawton recently went back on the market. It's a smaller 1970s home. 1100-ish square feet, 3 beds, 2 baths, two-car garage. I begrudgingly paid $750 per month for it.
When I saw it marketed on Facebook for $1200/month, I was floored.
Thinking it had to be one of those military town social media scams, I hopped on the listing agent's official website... $1200/month is what they're asking for it now, and based on the pictures, the things she kept my deposit for years ago never got fixed.
How can people afford to live? This was only seven years ago, how did this happen?
In the last three years, Oklahoma has fallen from a top-25 best state to buy a home in to barely a top-200 locale, and the Sooner State town that appears highest on that list is a place even the people that live there don't want to be--Fort Gibson: Population 3,855.
A historic place, yes... but a ghost town for all intents and purposes.
But the cost of living is still low...
That's the weird thing. Oklahoma still has the second-lowest average cost of living, but that's only if you're a homeowner. If you rent, it's crazy expensive.
Looking at the stats, the average home price in America is just north of $415k... but in Oklahoma, that average is closer to $275k. If you do the math, Oklahoma homes are 34% cheaper than the national average. That's a huge difference in the grand scheme of US home prices, but those numbers get a lot closer on the rental market.
The national average rent is $1,333 across the nation. In Oklahoma, the average is $1,032 meaning rent is just over 22% cheaper in the Sooner State than around the country. Since median income is around 30% lower in our state, renting is even more expensive in Oklahoma ratio-wise than in seemingly more expensive states.
No easy fix for it either.
Having realized the instant benefits and affordability of owning a home first-hand, I've always encouraged people to buy instead of rent, but that's not an attractive option these days with interest rates as inflated as the economy right now.
If you bought a $150k home in 2020 when interest rates his 2%, your 30-year mortgage payment would be just under $600.
That same $150k mortgage now in 2023 would cost a homeowner $1,034 each month thanks to the 7.36% interest rate listed today.
That's right at a $450 difference due to interest!
Can't afford to rent, can't afford to buy...
Even with the downward trend, more people are still moving into Oklahoma than those that are moving out. Oddly enough, while Okies are fleeing for Texas in droves, even more Texans are coming here. Blame their rapidly changing politics if you want, I'd guess it was the sky-high property taxes and even more ridiculous rents that inspire people to "Oregon Trail" themselves across the Red River.
The move-in/move-out stats are similar to almost every other state we're exchanging people with these days... except Florida. People tend to stay in Florida.