Hi Brian - thanks for doing your homework and asking some questions.
I'd say the market in Lawrence certainly looks quite a bit better than it has in the last few years. Sales volume is up almost 40% on the year and the average price is up to almost $204k from ~$177k. Generally, I'd look for at least 5 years of ownership for an average owner-occupied property to mitigate potential loss when selling, but there are always exceptions and deals to be found. Teaming up with a plugged-in Realtor is a good way to stay abreast and make sure your interests are held in the forefront.
Thirty minutes could take you quite a distance from campus and I wouldn't expect an HOA that far out. Is it exterior maintenance you're looking for in a home owner's association? Some other benefit you'd like to take advantage of?
I'm a 9.5 year USAF vet (enlisted) myself who has been helping buyers and sellers in Douglas County since 2008 and would love to at least hear more about your goals and help you evaluate your situation. I've got a couple great loan officers that could set you straight with VA financing. Have you used your VA loan benefit yet in the past? Do you own other VA-backed properties at the moment?
Feel free to give a call anytime if you'd like to set up an appointment to talk things over. You certainly don't need to answer any of my queries here in this public forum. Please leave me a short message or send a text if I'm unable to take your call.
Best wishes for your tour in Lawrence - I'm pretty sure you'll find lots to love about our little town.