I wish you the best!
There are many things to consider when buying a home. Whether to buy now or later is certainly a decision you have to make for yourself. With that being said, I personally believe it is a great time to buy a home because prices are down and interest rates are down too. There are some great deals out there now too -- some are foreclosures -- and foreclosures can be excellent investments and can put you in a stronger equity position. Foreclosures, which are bank owned, are different than most typical purchases. Most foreclosures are in need of work, but you can get a 203k repair loan and include the repairs in one loan. This will allow you to either do, or hire the work done, and pick up some equity on the property by virtue of improving it. Good luck with your decision making and home search, whether rental or purchase.
You should re-think the section 8 idea though. It is a full time job dealing with renters, and if you are not going to be in the same town it is even more of a pain.
I'm answering your question assuming you are moving to Birmingham.
After several years of a high priced market, prices are down in Birmingham. It's a great time for buyers. Interest rates are going down and will continue to do so over the next couple of months. Birmingham is a growing city, so as long as you are smart in your purchase, you should be able to sell in three years.
As far as turning your house into a Section 8 rental when you move in three years: I know investors who buy only with the intentions of renting via Section 8. They do very well, they know they will get that payment every month, but they also know there is a risk of property damage. If you aren't prepared to keep your property up, and don't want the probability of having to remodel down the road (should you want to move back to the property), then renting the property may not be financially feasible for you.
There are a lot nice apartment communities in our area should you choose to rent instead of buying your own home. Some areas of town are rather expensive though, so buying may make more sense.
Good luck to you and your family!
I'm not much for renting, especially if you read my profile ....
But .. hubby is in the Military and things "could" might maybe" change after the elections, so I would want to know about that issue in the next 10/12 months ...
Depending on the area Birmingham(?) ... I would just rent, I would save, I would take my time and watch the market (and save) and track the properties in the area .... homes won't be hard to find (depending on the area) and rates will drop into the low 5% in the next 2 or 3 months and will stay low for some time...
The 2 most important things when you're looking for real estate --- accurate information and patience ..
Thank your husband for a job "well done".!