If you are thinking of moving to Oklahoma City because of a job, or just want a cheaper place to live and still have access to "quality of life" amenities such as art, music, sports and the like, I have decided to use this post to help you find the best parts of Oklahoma City (and surrounding area) in which to look for a house. I have lived here my entire life, so I am pretty familiar with the area.
First off, if you want to look at the neighborhood crime statistics in Oklahoma City proper without actually visiting it, you can go to Channel 9's (CBS) CrimeTracker website.
As a general rule, northwest Oklahoma City is a better quadrant than the others, although far southwest OKC is also being developed with nicer neighborhoods. When I was out home-hunting recently, I looked for a home in the zip codes 73120, 73116 and 73120 in that order. If you are fabulously wealthy, the area of OKC you would want to live in to be ostentatious would be Nichols Hills, which is 73116. The Village, which is the middle class area just north of Nichols Hills is 73120. However, the 73120 zip code includes a large part of NW OKC.
Now, if you don't mind commuting up to 30 minutes, communities outside of Oklahoma City proper provides nice, generally safe areas to live. For example:
Norman (where the University of Oklahoma is located) is about 20-40 minutes directly south of OKC, depending on the traffic. The west side of I-35 and far east part have the nicest homes. However, there are very few unsafe areas there. The "worst" areas are the ones around the Griffin Memorial Hospital, where patients with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems are housed (although I think they may have moved it from its original location); and an area very close to Campus Corner that has a reputation for being "slum housing." Norman is the home of the actor James Garner and several country musicians such as Toby Keith, Vince Gill and Conway Twitty.
Edmond (where the University of Central Oklahoma is located) is north of Oklahoma City by almost the same distance as Norman is to the south. Edmond is generally regarded to be a town that is middle class to upper class. Noted dignitaries or celebrities include olympic 5-medal gymnastics winner Shannon Miller, onetime local newscaster cum restaurant entrepreneur Vince Orza (who also ran a couple of times for Governor). Edmond is also home to the Oak Tree Golf Club where several pros make their home. The "worst" areas are the homes near the railroad tracks by the post office. Edmond's claim to infamy was when Patrick Sherrill walked into the Edmond post office and killed several of the other employees and then committed suicide. (I only mention this because I worked there at the same time as Patrick Sherrill. I was a distribution clerk and he was a carrier. I took his mail to him after it had been sorted. It is kind of scary to think that my work station -- the PO Boxes from 400-1200 -- was the area where he killed the most people. I guess in hindsight I should count being let go during my probation just prior to this incident as being a blessing in disguise.)
Piedmont, which is northwest of Oklahoma City is a small community where many parents are moving to for its public schools, which are considered to be among the best in the Oklahoma City area.
Mustang is southwest of Oklahoma City and has the same reputation as Piedmont. The home values in Mustang and Piedmont have risen very fast in the last few years. I guess if there are bubble areas of Oklahoma City, this would be two of them.
Houses in the OKC area will generally range from $45 per square foot for less desirable areas to $80 sf for the nicest areas (like the ones I was looking for). For the most part, most of OKC is very affordable and can be bought by middle income earners for 20% down and 20% of gross income -- which is the general rule for home affordability. A check on the Multi Listing System (MLS) will confirm that it is possible to buy medium-sized home with yard space for kids and pets for a reasonable price.
I suspect Oklahoma City and the surrounding area will get hit by the Housing Bubble we hear so much about in a few years, but I somehow doubt that we will get hit as hard.
While life is slower here, we still have access to things that other big cities have; but you will probably encounter fewer stressed-out, rude people in the process of enjoying them.