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February brings longing of that so close but not yet there spring weather, flowers, and sunshine. This month also causes dread in the heart of every military spouse who is planning for a summer PCS. As soon as your military member gets their official orders, it’s on. You dive into the online search of the area around your soon to be duty station, many of you relying on various Facebook groups to help you navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once you’ve settled on an area, you have to make a big decision before anything else. Do you rent a home living on base (if there is base housing available), rent on the economy, or make the decision to buy a home? Let me take you through all the things.

Living on base

You should know that around one third of military families choose to live in base housing. In fact, in some areas, base housing is mandatory unless you are given a release. I’ve lived this life twice now, on both coasts of the United States. There are pros and cons to this decision based on my experience PCS’ing eight times in 15 years.

The good:

  1. PCS’ing just got a whole lot easier. You have your house, school district for any kiddos you may have, and typically, medical all set up in one spot. This. Is. Amazing.
  2. The housing department simply takes the BAH allotted to the service member and all of your bills are paid, other than your optional cable or internet, which you are responsible for. Yay for other people doing the work!
  3. You are surrounded by a support system that will help you and your family through adjusting to your new home. Your MilSpouse besties are just waiting for you.

The drawbacks:

  1. You are limited in what changes you can make to the home based on the rules of the housing department. Also, what goes up must go down – adding extra work when you PCS out.
  2. There is a certain lack of privacy since you are surrounded by the military community. People watching will be at its finest in MilHousing.
  3. The majority of homes available in housing will be smaller in size. If you live for big spacious homes – this isn’t for you.

Renting a home on the economy

More and more families are making the decision to live on the economy. A 2010 RAND study found that around 32% of families choose to rent a home out on the economy. We’ve done this ourselves four out of the eight times I’ve PCS’d. You are given your BAH and advised to find something that you can afford. Your BAH should cover your rent, water, electric, and trash costs. It is best practice to look for a home to rent that is roughly around $300 under your BAH to account for your utilities. Making the decision to rent gives you privacy, typically more space, and some design freedom.

Tips and tricks for successfully renting on the economy:

  1. Talk to your MilSpouse community. They will give you details on all the things. They will share lessons learned and things to watch out for when making your decision. Lean on them!
  2. Ensure that there is a military clause in your lease when you make the decision to rent. This protects you in the event you get short toured due to new orders. This happens more than you think so be prepared. My husband has been short toured five times.
  3. Check out AHRN; this website will specifically search for rentals around your base. This makes the work of looking for rentals so much easier!
  4. Military by Owner is another great resource to rent from other military families. This is a great option and one that allows you to have a landlord that completely understands your lifestyle and will work with you. This option also allows you to search around your base, ensuring the commute for your military member is manageable.

Buying your own home

Okay – you’ve done your research and have made the decision that you are ready to buy. This is a big step and one that many military families choose to take. Our family has purchased a home twice in my husband’s 19-year career. The first time, we lived in it for 10 months because he was short-toured. Ten. Months.

Thankfully, we were able to turn around and rent it to another military family for two years before we sold it. This is the risk you run when you buy a home; the military will call. There will also be times you may not be able to sell the home right away. This means you need to be prepared and able to be a landlord – and typically, from far away; or hire a property management company.

Buying a home also comes with added responsibilities, like having an “oh no” fund if things break – and they will, probably, when your service member is deployed because, Murphy’s Law. Make sure if you are purchasing a home that you can afford it and all the things that come along with homeownership.

Now that I’ve scared you senseless, let’s talk about the epically amazing things about owning your own home.

  1. Are you a DIY master? Decorator extraordinaire? This will be your JAM!
  2. If you have pets, you don’t have to stress! Gone are the days of worrying about finding a pet friendly rental or paying extra fees. Fido will fit right in.
  3. You’ll have an added tax deduction from the interest you pay on your mortgage
  4. You’ll have all the privacy you want!
  5. For the military families who sometimes feel like they don’t belong, home ownership gives you stake in the game. You will now be a tax paying resident with a voice and stake in your community. Welcome home!

If you’ve made the decision to buy, check out Caliber Home Loans. Caliber has been awarded the Military Friendly® brand four years in a row! They have an entire team of dedicated professionals in their Military Lending Program, many of whom are military affiliated themselves.