PCS Chronicles #1 | Housing First!

Perhaps you’ve received your PCS orders, what’s the first task that comes to mind?  Housing! Yes, the overwhelming task of finding housing from a different location. There are so many considerations and so many dynamics in today’s economic climate. Do you find housing before you PCS or find it after you arrive? Off-base, on-base, rent, buy? What are the best areas?

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Figure out your top 3 must haves when looking for a place to live! Is it price, quality of neighborhood, schools, commute, walkability, etc.  Once you’ve prioritized your “must haves,” then you can strategize and begin your search.

Living On-Base

‚ÄúWe’ve done both and each has its pros and cons… so for us, it depends on the situation and environment. People usually say “it’s cheaper to live on post”. Not necessarily since post housing takes up all your BAH. At least living off post you have more leeway. I do like the incentive of getting $ back for conserving electricity, we are very conscious of that.‚Äù ‚ÄìSargesList Facebook Fan

There are plenty of benefits to on-base housing: commute convenience, access to resources, security, no deposits, pets allowed, etc. With base housing, most of the time they just take your BAH and you don’t have to worry about utility bills, landscaping or paying rent. On the flip side, on-base housing can be smaller and not as up-to-date.

Every base housing is different quality-wise, but even renovations that have been made with privatization… Is base housing worth all your BAH? If your top 3 include safety, commute and being near community, the answer just might be YES!

‚ÄúThis is our first time living on base so I can’t speak from personal experience. However, our friends have said when [housing] was military run, they kept it “ship-shape” and made sure residents did what they were supposed to do. Where we are now, we feel with privatized [housing], people get away with things and don’t do anything about it. It’s pretty sad. We are in older housing… roofs and gutters are falling off, exteriors and yards are neglected as well as the grounds throughout housing. Half the street lights don’t work, the sidewalks are broken up… hazards are everywhere including strewn garbage and newspapers. It’s partly housing’s fault and partly the residents fault too. People just don’t care like they used to… –SargesList Facebook Fan


  • Be on the look-out for $ perks. 90% of base housing has been privatized. Most of them are now trying to woo renters much like civilian landlords. A few with occupancy issues are offering incentives and less than BAH rent so that you can pocket some money. Be sure to ask if utilities and insurance are included. Some communities have been looking at utility reimbursements. Can‚Äôt take anything for granted!
  • Be informed on the status of wait lists according to rank. Each family housing company has a website that showcases their community amenities and atmosphere as well as the housing floor plans available. However, since wait lists are constantly changing, it‚Äôs best to call in for wait list times for your specific rank. Look up housing office / privatization info on DoD Military Homefront.
  • Be apprised about community events and festivities. Sometimes it‚Äôs the last thing we think of but this can help you and your family integrate into your new community. Transitioning is difficult for adults too, but if kids have a place where they can go make friends easily, it helps them and you make those much needed connections! These events can typically be found on the base housing website operated by the privatization partner. (Keyword search = + family housing.)
  • Ask around. Go to the official base Facebook page and ask others for feedback about the local base housing. You‚Äôll be sure to get lots of feedback.

–> AHRN.com is a DoD site that will give your BAH rates and let you shop for most of the on-base housing and compare your off-base options all in one location! You can search for a home (apt, condo, house, base housing) to rent, search for a home to buy OR post a listing to sell or rent your home.

–> Use SargesList to research base information, connect with people in the gaining installation area or sell or donate your unwanted items before you PCS.

Renting Off-Base


It’s a renters market.  More homeowners are becoming landlords and due to higher inventory of rentals, people are renting out their beloved homes way below mortgage cost and below market rates in efforts to just keep afloat in this economy. This is good news for you renters out there!

Tips on Renting:

  • Be cautious. 2011 is supposed to be the highest foreclosure year yet. Many who seek HAP and foreclosure assistance aren‚Äôt able to get it in time. What does this mean for you? Don‚Äôt get stuck in a home that goes into foreclosure! Ask prospective landlords to produce a statement proving their current mortgage status. Additionally, call your local title company and check if a trustee sale has been issued on the home in question.

“We moved into a house and 9 months later there was a foreclosure notice on the door! Considering all the news headlines about renters being kicked out of their homes, we asked our landlord for a current mortgage statement. However, because we wanted the house so bad, we did not pay attention to the red flag when the landlord‚Äôs answer to our inquiry was‚Ķ ‚ÄòMaybe this isn‚Äôt the right place for you‚Äô.‚Äù ‚ÄìSarge‚Äôs Facebook Fan

  • Get a deal! Everything in life is negotiable and you never know unless you ask! You just might strike a deal with someone willing to take less rent or a lesser deposit. Landlords are more likely to accept a reduced offer IF you have good credit and are planning to stay for a longer term. Know your credit score, puts you in the financial driver’s seat.
  • Factor all costs. You might get more house for less $, but it‚Äôs not always better on your pocket book. You may find yourself dealing with higher utility and maintenance costs. So, be thorough and think it through. Make sure you‚Äôve cited all expenses. Most utility companies have a website where you can get historical information to find out the utility costs to make sure you can pay for it with your BAH – if you’re on one income.
  • Ask for references too. Renting is a symbiotic relationship and you can‚Äôt go wrong with asking for references.¬† After all, you want to know if a landlord will take care of the property and be there when you need them.¬† Do a quick search on the web for any history or feedback on your prospective landlord. You never know what you might find. If you‚Äôre dealing with a Property Management company, check the BBB for reports.
  • Don‚Äôt overlook hidden costs! If you‚Äôre bound to rent overseas, always inquire about up-front finder‚Äôs fees.

William Paid - pay rent and build credit at the same timeIf you decide to rent, make your rental payments work for you! Pay rent and build credit at the same time with WilliamPaid.

Search for rentals on AHRN – the largest inventory of off-base rental housing worldwide all in one location. It has housing office contacts and all the listings in the database are overseen by the housing office. Make sure you do not sign a lease before contacting the housing office!

Buying & Selling


The good news is that for military, the homeowner’s tax credit has been extended to April 30, 2011 (for contract signing), interest rates are still low and prices are more affordable. However, in 2012, Federal Budget Could Limit Mortgage Interest Income Tax Deduction. One of the biggest advantages for owning a home may disappear. What to do? Like all major decisions, weigh the risks and rewards and make an educated decision.

“Well, for 14 years, we have always lived on base but last year after we PCS’d, we bought a home. Best thing we ever did! At our previous duty station, living in base housing (in Italy) was a nightmare and sealed the deal that we’d never do it again.” –Sarge’s Facebook Fan

InsWeb - Free Quotes on Homeowner's InsuranceThe market will always vary in different locations. At Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), the economics of supply and demand are highlighted. There are many military moving to the area and houses are turning.

“We’re pretty stabilized and the pendulum is on the upswing. We’re busy! Consumer confidence is starting to pick up and there are great values for the money right now. With interest rates still low and the military tax credit extension, people are still buying.” -Angie Sherman, JBLM realtor.

Amazingly, there are still ZERO down VA programs available as well as 3% FHA downs. MWR as well as Family Readiness groups continue to hold home buying seminars to help people understand the buying/selling process.

Tips on Buying:

  • Knowledge is power. You can‚Äôt over research on your own. Don‚Äôt just rely on your agent.¬† Not all homes for sale are on the MLS. So scour your choice neighborhood for signs and research all available housing sites: SargesList,¬†Trulia, Zillow, as well as foreclosure sites like RealtyTrac.
  • Know the score. If you have a good FICO score, you‚Äôre in the driver‚Äôs seat! Shop for rates and plan to negotiate both rates and closing costs. Check your score at MyFico. Just realize that the mortgage companies scores a little differently.
  • Don‚Äôt supersize! Consider when you might need to move and sell once again. In this economy, people are finding manageable-sized homes more appealing. You may have better luck with selling your home in the long run.
  • Need a referral to a trusted real estate agent to help you buy smart? Military Moving Station has been helping military members navigate the real estate process for many years. For a trusted referral source call (888) 268-2488 or email info@movingstation.com.
  • Hire a reputable inspector. Many homes on the market are short sales and foreclosures. As a result, up-keep on these properties may have gone by the wayside and are sold ‚ÄúAS IS.‚Äù Get a quality inspector to help you negotiate the right price for the true market value.

Tips on Selling:

  • Be educated. HAP and VA Loan Compromise programs can be a big help to you. So, browse your resources and read up on what‚Äôs available to you.
  • Do your homework and be choosy when hiring a selling agent. If you find a good one, they are guerilla marketers! Search the web, network with locals, even look into your Facebook friends recommendations and opinions. SargesList contains professional listings of realtors in many areas (still building) and those listings have recommendations on them.
  • Need a referral to a trusted real estate agent to help you sell smart? Military Moving Station has been helping military members navigate the real estate process for many years. For a trusted referral source call (888) 268-2488 or email info@movingstation.com.
  • Tap out your internet resources! If you are trying FSBO first, post on SargesList! Don‚Äôt forget, there are packages on the internet you can purchase to get on the MLS for FSBO.
  • FYI! If you have an agent, you can still post on SargesList.

Lastly, use every local base resource available to you to help sell or rent out your home. Call the Housing Office or your Family Readiness Group. Ask for assistance!

(p.s. Use Plan Your Move DoD Military Homefront to access to information about your entitlements and benefits, to points of contact, checklists, planning tools, and information on education and employment. Plan My Move will put you and your family in charge of a smooth relocation to your new duty assignment.)

PCS Chronicles #6 | PCS and Careers for Military Spouses
PCS Chronicles #5 | Your Wheels (POV) and Your PCS
PCS Chronicles #4 | PPM or JPPSO, which one will you choose in your next move?
PCS Chronicles #3 | Pets and Your PCS
PCS Chronicles #2 | Moving at High Speed, Low Drag


  1. A friend of SargesList wrote in and said: “Just so you might want to warn civilian and military travelers over to Germany, there is a pretty expensive Realty Fee that is charged to the member’s for Real Estate people to locate you housing. As a travel specialist I have seen this fee anywhere from $1200 dollars to $4500 dollars. This can be reimbursed, most if not all to the civilian member and also to the military member.”

  2. Thanks Army Housing!

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