PCSing: Should You Live in Base Housing or Live Out in Town?

outside_house_todayAs PCS Season approaches, military members and their families everywhere are making preliminary decisions about how to live their lives at their new duty station. If you’re one of them, good luck!

We know from experience one of the first questions that arises after checking out the numbers on a new city and BAH rate is, “Should we live on base or out in town?”

Choosing where to live for the next 2-4 years is not hard if you ask questions and make decisions before hand. Make a list of the most important factors involved in choosing a home, do some research on MilitaryDutyStations.com, AHRN.com, Greatschools.org and you’re done! Well – it might not be that simple, but if you narrow things down by answering these questions, you’ll fine the right home fast.

What can you afford?

Basic Allowance for Housing ¬†(BAH) – is meant to cover your rent, utilities, and home/rental insurance…NOT just your rent. ¬†If you don’t know what utilities are at your new station, deduct $250 from your total BAH and that will give you a good rent target point. They have just published what the BAH is broken out so you can see what portion is dedicated for rent.

Next look at rental and mortgage rates in the areas you want to live in. Can you afford what you like without going over your BAH? If so, you’re financially fit to live out in town.

How far do you want to live?

This is a personal decision for most people. On one hand being closer to work is very convenient Рespecially in a bigger city. On the other, maybe you want to be a little more removed from work to unwind and separate yourself a bit. The main thing to consider in this case is the cost of gas and your fuel efficiency. Why? Because if it costs you $60 per week to fill up your tank and drive to work then you now have to budget in $240 a month for gas. Are you willing to carve that much out of your BAH in order to live further away? If gas money and fuel efficiency aren’t a factor, then consider traffic as the next determinant. How early are you willing to leave your home in order to get to work on time? Consider the long lines that form when entering the gates and whether your base is located in a highly populated area.

Local activities and recreation.

Will your spouse work or go to school? Do your children participate in organized sports? Are you a city family that likes to stroll down business districts, or a suburb family that likes to take it easy? Nothing is worse than living in a neighborhood that you don’t fit into. Think about what your recreational needs are and make them a top priority.

If you have children, how close and how good are the schools?

Navy wife Carmen Grant’s top priority when moving to San Diego, CA was finding a neighborhood with good schools for her two boys. She found both a house and great schools by reseaching areas on AHRN.com and using the school finder tool powered by GreatSchools.org. “Finding a house in San Diego under BAH was one challenge, but finding a top school to match was driving me insane. When a friend recommended I try AHRN.com I found the perfect home in a safe neighborhood and my boys now go to a top California Distinguished School!”

Need more pointers for choosing a place to live at your new Duty Station? Check out SargesList’s free, Ultimate PCS Guide!

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