Tis the season of orders! It feels like we all just finished unpacking that final box and hanging that last picture but many military families will soon or have already received word that they will be moving to a new duty station in the coming months. It might be a dream spot, like Italy or Florida. Or it might be a place you’ve never imagined living. But that’s part of the military adventure, right?
Once the orders are written, and you’ve notified the masses on Facebook, it’s time to start house hunting. Whether you are renting, buying or moving on base, relocating into new digs takes some detective work. Here are a few tips to watch for when searching for a home.
Check out militarybyowner.com. This is the premiere source for all sorts of rental and sales options including homes, condos and apartments, all near military bases. Photos and video tours are included in the ads as well as relevant contact information.
If you have the chance, visit the house in person. Download the militarybyowner app. It comes in handy when tooling around searching various streets for listings.
Don’t be fooled by room descriptions that include words like “quaint” or “funky.” Those can be pseudonyms for “small” and “awkward.”
Take note of high-end touches like a built-in wine cooler, upgraded pendant dining room lights or heated bathroom floors. It shows the homeowner or builder spent time on desirable improvements.
Research the recycling rules in your new zip code. Is there a good place to put compost bins and recycling receptacles? If it’s a rental, consider asking the landlord to install roll-out bins for waste.
Do your homework. Websites like Militarytownadvisor.com are flush with honest reviews of subdivisions, their proximity to schools and even whether it’s kid friendly. For example, here is one detailed review written by a reader: “This is a very social neighborhood. It is located downtown within walking distance to restaurants, bars, shopping etc. It has a children’s play park and a large gathering green for social events. During the summer, the neighborhood has potluck dinners and wine parties. Also, during the holiday season, the neighborhood has an open house. Buy lots of candy for Halloween!”
If you are planning to buy a home, take your time. Buying real estate on impulse is a recipe for disaster. Talk with real estate agents and your financial planner to make sure you can afford the home. What will your mortgage payment cost each month? What happens if you have to move in a year? Will you recoup the costs if you have to sell? Do you want to hang onto the home and rent it out? Real estate can be a tricky investment so make sure it’s the right time for you.
Don’t be shy and ask for help. Reach out to your networks and ask around about places to live near your new base. When my husband and I moved to Northern Virginia, I didn’t know a soul there. We were off-schedule from most of our peers so while they were going to the fleet, we were on our way to fly a desk at the Pentagon. A friend connected me to a friend via email. I’d never met the woman, but she answered tons of questions about the area. She even arranged for the house we bought to be cleaned before we moved in.
Most importantly, keep an open mind. While your next place may not be your dream home, you’ll still create tons of memories – even in a charming historic home that in actuality, was cramped and boxy, had creaky steps, a spooky dungeon-like basement and a bathroom in the kitchen.
Molly Blake is a freelance writer. Her husband recently retired after serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. She attended the University of Dayton and writes about issues affecting military families and other parenting issues. Follow her on twitter @mblakewrites.