Rent, Buy, or Base Housing: A PCS Question

Every PCS, military families are faced with the same questions: Should we live on base? Should we try to buy a house? Should we rent a house off base? Occasionally, the choices are limited – maybe the wait for base housing is longer than your tour, or maybe you aren’t in a position to buy a house. Other times, you have to carefully consider all three choices and figure out which is going
to work out best for you.

Admittedly, civilian families have to make the same choices when they move. However, they don’t tend to move as often or as far as military families. Society seems to emphasize home ownership as economically sound and immensely rewarding, but there are many factors that can make buying a home more expensive and more stressful than renting or living on a military base. There are numerous online calculators that can help you crunch the numbers, but what other things do you need to think about before you choose your new home? There are a million questions to ask yourself; here are a few to get you thinking.Chalet

What is your housing allowance?

How much is rent in your new community?

How much do houses cost in your new community?

Do you have savings? Will you still have savings after a down payment?  Do you have debt?

How long will you be in the area? How sure are you?Apartment

What are taxes? How much will they rise? What about other fees & mandatory utilities?

If you have children, how are the schools?

How far is it from work?

Will you be absent frequently? What about security?

Do you enjoy privacy or a neighborly atmosphere?Red_house

Do you know how to do maintenance? Do you enjoy it?

Do you have pets?

How much room do you need? Could you use less? Could you use more?

Do you have a large family? Are you single? A couple with no children?

Do you like to entertain large groups?

Do you like amenities such as a pool or exercise rooms?

What kind of military housing is available? Where is it located? Is it near your work? Is it in a safe area?

These are just a few of the questions that you need to ask yourself before you make a decision. There are many websites that discuss the pros and cons of each, but so far I haven’t found any that address military member’s unique situation. Even with the guidance
of such sites, the choice is a very personal decision based on so many factors. My family has chosen each option at least twice in the 9 places we’ve lived and we have to make a new decision each time we move.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Shiva

    Great article! When you were looking for houses, either to rent or buy, did you do any research online?

  • She of the Sea

    That is a good question, Shiva. There are many online house-hunting resources. Here at Military.com, the relocation center (find it under the benefits tab at the top of the page) has a number of tools. I frequently use Realtor.com, and then I try to find a local real estate company. Local company websites often offer more specialized search options than Realtor.com. Another great place to look is MilitaryByOwner.com. While it is a bit misleading because real estate agents can list there, it frequently offers homes that aren’t listed through real estate companies. Using these online resources can help you to learn more about the area to which you are moving and also prepare you for the actual house hunt.