It never seems to be the right time to buy a home if you are a military family. There are too many “what ifs” in terms of the length of your investment. What if you PCS next summer? What if you can’t rent it out when you do eventually move? What if you don’t get stationed back at your “home” for another 3 years? Six years? Will you be able to sell it if need be?
My husband and I just recently bought our first home so I am somewhat familiar with the ups and downs of the process. Not only is trying to find the perfect home a stressful experience, but all the new information, terms, and processes flooding your brain at one time can be daunting. My biggest piece of advice to new home-buyers, especially military ones, is to do your research! Learn about the home buying process and the different terms you will hear as you look at homes and go through the financing process.There are so many different resources you can turn to as a military family, so learn what is out there and what is best for your family.
Below I have listed some resources and tips if you are military and a first time home-buyer.
- USAA Home Circle- If you are a USAA member, they offer a free service to not only help you find a home by searching available listings with your requirements, but they also find a USAA supported realtor that will help you in your search. This is how we found our realtor and it was very helpful given that we lived across the country at the time so we couldn’t look for a realtor on our own. And if for whatever reason you don’t like your realtor, just let USAA know and they will find you a new one.
- Do some research online- Like most military families, you probably don’t live close to the area you are looking to buy. Thankfully, there are several online websites where you can put in your criteria and they will show you available listings. Don’t fall in love with a house you see online though! Homes can look great over the web but once you see them in person they look awful. Either way, it’s good to look around and get an idea of what’s out there and the price ranges, especially if you can’t visit the area before you move there. Some of the websites for looking at homes are Zillow.com, Redfin.com, USAA Home Circle, and militarybyowner.com.
- Rentability- Although the economy is looking up, you are probably going to have to rent your home for a few years like most military families. When looking at houses online and in person, continue to ask yourself how likely it would be to rent this home to another family. Is it close to base/post? How much will you have to rent it for and is that affordable to most (military or not) families in the area? If you found a house that you just love but you don’t know if people would want to maintain it (i.e., mow 4.5 acres like us…) think about what other incentives you could offer renters like free water, trash, cable/internet, etc.
- VA Loan- The VA loan is a popular option among most first time military home buyers. The VA loan allows you to put 0% down on a new home instead of the 20% that is often required to pay private mortgage insurance. This allows the bank that is holding your mortgage to give you a more favorable interest rate because you have the VA “giving” your down payment. Although this is a great option for many, my suggestion is to be careful that you don’t buy a house that is too expensive for you to maintain on a monthly basis simply because you don’t have to pay that 20% upfront. To learn more about the VA loan, click here.
- Don’t go house poor- Much like I stated above, be sure to calculate your monthly payments to include your mortgage, cost of utilities, and a general buffer for maintenance before you even look at any homes. It’s very hard to see a home you love and then realize you can’t afford it. Look at your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate and see if that will cover your mortgage (including home insurance and interest) and utilities.
- If you would like more information about the home buying process and the associated terms, please click on the following YouTube link: The Home Buying Process.
The home buying process is scary, but fun. Remember above all else that you and your family are in this together- you may not agree on every house you see but you will find the one that is right for you. Good luck!