I Have Homes in Different Zip Codes
Having served in the military for over 23 years, I have been stationed and lived in many different places within the continental United States. During the earlier years of military service as an E-1 through E-4 with no children and no spouse, I of course like many other Soldiers lived in barracks located on base. However, when I married, my husband and I lived in on-post housing because it was more cost efficient at the time. Living in on-post housing gave us the security and financial stability needed for a couple just starting out in life. Even after having our first child, we were still on a constrained budget and continued to view living in on-post housing as the right decision. As you may or may not know, back in the day before on-post housing was privatized, the only utility bills you were responsible for paying was cable TV and home phone; not electricity nor water nor sewer utilities nor trash collection! It was awesome! Yes, we gave up the BAH but look how much more of our paycheck we kept without having to worry about paying for utilities. We did not have to worry about our water or electricity consumption because we never got the bill!
We did not decide to purchase a home until after I completed at least 10 years of service and had gone up in rank to E-6; we were more financially stable and also had a desire to become homeowners. We were of the opinion that on-post housing was no longer sufficient and attractive enough to warrant the forfeiture of our entire BAH allowance. We researched our options and found that owning a home would be less expensive and more rewarding than living in on-post housing. When you live in on-post housing, you are constrained as to what you can do with the housing unit, i.e. painting, adding a deck or fence, remodeling of any kind, and landscaping constraints. As our family began to grow, so did our desire to own our own home.
Being a homeowner is a rewarding and deeply satisfying feeling of accomplishment as you see your hard work and sacrifice come to fruition. There is a great feeling of pride when you are able to pull into a garage of a home you own. However, I would caution young Soldiers about buying homes too early in your career. As of this moment, I am the legal homeowner of three homes in three different states. With the high rate of PCS moves, and the possibility you may not always return to the military base or vicinity of where you purchased the home, you take the risk of having to pay out of pocket if the home does not rent or sale in a timely manner.
I love being a homeowner, because I love the fact that I am investing and putting my money to work for me. Plus, my children feel like part of the community in which we buy our homes. When making my decision to purchase homes, the rankings and ratings of the school and neighborhoods was a top concern which in turn propelled our decision to buy in that particular part of town or neighborhood.
So, I would have to say I am a huge advocate for being a military homeowner, but there are some pointed questions I think all Soldiers should ask themselves before buying:
– How long will you be stationed in that area?
– What is the turnaround rate for selling or renting a home once you PCS?
– What is the likelihood of you becoming stationed at this base again in your military career? For example, 82d Airborne Soldiers know there is a great possibility they will always return to Fort Bragg.
– Is this an area where you could or would like to leave your family for an extended period of time in the event your family is exhausted from military movements?
– Is it more cost efficient for you to own, rent, or live in on-post housing?
– How much home can you afford? Take into account the utilities and other expenses that come along with owning a home.
– Do you wish to use your VA benefits for a home early in your career or when you are closer to retiring?
These and many other questions should factor in your decision to becoming a military homebuyer. I have immensely enjoyed every home I have purchased, being able to put my personal design touches on them; designing the landscape, remodeling rooms or adding Koi ponds to the front yard. The smell of a new home is just as intoxicating as the smell of a new car. Only difference, the home does not depreciate as soon as you move in and if you are a good homeowner, adding value to your home is not a difficult task, but a rewarding one!