When you’re ready to buy a home, you’ve reached a major milestone of this military life. You’re already aware that buying a home is a major investment. To help ease any anxieties while hunting for your new address, consider a few points as you begin house hunting.
Set Realistic Goals
If you take a tour of North Carolina’s Biltmore Mansion, you dream of living in luxury at an enormous estate. Although, let’s be honest here, doesn’t military life have you busy enough? You probably don’t need 40+ bathrooms to keep clean! Rather than choosing a castle, it’s helpful to have realistic goals in mind when you’re looking for a home. With that in mind, how would you answer these two questions?
What works with your budget?
The goal is to keep your living expenses affordable. Towards the bottom of each MilitaryByOwner property ad, you’ll see a tab with a calculator for Base Allowance For Housing (BAH) and Mortgage. Depending on what you enter, this tool will give you an idea of what your mortgage payment could be. No matter if you buy or rent, you’ll need to find a home that fits your financial comfort zone.
What are your must-haves?
Beyond upgrades, such as stainless steel appliances or granite counter tops, think of a house at its most basic level. Do you prefer a one-story house or two-story home? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will fit your family? These core ingredients will define the things you must have in a residence. Then you can add in other features as you search through the property listings.
Research the Area
"As soon as we have orders in hand, I launch my search for the best schools for my girls," my neighbor stated. With a pending PCS, I’m sure your military family follows a similar routine. When looking into a new school, you’ll most likely have a series of questions you’ll ask regarding class size, extracurricular activities, and more.
Some parents place great importance on the way schools are ranked on websites like SchoolDigger, Niche and Great Schools.
Although handy to read through the reviews, it’s good to remember that the data collected for those school rankings could be outdated or biased per individual experiences. If you’ve taken interest in a school that doesn’t seem to score a high rating, don’t completely count it out. Contact the administration and ask about the specific features that you’re looking for in a school.
Even though you are planning to buy a home at this assignment, you are most likely aware that you may not linger at this locale. No matter if your kiddos only attend elementary school during your span of time here, it’s important to look into the other schools that your rising students would go on to. Your goal is to find a good school district that can support a quality education from the early years of elementary school to middle school and on to high school. A premium district will not only benefit your family, but can work as a selling point if you choose to list your home, later on.
In your home search, you’ll often find you’re drawn to certain neighborhoods. In 9 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home, it’s noted that "military friendly resources like Military Town Advisor and SchoolQuest (of the Military Child Education Coalition) will offer reviews from real families living in the area."
This helps you get a feel for what the community may be like. From this point you can do further homework on your new assignment, such as checking neighborhood statistics for safety, mapping the commute to work, and looking for nearby amenities, such as parks and trails, shopping, and dining.
One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new area is finding out what it is really like to live there. That’s when the services of a Scout from MILLIE can come in handy. With a Scout touring the neighborhood in person, you gain a sense of the condition of the homes and the caliber of the schools nearby.
Additionally, connecting with a School Liaison Officer can help you find a school district where your children will thrive. Although this representative may not be able to share personal reviews of the local schools, you can ask which schools most military families choose, especially if your children need specific services.
Keep Track of Favorite Homes
While browsing through ads for homes, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on which homes catch your eye. If you’ve registered on the MilitaryByOwner website, you’ve created an account. By saving your favorite listing, you’ll be able to keep that specific ad and build a list in your account. With that list, you can review the houses you’re interested in from the convenience of your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
When you’re ready to tour the addresses you’ve collected on your list, consider these points.
- Not sure what to jot down when you’re walking through the house? Find a free checklist in this free downloadable ebook, Finding Your New Home : Househunting Hints and Mistakes to Avoid. With this list in hand, tour the home with ease and note the details.
- Also, taking a few photos as you peek at every place can jog your memory. This free ebook offers pointers on what features around the house to snap and save with your smartphone or camera (keeping in mind you may only be allowed to take photos of home exteriors).
- Additionally, this handy guide lists potential red flags to keep an eye out for when on a walk-through. For example, that freshly painted spot could be hiding a stain from a pesky leak.
After you’ve toured a handful of houses (or more!), go over your notes and look through your photos. Your personal reviews of each property will help you narrow down your choices. At that point, you’ll be able to focus on which address you’d prefer. You’ll want to feel completely comfortable with whichever home you choose.
When on the house hunt with your family, take note of the features that everyone is drawn to. From the style of home to the school district nearby, those preferences can help you narrow down which listing would be the best fit for your busy bunch.
The suggestions mentioned here give a glimpse of the wide array of helpful house hunting information available on the MilitaryByOwner website. Learning more about buying a home can help you feel more prepared and lead to a sense of confidence when making this milestone decision.
By Mary Ann Eckberg