PCS Decision: Should You Buy or Should You Rent



Buying has almost always been favored over renting when it comes to housing. For some, renting is considered “throwing money away” while buying is an “investment.” The truth is, the answer to the rent-versus-buy question is much more nuanced than this “one size fits all” approach. It’s more like “which size fits me?”

Buy, with a plan 

Ultimately, you will have to think about what your goals are—not just for where you live, but your entire financial picture. Homeownership can give a great sense of control and security, but there is a massive financial investment required that might not be the best choice for you in the long run.

  • Buy to sell 

  • Buy to invest

  • Your forever home


  • Is the home located in a growing or declining area?

    • While knowing whether a market is more favorable to buy or rent is useful, it isn’t the only market consideration. A military installation is great, but what else is keeping a market strong? There are three telling clues that can help reveal the economic sustainment of a market. Expansions in any of these areas signals an increase in population growth, jobs, and an increased demand for services and housing. 

    • ​The three 'eds' 

      • Eds: If you are moving to an area that is also home to universities and colleges, are they attracting students and creating new programs and facilities? Is the average freshman class increasing or decreasing, in enrollments?

      • Feds: The federal government spends a significant amount of money in market research, before any decision involving real estate is made, through the General Services Administration (GSA). In short, the GSA is the “real estate arm” of the government, including constructing, managing, leasing, and building preservation. The GSA also has an online newsroom, making it easy to see markets and locations where money is being spent, or scaled back, for real estate-related endeavors. 

      • Meds: Healthcare and hospital expansions do not exist without staff and patients, thus an increase in the medical care of a community signals existing and anticipated population growth. Additionally, healthcare facilities are among the most expensive to construct, and an expansion signals market confidence that the investment will be worth it.

Related:  Should Military Members Rent or Own a Home What to Know 

Things to consider

  • Financial Situation

    • Savings

    • Debt to Income Ratio

    • Credit Score

    • Down Payment or going with 0 down 

Related: Use the 1% rule to decide to buy or rent

  • Loan Options

    • Conventional

    • VA Home Loan

    • FHA Loan

VA loan points for purchase loans must be paid at the time of closing. So even though yoyu are required to make a down payment on a VA loan, choosing to pay for discount points will add to the closing costs required to buy the home. 

Related:  How to Compare Loan Options as a Military home buyer

  Related:   5 Solid Strategies for Military Families Making the Decision





Rental home markets remain strong surrounding military bases across the country. This occurs for many reasons, including the aforementioned short timelines for living in a home and the ability to choose a home based on personal priorities including public schools and transportation. 

Renting is a good option if you value flexibility, low maintenance living, and the ability to spend your money on other things like investing or travel, it could be the best choice for you.  Depending on the position of the military member, perhaps you have to live on base and rent. 


Although renters don’t build equity, many do not view rent as a waste. They are, after all, supplied month after month with the housing solution they’ve chosen, with fewer upfront costs and little to no upkeep and repair fees.  The relationship between the tenant and landlord is key to having a happy few years.

Related: 10 Reasons Not to Sign a Lease


When Renting Makes Sense

  • Desire to live on base or job requires you to live on base

  • Military member deployed.  The spouse may not want the responsibility of maintenance and upkeep of owning a home. 

  • Desired location out of price range.  For example, when you desire for your kids to go to a specific school and the neighborhood is out of price range. 

  • No desire to become a landlord.  If you cannot sell or the market turns to lead you to rent your home when you PCS.  Many people choose this life as a means to create a passive income and financially prepare for the future. But it’s one thing to be an intentional landlord and another entirely to fall into it. 

Mortgages are always thought of as being cheaper than monthly rent. It's not a always the case since your mortgage depends on the location, mortgage rates, property tax, the condition of the home , HOA fees, and more. 

Related:  How to Know When Renting is the Best Option



The Numbers: 

There are many calculators online; it's recommended to try at least three because each is nuanced in how they present their findings and estimates. Here are three to begin investigating possibilities: