Use This Checklist When Looking for a Rental Home


Looking for a new home can be overwhelming, especially for military families in the middle of a PCS. Not only are you looking for a roof to go over your head, but you’re also looking for a property that you can make feel like home. 

Here’s a simple checklist to help you find the right rental property for your family.

1) Research the area.

Get to know your new duty station and the surrounding area. Check out resources like Military Town Advisor, MILLIE, and the local housing office to learn which areas to avoid and which ones to pursue. Once you narrow your search to a specific area, look up local school reviews and research crime activity in the area. 

With the results of your research, consider whether you want to live close to base or further away. Is a short commute to base the priority or is it more important for you to have some separation?

2) Establish a budget.

Your Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) will likely fluctuate when you move. Learn what your new BAH is. Now decide if you want to live under your allowance or if you’re comfortable with paying out of pocket.  With your new number in mind, you can begin to determine what type of property you would like to rent. 

3) Choose a home type.

Are you interested in finding a single family home, an apartment, or an in-home room or space for rent? 

Maybe you grew accustomed to a spacious single family home, but now that you live near a big city, your budget more comfortably suits an apartment. If you’re not willing to downsize, you may consider living further away from base to accommodate your new budget.

4) Prepare for a security deposit.

Moving is expensive, and a security deposit is a part of those moving expenses. We pay it without giving it much thought; however, it is often a substantial amount of money and deserves to be thought about in advance. 

Each state has its own laws as to how much a landlord can require in a deposit. Research your state’s law and be prepared to to set aside some money ahead of time. 

5) Start your home search. 

Start your house hunt online with MilitaryByOwner. With the advanced search feature, you enter your budget, city, and home type preferences to narrow your search results--doing this will save time sifting through unsuitable rental properties. 

Unlike home buying, when you’re searching for a rental, you don’t want to exhaust the market. Your new rental is not your forever home, so don’t waste time and resources visiting every property you see listed. Choose which features you can sacrifice during your time at your new duty station and which ones you simply cannot. Since it’s a rental, it is important that you don’t get too picky and remember that it’s temporary. 

Especially if your PCS is short term, you should focus on your budget and location rather than amenities and finishes. 

6) Screen the landlord. 

Renting a home is very different than buying a one. When you buy, you’ll interact with the homeowner or their agent until closing when when you can say goodbye and never see them again. But when you rent property, you commit to a relationship with the landlord or property manager for the duration of the lease. 

7) Decide which type of landlord you want. 

Individual. Do you want an independent landlord/homeowner who handles everything themselves? Renting from an individual may allow you to have a more relaxed relationship.

Property management company. Renting a home or an apartment through a company will eliminate the personal aspect of the relationship. If you want to appear on paper as another number of the many they work with, renting from a management company may better suit you. 

In-home rental. On the other extreme, if you’re considering renting a room or apartment in someone’s home, you need to screen them thoroughly. Not only should you be certain that you get along with them, but since you’re sharing space, you need to be clear about expectations ahead of time. 

Whichever the landlord type, be sure that you get along with them. Do you each communicate clearly? Do you understand their needs and expectations? Do they understand yours? Establishing a healthy relationship with your landlord before move in day is crucial to the quality of your time there. 

Finding a new home, whether you’re buying or renting, can be overwhelming. Use this checklist to get started and relieve some of the stress associated with moving

By Danielle Keech