Excited to have this guest post from Millie! Please visit my Duty Station Guest Posts page for more information on guest posting 🙂
How To Go About House Hunting From Afar
“We have orders to WHERE???”
By Kellie Artis, gomillie.com
Once the orders drop, there are a few decisions that need to be made: will we live on base or off? And if we decide to live off base, will we rent or will we buy? Each of these decision points come with several considerations, but let’s just say that you decide to rent or buy a home in the community. Great! Now, where do you start?
Sometimes the stars align so that you can actually take a trip out to “recon” an area before your move. Often, this is a luxury considering all of the things that must fall into place to allow for such a trip: childcare, time off work for the spouse, leave for the service member, and non-reimbursable travel expenses. More often than not, you’ll be house hunting from afar.
The absolute first place online you should visit is www.gomillie.com. MILLIE is a one-stop-shop for researching your next duty station, understanding the surrounding areas, and getting the inside scoop from a military family perspective. All of the information comes directly from hundreds of military spouses stationed at each of the 70+ installations featured on the site. Just go to the Find a Base page and search for your upcoming duty station! You’ll get the dish on area schools, the local housing market, attractions, pros and cons, even unit-specific maps and commute charts.
Grab a coffee and settle in to learn some of the most pertinent information about your new home and where to start on your virtual house hunt! From here you should have a pretty decent idea of where you’re going to want to start your home search. You will be a dream client for any real estate agent, and you’ll save tons of time by doing your research up front.
Finding an Agent
If you are considering buying a home, you’ll want to find an agent that understands your unique situation as a military family, and won’t be afraid of geographic restrictions (ie. potentially not being able to physically tour a home!). They also need to understand that military families buy with the future in mind. Unless this is your last stop, this purchase won’t be a forever home, but likely be a rental property after a couple of years. You’ll also want an agent that is knowledgeable of the VA loan benefit. We’ve heard over and over again of agents that have tried to talk military buyers out of using their benefit, likely because they have bought into some of the myths surrounding it, or aren’t familiar enough with it. A great agent will also be willing to do virtual tours (sometimes with really snazzy VR tech), and work around crazy time constraints.
Recommendations from friends is a good place to start when choosing who you’ll trust with this massive transaction. But if you don’t have a network where you’re headed, you can be expertly paired with a real estate agent who meets all of the above criteria, AND has also actually personally experienced a PCS. MILLIE’s AgentHero Network is made up exclusively of military spouse and veteran real estate agents who have served – just like you! They’re top agents who are also uniquely attuned to the needs of military clients because they’ve been in your shoes. You can connect with one of over 600 AgentHeroes within an hour directly from the MILLIE site.
Finding a Rental
Sometimes buying a home doesn’t make sense, so you’re on the hunt for a rental. By now you’ve done your research and have an idea of what area to focus on in your search. Next head over to MilitaryByOwner.com to start compiling actual listings to consider.
With each listing, remember that you can’t smell photos (cat pee or cigarette odor, anyone?) and they may have failed to mention the neighboring cellular tower in the listing. Sometimes homeowners or management companies will offer to give you a virtual tour, but keep in mind that there is an incentive for them to gloss over or completely omit the quirks and/or defaults of a home. Asking local friends to help out with “recon” is always an option, but if you don’t have a network where you’re headed or don’t want to lean on your friends in that way, you can turn to a MILLIE Scout. Scouts are military spouses who can be your boots-on-the ground when you can’t be there. You can hire a Scout to conduct a Facetime tour with you, provide neighborhood reviews, and more! This way you have an objective fact-finder that you can trust from afar to help provide decision support, and feel better about the dreaded “sight-unseen” situation we’re often faced with.
House hunting from far away can be stressful, but with the right tools you can make decisions efficiently and from an informed point of view.
MILLIE is an online community and digital marketplace that connects members of the military and their families with specialized knowledge and trusted resource providers to remove the stress and anxiety of PCS’ing. Check out MILLIE’s Installation and Neighborhood Guides, our network of Veteran and military spouse Realtors, and Scout, our on-demand task service composed of military spouses.