Regardless of whether you are just PCS’ing to a new duty station or you have been at your current one for awhile, at some point you’ve considered the options of living on or off base. For some the choice is simple, for others there are complicating factors to consider. No matter what though the best way to make your decision is from a well researched and informed position. Here are just a few things you might want to consider when going about making your decision.
No two duty stations are alike and so it goes without saying that no two surrounding areas are a like. Take into consideration where you would be moving to. Is it urban? Is it rural? What are the pros and cons of both? You might not like living on base, but if you move are you willing to give up the closeness of all those military facilities? How far away is the nearest grocery store to where you would choose to live? Or, if the area is a metropolis, how expensive are some of those grocery stores? Lets face it, not everyone can afford to shop at a Trader Joes or Fresh Market on a weekly basis. How often would you be traveling back and forth to the commissary?
Lets not forget your spouses daily work commute. When my husband and I made the decision to purchase a house off post we factored in the time it would take for him to travel to and from work. He decided that the max amount of time he was willing to commute was 30 minutes. For some of you it may be more, for others it may be less. But this is something you definitely need to be aware of as you make your decision. We also factored into the equation the time he would spend away from home because of this. When we lived on post it was a nice treat to see him after PT in the mornings or for a quick stop in at lunch time. Those little moments were given up in order to move.
It has to make dollar sense in order to move. A good rule of thumb when considering a move is to keep your mortgage (or rent) and utilities under your BAH. Most on-post housing communities take all of your BAH but they include basic utilities like water and gas. Some even offer partial BAH for houses that have been remodeled or are out-dated. While stationed in Monterrey, CA we lived in such a house. It may have been older (think Korean and Vietnam era) but it was comfy and perfect for our budget at the time. In fact, this older home grew on us so much that we’d often joke we would pick it up and move it with us if we could. If your reasons for moving include trying to save your budget, consider going for one of the older BAH discounted housing options.
A major factor in our household when considering a move is nearby healthcare facilities. With a daughter who has food allergies and three other children besides- safety and care in case of accidents is a big concern of mine. Take a look at where the closest ER is in the location you are considering and also look for off post healthcare clinics that you might be able to switch your family to. If you’re going to live any distance from the main healthcare facility at your duty station, you’re going to want to consider how will Tricare factor into your treatment and care?
Last but not least, if you have school age children you have to look into the school system in your area. When my husband and I begin house hunting the first thing we do is look up the school ratings for our area. From there we do an outward search to find homes that are in our price range. You can also use social media to gather information on where other spouses have lived or currently live and what their opinions are. I have found that by first asking questions and then following up with research I have been able to avoid some major headaches when house hunting.
No matter where you decided to live, on or off post, both can have great benefits. So enjoy your search and happy house hunting!
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