Everyone knows moves are a part of military life. It’s inevitable you will have at least one move in your husband’s military career (if you are lucky to move so little) and many, many more depending on the military branch and his career.
The access to VA loans makes it extremely easy to get a home loan. Like, stupid easy. I’ve never gotten a conventional loan but from what I’ve heard, even if you have easy access to the 20% down payment required, the amount of paperwork and time it takes makes it a lot bigger pain in ass.
So the question stands: Should you buy a home while you are in the military? It’s really a personal decision but I’m happy to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I always l like to hear the good first so let’s start with the pros.
You can make it your home
There is nothing better when you are moving from place to place than to actually make your house a home. When you rent an apartment or house, you can’t always put in those personal touches that make it homie. When you own, you have free reign to do whatever you want. You want a red room, do it! No one can tell you no. You want 20 cats, go for it. You are home!
You are paying your mortgage, not someone else’s
There is something to be said about paying your own mortgage instead of writing a check to your landlord. It’s a freeing feeling, actually (well not the 30-year mortgage, that’s terrifying) investing in your property. With every payment we send, we feel reassured that we made the right decision.
You can (theoretically, possibly, kind of) make money on it when you PCS
It’s pretty much a certainty that this house isn’t a forever home. But that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it when you move. And, as I’ll get into with the cons, sometimes offloading the house isn’t easy. So renting it out is the fastest way to get out of dodge. You get a property manager because you won’t be there to take care of the property or find tenants and you basically are hands off; just collecting the rent and paying the mortgage every month. But you really should research the things you need to do before renting your property out. (IE: Make sure the going rental rates will cover your mortgage and then some; you’ll need the “and then some” when something goes wrong.)
You Have No Landlord
You learn so much more when you’re the one that has to take care of everything. You’ll have to find “people” – A handyman while hubby’s deployed, an electrician if something fries, etc, etc. So you’ll develop relationships with people trying to find your guys for these things. Other spouses will recommend their guys and you can recommend some after you’ve used them. It will kind of help force you into a more social life. You learn how to fix the little things when you can’t just call a landlord and have him send someone out to fix it for free. And, obviously, you don’t have a landlord to answer to, or who can screw you on a security deposit.
And the bad…..
You’re Going to Leave it Behind
Even if you love this house, it’s still not yours forever. Each move is roughly 4-5 years CONUS and 2-3 years OCONUS. So any attachment you form with a home, be it emotional or financial, is going to have an expiration date from the beginning. This will lead to a bit of head and heart ache. And it will definitely lead to you thinking while house hunting “Well, it’s not our forever home.” So you’ll compromise on things.
Selling a House isn’t Easy
Even if your house is phenomenal; Even if it’s in an amazing neighborhood; Even if you’re willing to sell it for slightly lower than it’s appraised at… You still may struggle to sell the house quickly. And even if you find a buyer right away, closing usually takes about a month. So regardless, you’re going to be paying for a vacant house at some point. Plus, all the pain of buying a house isn’t better on the selling end; and you don’t get a house at the end of the process. If you’re lucky, after you pay off your mortgage, you’ll have enough equity to cover the closing costs, which the seller usually pays, and maybe a little extra.
Extra Fees in Renting
You’ll need a property manager. Who takes anywhere from 10-15% of the rent every month. (Shop around before you settle on one management company.) Then you’ll likely have a fee for background checks. And the process of people moving in and out of your house every year or two tears up carpets. So you’ll have to replace carpets and paint every so often, too. And after a tenant moves out, there’s usually at least a month or two where the house is vacant. You’re paying down the mortgage and that’s wonderful in the long run, but you can’t kid yourself into thinking it’ll be cheap to maintain.
You Have no Landlord
YOU have to find someone for all the things you need help with. YOU have to mow your lawn or fix your stove. YOU will have to watch YouTube videos on how to fix all the little things around the house. You have no more safety net. Cut the umbilical chords, kids. You’re adults now. I’m not going to lie, it sucks. I miss the days of making a call and it’s taken care of the next day and I didn’t have to pay for it. The good thing is, it doesn’t happen that often but being prepared is the key. Set some money aside and have numbers ready to go for services.