You've got orders in hand and you know where you're headed for your next military permanent change of station move. Now comes the important planning stuff, and on top of that decision list is the mother of all relocation questions: Should you live on or off base?
There are a lot of factors that play into your decision on whether to live inside or outside the base gates, and there's no blanket choice that's right for everyone. But as you make your pros and cons list, consider these five great reasons to go with an off-base option.
1. Keep your housing allowance. Choosing to live on base generally means giving the private housing contractor your entire Basic Allowance for Housing payment each month. And although that amount typically covers most utilities and some yard maintenance as well as actual rent, it can feel like you're forking over a lot of money for a small amount of house. There are also things BAH on base doesn't cover, such as renters insurance or home internet. You're expected to pay out of pocket for those things.
By choosing to live off base, however, you have a chance to save part of your housing allowance by picking a home or apartment priced below what you receive in BAH. And while that may be easier in some areas than others, it's nice to know that you have control over where that money goes and how much of it is spent on rent versus other costs.
2. Have home business freedom. All of the small business insurance in the world isn't going to save you when base officials refuse to give you permission to run your home business out of your on-base quarters. Military officials require home business owners to submit an application to run their businesses on base, but their blessing is far from guaranteed. If the home business conflicts in any way with a something the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office or the exchange service does or could operate, you will be given a big "no." The best way for a military spouse to make sure he or she can run a home-based business is to live off base.
3. Stick with convenience. Sure, there are nice things about living on base, such as proximity to work and that ever handy military commissary. But there are plenty of inconvenient things too. If you frequently have visitors who are not military family members with ID cards, living on base means getting all of them a pass every time they arrive. And while bases have at least one 24-hour gate, your housing may be near a gate that closes at an early hour or isn't open at all on holidays, adding major drive time to any trips off base. Living off base means trading up for easy access to your house for you and your visitors.
4. Landscaping and yard use. Most military bases have strict rules about what items can and cannot be in your yard, how often you must mow your grass and more. While some off-base rentals may have similar rules, they are much less common and rarely come with the kind of strict enforcement you'll see on a military base. Above-ground pools, for example, are rarely permitted in military housing areas, while many off-base rental owners won't bat an eye if you decide to install one. By living off base, you can stay in control of what you can and cannot do in your own yard.
5. Dog drama. If you're a pet owner, you know how difficult it can be to find a rental that will take cats or dogs, especially if you own more than one. But if you own a so-called dog "bully breed," off-base living may be your best option. Most bases ban specific dog breeds, such as Pitbulls, because they believe they pose a safety hazard. If you own a dog such as a Chow or a Rottweiler, you may find that your pet is banned on some bases but not others. Save yourself the drama of figuring out which bases you can live on and which you can't, and look for housing off base.
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