Paycheck Chronicles

MilitaryByOwner vs. AHRN

When it comes to renting your property, there are two major players that target military audiences exclusively. There are other websites, but they don't have the coverage or name recognition of (MBO) and Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN). And when it comes to marketing your property, you want both coverage AND name recognition. Both MBO and AHRN are great products, but they do have some differences.

MBO was developed in 2000 by Marine Corps veteran David Gran and his wife, Sharon. They aim to provide comprehensive real-estate advertising services to help military families locate housing. MBO offers three advertising packages: Basic Package, HomeTour, and HomeTourPlus. The Basic Package is $14.95 and provides text-only advertising for 45 days. The HomeTour package is $49.95 and provides text advertising with up to five photos, listed for up to 90 days.  The HomeTour Plus  package is $79.95 and provides text advertising with up to 10 photos, listed for up to 180 days.  The HomeTour Plus package also includes signage, if needed.

On MBO, the lister designates three military bases that are used for sorting purposes.  When a customer searches for a house, they are required to select a specific installation, then they can include other information such as number of bedrooms.   A list is returned that includes all the properties that meet those search criteria.

Automated Housing Referral Network

AHRN was created in 2004 by Runzheimer International, to provide a military-only website for housing referrrals.  It was sponsored by the Department of Defense (DoD) and it was free.  In January 2014, the DoD withdrew its sponsorship of AHRN and it is no longer the "official" housing website.  The website continues to evolve.  I have not yet been charged for their services, but I have had one reader say that they are no longer free.  (Updated 27 September 2016.)

How Do They Compare?

MBO and AHRN both have the same core function:  to advertise properties for sale or for rent.  Both target military audiences, and allow you to search by installation, property features, or cost.  Both have advanced search functions which allow you to select a certain zip code, if you have already identified an area.

The primary differences between MBO and AHRN are price, traffic, and search capabilities.  AHRN is free (for now), and MBO does have advertising fees.  However, MBO receives more traffic than AHRN.  According to, AHRN receives only about 65% of the traffic of MBO.  More importantly, visits to AHRN's website have dropped significantly over the last year, probably because it is not being supported by the DoD.  If you are advertising a property to rent or sell, you want many people to see that advertisement.

In my opinion, the search capabilities are equal but they are different.   While AHRN does affiliate your listing with a location, that affiliation has no impact on how your listing shows up in search results.  Therefore, your property will show up in every nearby (and even not nearby) base search.  The flip side is that every other property will also show up, meaning that your advertisement may get lost in a huge search result.  MBO ties your ad's search results to the designated bases, which means that your ad will be placed prominently in the first selected base's search results but fall lower in other base search results.

Which One Should I Use?

Personally, I use both.  I find that I get more responses from MBO, so I pay for its service.  Because AHRN is free, the only cost is the time it takes to upload your ad, and they save those ads for future use.

I'd love to hear your experiences with AHRN and MBO.  Comment away!

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