Post from MilitaryByOwner
After your PCS travel, did you open the front door to an empty house, or did the truck unload and stuff the place with boxes? Either way, there’s plenty to get done to complete your latest PCS journey. The key is figuring out what to do first. Easier said than done, for sure. This list of move-in priorities makes it easy to put first things first.
Military families with PCS experience will absolutely scratch off some of the items on this list before departure, as practice makes perfect after all, but there are always a few priorities that have to wait until reaching your final destination.
First-timers, you’ll need all the tips you can handle. A PCS effort is is pretty evenly distributed between the research/prep/pack stage and the unloading/settling in stage. If you’ve made it through the first half, tuck your chin and focus on the points that are important to you during the settling in process.
As home buyers and renters, you’ve probably shopped for a house long distance, but managed to align your top priorities related to budget restraints, access to schools, and desirable commute times. Your carefully chosen home is waiting, but renters and buyers have different priorities to manage after arrival.
For Home Buyers
If you haven’t closed on the property yet, it's imperative to stay in touch with your real estate agent and mortgage lender (or other real estate professionals involved) during the transition. Because timing is everything, loose ends could derail the entire process. At closing, you’ll need:
- Documentation of homeowner’s insurance, a copy of the contract, home inspection reports, and paperwork the bank has asked for.
- Photo ID with the exact name that will appear on the title and mortgage.
- Down payment and closing costs if they weren’t part of the contract.
What to Expect When You Close on a Home has more important information for home buyers.
Communication with the landlord or property manager is essential, especially if the homeowner is managing the property long distance. Because you’re inheriting the condition of the house the previous tenants left, whether good or bad, you’ll want an accurate and thorough move-in checklist completed as soon as possible to avoid confusion.
- Take plenty of photos with dates and document descriptions of the damage.
- Communicate with owner early and often during the first couple of weeks of moving in.
- If the lease has not been signed, carefully re-read the details, paying close attention to language regarding military clauses, deposits, and expectations for landscaping and decorating.
Learn more: Should I Have a Military Clause in My Lease?
Transform the House into Your Home
Now that the legalities are handled, it's time to tackle the business of everyday life in your new home and town. First up, cleaning and decorating. A clean state is a must-have before any type of decorating can start. Double check the status of the “move-out clean” the previous tenants or homeowners left. There’s a good chance their idea of clean isn’t as in-depth as yours.
- Kitchens and bathrooms are located at the top of the to-do list. After that, decide if the carpeting and floors need attention.
- If painting is in the future, clean walls are necessary for the best finish. You’ll get more bang for your DIY buck if the color goes up early during the first weeks. If you’re lucky, there’s time to paint before the household goods shipment arrives.
- Assemble a go-to tool kit. Smaller sized tools are easier to work with for household chores like picture hanging and bed frame reconstruction. Include a hammer, level, stud finder, and Phillips and flathead screwdrivers. Removable, adhesive hooks also work wonders for preserving drywall.
Zero in on Your Favorite Amenities
Let’s face it; you’ll never feel at home in your new town if you haven’t found the stores and recreation choices that make life fun. If you haven’t already, it's time to check in with your neighbors for their recommendations.
- Scour local publications for popular events and restaurants.
- Hyperlocal platforms like Nextdoor have plenty to share about your neighborhood. You’ll find the names of the most in-demand babysitters and recommendations for a trusted handyman.
- Your nearest military base is also a wealth of information. It's a good idea to keep tabs on their social media for upcoming announcements and events. From announcements about child care, to MWR trips, and gate closures, they’ll all be there.
- Coffee shops, big box stores, and houses of faith all fill in the gaps that were opened after leaving your last city.
No doubt about it, PCSing with kids in tow changes the way military families move. Their successful transition lands high on the list of importance. It’s likely summer was the season during the move and tapping into the new school and student body is one of the most important tasks to accomplish while settling in.
- Connect with your child’s school, PTA, and school district to stay in the know.
- Tour the school and meet the principal.
- Look for military buddy programs. Some schools hold coordinated events for kids new to the school to meet other incoming families.
- Registration for sports teams are as varied as their participants. Tune into the team’s website to stay on top of important deadlines.
Here’s a final tip for all levels of PCS experience: start walking! Your neighborhood holds the keys to happiness during your time at this duty station. Leash the dog, take the kids, and trace the routes to school, the playground, and local businesses. They’ll all become part of daily life. You’ll also begin to recognize neighbors, and they’ll realize you’re new to the neighborhood and probably want to say hello and check you out!