Post from MilitaryByOwner
You can only learn so much about an area before you PCS. Even if you use house hunting leave to visit the new area before your move, you’re only able to get a first impression. I think everyone can agree that it’s hard to get an authentic understanding of a new area before a PCS. And we don’t often want to wait to figure it out after we move because, well, driving across the country to a new city where you don’t have a place to live is scary--and for good reason!
That’s why it’s important to learn how to research effectively. This means extending your questions beyond Google and reaching out to the the local military community.
1. Where do most people live...and why?
Every duty station has a place or two that the majority of military families gravitate toward. For Quantico, it’s Stafford; for Camp Pendleton, it’s Oceanside; and for Fort Hood, it’s Harker Heights. Not everyone lives in these places, of course, but a large number do, and they’re usually a good place to start your search. Determine what you do and don’t like about the area and compare that with the surrounding neighborhoods.
2. What’s the average price your peers pay for a home?
Don’t assume that your Basic Housing Allowance is what you’ll need for a decent home. We’ve found, as I’m sure you have, that sometimes the allotted BAH is not enough to cover the cost of a good home in a good neighborhood, and sometimes it’s more than enough.
Research homes for rent or sale in the area and determine how much you’ll need to pay to get the home you want, whether it’s your dream home or a something you’re settling for temporarily,
3. Where are the good school districts?
If you have kids or plan to, you’ll want to review the schools near your new duty station and look at homes in that district. Many home listing sites allow you to search for a home within a specific school zone. You can also check sites like GreatSchools for ratings and reviews to help you choose the right one for your kiddos.
4. What’s traffic like, and how long does it take to commute to work?
One thing that’s hard to tell from the internet is the volume of traffic at your new duty station. For starters, the base produces its own line of traffic. How many gates are there, and how long does it take for service members to get from the gate to work?
Secondly, what does the local traffic look like? Is your duty station in a highly populated area where living only 10 miles from work still means a 30-minute commute? Talk with the military community in the area and hear what they have to say. Personal testimony is the best way to learn about traffic.
5. Where are the stores?
Wanting to live near your favorite stores doesn’t make you a shopaholic; it makes you resourceful. If you’re the type to make five runs to the store to complete one grocery list then you’ll likely find living closer to shops easier and less frustrating.
At our previous home, we lived 30 minutes from the nearest Target and Publix. With a baby and a longer commute, I found a trip to the store discouraging. So when we relocated, we took to another extreme and moved within walking distance of Sprouts!
Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions of the military community. MILLIE, Military Town Advisor, MilitaryByOwner, and Facebook groups are great ways to get connected. Other service members understand the concerns we have when we relocate and can provide helpful guidance.