More than likely there will come a time in a military couple's lives when they will have to PCS out-of-state. Sometimes you have the luxury of being only a few hours away, other times it may be a few time zones! Moving always presents challenges, but due to the nature of the military lifestyle we are lucky enough to be graced with a few special circumstances. Now if you plan on living on base, this process may be a little easier. You still have to deal with the correct channels like getting on the housing list and the move itself. Some bases don't offer base housing or have very long waiting lists, so you begin to look out in town. Where do you start?
My situation is unusual but knowing the military I am sure we are not the first! My husband is in his second term in the Marines but had to return to school to have a new job to stay in the Corps. I stayed in Northern Virginia, since he previously had been stationed at 8th and I in DC, and he went to school in 29 Palms. Upon graduating we were given orders to Camp LeJeune, NC. My husband and I discussed our options and we decided our best bet was to buy a house for the next three to five years. The challenge? We had less than two months to find a house and move while I am living and working in Virginia and he is in California. Our decision may not be the one everyone would have made, but if you ever end up in this situation here are some tips that have gotten us through!
Know what you want. We knew right away how many bedrooms and bathrooms we wanted, the proximity to base we needed and our budget. Together we decided to buy, not rent, and how much we were comfortable paying each month for our mortgage and taxes and all of our other expenses. A yard with a fence was important for our puppy too, but not a deal breaker. Know which things you must have and which things you can live without and then don't settle for less. Yes, you are on a time crunch, but don't pick a place that isn't exactly what you want. Also, do not throw down more money than your comfortable with because you feel pressured.
Need a place to start? Go online. Realtor.com and Zillow were a big help to get us started. I have heard Trullia is another good site or app to use as well. My husband and I created one account and favorited the houses we liked. That way when we talked about which houses we liked and why, we both easily had access to them. It was also easier to narrow down our search by area and what we were looking for. Sure the four bedroom one bathroom house was in our price range, but it wasn't what we wanted and could be quickly put aside! From those sites we made a large spread sheet with all the information on all the houses, everything from price to perks to neighborhood, and sent that to our realtor. Now he knew exactly what sort of house we were looking for and could help us narrow it down.
Talk to people. One advantage to the military is the amazing network of people that encompasses it. Chances are you will know someone who is stationed there or has been stationed there. You may even be lucky enough to have family in the area. Ask their advice! Where are the good neighborhoods? Do you know anyone who goes to this school? Is this too close to the highway? Did they use a realtor when they moved? Tons of people in the blogging world, some I have never even met, were more than willing to help us out. If you are shy or don't know anyone try contacting the local FRO or ask your spouse to reach out to his future command.
Ask. Do not be afraid to ask for opinions, advice or help. I had no shame in bugging the heck out of people! I got about eight recommendations for realtors that people we know had used. My mother-in-law used her network to help us select one. My dad sat on the phone with me for two hours discussing our mortgage and helping me decipher the legal language I was unfamiliar with. He also drove across the state to look at the list of houses we sent him and the realtor and was able to take pictures of our choices. Since he was there in person my dad had a wealth of information that helped us to make our final decision. I am so incredibly grateful for all the help we were given.
Now you may be thinking, Are you nuts? Are you seriously buying a house in another state, that you have never even seen, except for in pictures? Yes. Yes we are. And that may not work for you, that's ok. If you have the luxury of more time, or even being able to visit your final choices yourself, please do it! But after being apart almost a year my husband and I want to move as soon as possible, and we also only want to move once. People have told us we should rent for a month or two and then buy... but we found a house we both liked and know we can be happy in. We are extremely lucky and cannot wait to live in our new home together.
Do what is right for you as a couple. Take the time you need and make the choices you are both comfortable with. If in the future you PCS to Camp LeJeune and have any questions.... I am just an email away!
Allie Lovette is a 24 year old actress, blogger, writer and a military spouse of two years. Her husband is active duty with the USMC and in his fifth year. After spending the last nine months apart, the Lovettes are PCSing toCamp LeJeune NC in April and looking forward to being in the same time zone once again. Allie blogs at http://mymarineandme.blogspot.com