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On-Base Housing Listings in One Convenient Place?

You know the drill: you’re in the process of moving to a new base and you want on-base housing. But their website, when you finally find it, has no photos, floor plans, or helpful information about the size of home for which you qualify. You can’t get anyone on the phone before you get there to find out about the waiting list. When you arrive you’re told the waiting list is 65 people long or “four to six months,” but then, as soon as you sign a lease off base, they call and tell you they have a home available next week. (How does that ALWAYS happen?!)

Or maybe you arrive and they have a house available for move in next Thursday, but they don’t have any empty homes available for you to tour and only examples of similar but not exact floor plans with no interior photos. You can either sign for it right now and agree to live there at least a year after seeing nothing but the outside of the home as you drive by, or find somewhere to live off base.

Even writing about the on-base housing process is making my chest tighten and panic set in.

But what if there was one site that not only saved you the trouble of hunting down the housing website, but also fed you information about just what housing you qualified for while giving you floor plans and photos?

That would be on-base housing nirvana. And making it happen is the goal of the Home Circle team at USAA … someday.

To work towards that goal USAA is Dec. 17 planning to roll-out a simple first step on their website for the 52 posts and bases around the country managed by Balfour Beatty. When you search via USAA for rental housing in an area Balfour Beatty is managing, USAA will also show you a listing for those on-base units and then, if you choose, redirect you to the correct Balfour Beatty website.

(To see a list of the Navy, Air Force and Army bases Balfour Beatty manages go here).

Sounds maybe too simple to be helpful, right? But think about it: in a world where even figuring out what management company takes care of the housing at your upcoming duty station can be difficult, being pointed to the right place is kind of a big deal.

“The original idea … was to help our (USAA) members make fully informed decisions … and get as much information as they can,” said Gil Thompson, a USAA  product management analyst who has been working on the project.

“But we also wanted to pull in the on-base component and help our members be able to make a fully informed decisions without having to go searching around the internet," he said.

Long term, USAA officials would love to be able to provide users floor plans, photos and even information about housing availability at any given post. But doing so is going to require a lot of relationship and technology building.

For USAA the biggest program expansion challenge going forward is “just the number and variety of companies that you deal with, and then the decentralized nature of the management of each base,” Thompson said. Still, over the next year or more USAA officials hope to add more management companies to the mix, eventually allowing members to find information for on-base housing no matter where they are going stateside.

As they work towards that goal, they could use some input from our readers. When I first heard about this roll-out at the USAA Influencer conference USAA invited me to attend in early November, my jaw dropped. Wait just a second, USAA. You are going to make on-base housing EASY? Impossible! It canNOT be done!

Or can it?

We know from our own experience that landing on base housing is a horrific process we would rather forget.

But in a perfect base housing move-in world, what would you want? What tools would make it easier for you? Tell us in the comments.

For now USAA is focusing on simply providing good and easy to use information for members who use their site to search for housing regardless of where they are going, they said, by integrating into their search function a BAH calculator and other tools.

“What we want to be able to do is provide members with options," said Lisa Dyer, a marketing director with the project. "From your home if you’re in Killeen (Texas) and you’re about to PCS to Fort Campbell (Ky.), from the comfort of your own home you can sit there and start to search for availability of homes within that Clarksville community because you know how frustrating the on base housing is. At least you have the option to say ‘what is available in the surrounding community of Clarksville?’”

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