Think back with me to your last PCS (or focus on the one you're doing now) and remember just how hard/terrifying/unsettling/frustrating it is to pick the perfect neighborhood for your family. There's just so many moving parts to consider -- and how do you even know you're getting good information?
Crime rate, commute time, schools (if you have kids), cost, proximity to a Target ... the important stuff adds up into this never ending, impossible to keep track of list. And the hot second you find the perfect place? Your orders change and off you go to Alaska.
Why does it have to be so incredibly hard?
Luckily for military folks moving to five major duty station areas it's recently gotten a lot easier, thanks to a new USAA "Top Military Communities" resource.
The USAA folks have a habit of producing resources that I find to be incredibly useful (because the last thing I need is yet another resource that only halfway does the job), and this one is no exception.
The site examines the five largest military metro areas -- Fayetteville, N.C., Killeen, Texas, Norfolk, Va., San Diego, Calif. and Washington, D.C. -- and breaks them down into the top three communities in each area based on a set of criteria including crime rate, school performance, commute time, affordability and proximity to stores and parks and recreation.
It then breaks those communities down in a table by median home price, rental price, Great School ranking and information on which installations are nearby.
For example, for the D.C. area USAA identifies West Stafford, Va. as being a the top community with the best combination of criteria. Lake Ridge (in Woodridge, Va.) comes in second, followed by Northwest Fredericksburg, Va.
And if you are interested in looking at homes -- both to rent and to own -- you can follow a "find homes" link to head directly to listings on the USAA website.
"The ultimate goal of the list is, of course, to make it easier for our military families to move," said Maggie Hahn, a USAA employee and former Marine Corps spouse who worked on the project. "We are very cognizant and aware that our members are moving twice as frequently as the rest of the nation.
This ... can really help our members determine those locations that best fit their needs."
USAA chose the criteria for this list based off member feedback in a 2013 survey, then worked with a panel of real estate agents to whittle it down to three options for each metro area.
While there are currently no plans to expand the resource to smaller military metro areas, it also hasn't been ruled out. Check out the community listing here and let us know what you think!