5 Things to Consider When Deciding to Rent or Buy

The decision to rent a house at a new duty station or to buy a home is one that military families should not make lightly. With the uncertainty in our lives we can be very eager to purchase a home and give ourselves a false sense of permanence. Maybe you’re frustrated having to follow a landlord’s rules with what colors you can or can’t paint the bedroom. Or maybe you’ve been a homeowner in the past and now you want as little responsibility as possible at your next duty station.

Whatever your case, it is important to think about the pros and cons of both renting and buying.

For Sale

Here are 5 considerations to discuss with your service member before making your final decision.

1. The housing market. Are houses flying off the market like hot cakes? Or are sellers begging people to buy their house because they can’t get rid of them?

A hoppin’ housing market is great for military families. This can provide you with a little reassurance that when you go to sell because you’re (surprise!) moving, it shouldn’t take too long to sell your  house. Of course there is always the option to rent out your home if it isn’t selling quickly or you want to hang onto the house. You’ll be back…eventually…right?

2. Accidental landlord. Can you afford to be a landlord? Do you even want to be a landlord? We’ll just rent out the home until it sells. The rent will cover the mortgage; we’ll be okay.

While a plan may come together in your head, it doesn’t really work that way. Tenants can break leases, they can skip out on paying rent, and they can damage the property. Plus you’re on the hook for fixing things that break. Assess your financial situation and consider the worst case scenario. Also consider the fact that BAH cuts have been proposed.

For Rent

3. Military economy – RIFs Although it’s not in the news every day, the military is still shrinking, and the reality of RIF (reduction in force) is prominent. Careers are not guaranteed which means that dependable pay on the 1st and 15th of each month is no longer a sure thing. Some officers are being given their pink slips and enlisted are no longer “safe” until 20 [years] if they make it to a certain rank.

Examine where your service member stands career wise. If your service member submitted his/her re-enlistment package 6 months ago and their EAS date is in 1 month, you have other things to plan.

4. How long will you stay? This question can be asked 2 different ways: 1) How much longer will you be in the military? 2) How long will you be at the duty station? If you’re nearing the end of the road with the military, do you plan to stay where you are looking to purchase or rent? If you’re at the beginning of your career, are you financially prepared for owning or would renting help get you through the bumps of starting out on your own?

While we all know that there is no guarantee that we’ll be at any duty station for a length of time, it’s still an important point to ponder. If you’re on a special assignment, say drill duty or recruiting, you know that after 3 years you go back to being near a base. Renting may be the better choice then.

5. Lead time Do you have the time to look at your housing options? We all know the military is hurry up and wait. They love to do things on their own time, not considering the needs of the family when it comes to moving preparation. If you only have a month until you have to report to your new duty station, do you have the time to look at various houses for sale and make sure they are in the type of environment that you want to be in (schools, parks, shopping)? Or is the military dragging their feet and you were supposed to have moved 5 times already and yet you’re still waiting on official orders?

With all the uprooting and moving around a military family does, it’s important that we find a place that we can call home. A place where we feel comfortable, welcome, and happy. It is equally important that we can take care of and provide for our individual family needs.

So sit down, look at your individual situation, and have fun house hunting for a place to call home…for a little bit anyway.


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