Service members can get up to 10 days of permissive temporary duty designated to help them find a home at their new duty station. But that leave doesn’t always line up with family, spouse and other commitments; often, military families on the move are packing their house-hunting duties into a few days, or less, at their new location.
If you’re in that spot, schedules don’t permit the luxuries of more relaxed home searches. You’ll need to line up a real estate agent, but that’s not enough: Here are five tips to maximize your brief visit to your new installation.
1. Settle the financials. Don’t leave without your pre-approval letter: Not only will it give your agent a ballpark figure around which to schedule visits, it’ll make it easy to make out an offer on the spot if you find the perfect property.
There’s also a less-tangible, but still important, benefit that was pointed out by several Realtors to Home HQ: The letter shows you’re serious. Agents are more likely to go the extra step (or two) for families ready to make a purchase than for those who are a few steps away from actually making an offer.
2. Understand your window. “In my market where I serve, Fort Campbell and the surrounding areas, houses are not staying on the market long,” said Juanita Charles, an Army veteran whose real estate clients regularly include soldiers heading to the Kentucky-Tennessee border. “So, if you find the home you want, make an offer. Waiting just increases the chances of someone else snatching it up before you.”
3. Don’t just look at the house. “Pay attention to the neighborhoods as you drive through,” said Cassandra Rowley, a Navy veteran and Realtor in the Seattle area. “This will be your daily commute, your jogging path, your dog walking route, and where you push your baby stroller.”
4. Make a list. Maybe two. “Have a list of must-haves that would be deal-breakers if your home didn't have them,” Charles suggested. “Next, have your list of wish list items that you would love to have if you could. Only look at the homes that check all of your boxes.”
Share the list with your agent, Charles advised ― Realtors can help separate reality from fantasy when it comes to the home of your dreams and the one you can afford. And bring a notepad, Rowley said, so you can keep the features of each property straight after hours of home visits.
5. Fuel your trip. You’ve got your financial paperwork, your listings and brochures, your online bookmarks and hand-made lists ... don’t forget the other essentials.
“Bring lots of water and snacks,” Rowley advised. “The days can be long.”