Category Archives: PCSing

Lessons for the Unintentional Military Landlord

Lessons-for-the-Unintentional-Military-Landlord-NMFA-AHRNMy husband and I bought our first home in 2009, while the housing market was no longer at its peak, but hadn’t hit bottom, yet. Knowing we’d be at our duty station for more than four years, we confidently bought a home, assuming we could save money and sell when it was time to PCS three hours north.

We received orders in 2013, prepped our house, and listed it for sale. We had a month of great traffic, several prospective buyers, and our well-laid plans seemed to be right on track.

Then, the government shut down.

We held out hope for a few weeks, but quickly ran out of options. Just like that, we became self-managing landlords. We know many other military families can identify with our not-so-unique story. If you’re thinking about renting out your property, perhaps you can learn from our experiences. Here are five tips:

Not every house makes a good rental
We had many concerns about using our home as a rental. Certain qualities make a properties less complicated to manage, like easy-to-maintain grounds, newer construction, community amenities. Our house is uniquely charming, beautiful, and comfortable, but it is also older and tucked in the woods. Fortunately, its unique appeal makes up for its quirks. And it’s close to several bases, upgrades, and military-friendly neighborhoods. It’s important to highlight those types of qualities when you’re advertising your property to find the right tenants.

Think strategically about placing tenants
When I decided to self-manage the property, I also decided to find my own tenants. There were many things to consider, such as a pet policy and length of the lease, when choosing renters. I carefully followed the laws of the state and used AHRN.com to pick the people I thought would be the best match based on financial background, calls to former landlords, and their desired length of lease. At the end, I lowered the asking rent $50 to accommodate the family who is the best fit and poses the lowest-risk.

Document property conditions thoroughly and keep an excellent inventory
Thoroughly documenting and inventorying your property’s conditions before, and between, placing tenants is extremely important. We took photos and video throughout the home, and put everything in writing in the tenants’ condition form. I then encouraged them to be equally thorough, and welcomed their excessive notes about every little ding and scratch after the walk-through. This step allowed the tenants to take a great deal of personal responsibility for the condition of home before and after their stay, and gives me the paperwork I need to take care of the home from afar.

If you’re self-managing, put your emotion aside… most of the time
In most circumstances, especially as a self-managing landlord, you have to be prepared to make every decision in the name of finances and business. However, I quickly learned it’s not so cut-and-dry. Our first set of renters stayed in the property for only three months before an extremely emergent personal issue led them to request a release from the lease. Had this strictly been a business decision, I could have held them to the terms of the contract until the last possible moment. Or, I could try to find new tenants and quickly release the current tenants from the lease. We absorbed some moderate costs for quick turnover, but I can also sleep at night without feeling guilty.

It’s not the end of the world
It’s also not without risk, but for my family, being unintentional landlords has been going relatively well. Keeping my emotions in check, finances in order, backup plans ready, and support system in place, we’re hopeful we can either move back into the home in a few years, or sell it without losing too much money when the time is right.

Want five MORE tips to help you navigate your Landlord title? Head over to AHRN’s blog and take some notes!

Posted by Kristin Beauchamp, Military Spouse and Digital Marketing Manager, Red Door Group

Buy, Sell, or Rent: Should Military Families Avoid Real Estate?

family-moving-truck‘Tis the season for orders, which means your next PCS move could be right around the corner. Will you live on base, rent out in town, or buy a home? We are guilty of all three.

At one duty station, living on base was the best option. At another, we rented in town to be closer to my job. And at a third, we bought at house. To make matters worse, we committed the big ‘no no’ you’re warned to avoid: we bought a house on the internet without even seeing it in person. I know, I know. But it actually turned out well for us!

So, what’s the problem?

It’s time to move.

AGAIN.

And we committed the second sin of home-buying when we fell in love with our house and invested a significant amount of money in improvements. But why would you spend money on home improvements knowing you’d be moving again in a few years? Well, even though we know military life is unpredictable, we simply thought we would be here longer.

Now, we have two choices: become a landlord and rent out our home, or try to sell.

We decided to sell. And, guess what? Only on the market 48 hours and we had two full price offers!

This is a completely different experience than our first home-selling experience over 9 years ago; our house sat on the market for 11 long months unsold and without a renter. We had to cover our mortgage and rent, and continue to drop the asking price of the home. It was a challenging and expensive experience.

Yet, here we are again. And this time, we appear to be on the right side of market. Our greatest challenge has been finding a new place to live in such a short time. Even though moving, again, can be a hassle, it’s a much better place to be in than waiting for someone to rent, or buy, our home. Our current home is in escrow, but things could always change. Fingers crossed for us!

If you’re waiting for those upcoming orders, and may have to contemplate the “should we become landlords or sell our home?” question, I’m wishing you well!

Are you a military homeowner? When it’s time to move, will you rent out your home or try and sell?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Survive and Thrive: Our OCONUS Adventure to Okinawa!

The-Young-Retiree-in-OkiI’ll never forget how I felt when my husband mentioned we might be moving to Okinawa, Japan for three years. “Verbal orders,” he told me. This meant the move was not set in stone, but he should know for sure any day, and we should start preparing! I felt sick to my stomach and tears burned the back of my eyes. But I couldn’t let him see me upset over something that was going to be beneficial for his career.

Then the orders fell through and I released the biggest sigh of relief!

We began talking about all of the reasons why it was awesome that we didn’t have to go. Not long after, he told me again, “Verbal orders…to a different command in Okinawa.” Talk about an ironic twist of fate. I was stressed. I was heartbroken. I was scared!

Once again, I kept the emotions hidden from him, but openly sobbed on the phone with my grandma the next day. When I married him, I made a commitment to myself, and to him, that wherever the Navy sent him, I would not only follow, but I would bloom where we were planted.

I opened up to him about my fears; there’s no sense in keeping it all in. And if you are, I would encourage you to talk to your spouse – if they’re anything like mine, they’ll know exactly how you feel, but could be putting on a strong front for you. This is a great time to encourage each other through the move!

We hit Pinterest together and I created two boards: “Travel: Okinawa” and “Travel: Asia” to get us inspired about the move. We started researching all of the amazing things we would get the chance to experience once we arrived. We started looking at the MWR and MCCS websites, and dreaming of the trips we would save our money to go on.

The-Young-Retiree-in-Oki2The minute I landed in Tokyo, I was smitten with the country and knew Okinawa was going to be an amazing adventure! When we got settled, we created a bucket list: “101 Okinawa Things in 1,001 Days.” With silly things like eat at 50 new restaurants, and stay at 6 (as yet undiscovered) resorts on the island! We’re also doing free things like collecting a jar of sea glass, and visiting various castle ruins. We even included some lofty ideas like visit Kathmandu or Bali, hike Mt. Fuji, and walk on the Great Wall of China!

We’ve crossed seven things off our list and are working on five others! I never, in a million years, thought I would be vacationing overseas, let alone living there! I carry my bucket list in my purse, and on the weekends we look at it to see what we can cross off. Whether we book a tour through ITT to go to the world’s biggest tug of war, see battle sites around the island, or if we hop in the car and pull over when we see beautiful beaches… we get out there and enjoy our new home!

If you’re looking at overseas orders (or even orders on the other side of the country), and find it a little overwhelming and paralyzing: take a deep breath, cry it out, then hop on the internet and research all of the fun, once-in-a-lifetime things you’ll be able to do. You’ll get so much more out of your time at your new home if you live positively, make an adventure list, and get busy crossing things off!

Have you ever moved out of the United States? How did you bloom where you were planted?

elizabeth-osbornPosted by Elizabeth Osborn, a Navy Spouse, living in Okinawa with her husband, enjoys a life of leisure during their time abroad by being active in several spouse groups both through the military and in the local community. She blogs about their adventures and her experiences at The Young Retiree.

MilFams: Win a FREE House Cleaning from Merry Maids!

boxes-in-man-roomWith a few PCS moves under my belt, this is what’s left of the unpacked boxes inside my house. We moved in a year ago. That’s a win, right? Military families know boxes will inevitably move from state to state, sometimes country to country, and most likely won’t be opened for whatever reason. The unpacked boxes become a shrine of collected moving stickers–you know the ones. I won’t even talk about the chaos in my garage right now. I couldn’t tell you what’s in half of the boxes sitting out there.

Each time we prepare to move, I tell myself this time I’ll get rid of all the extra stuff, donate, purge, and move to our next home simplified and ready to unpack.

Easier said than done.

And once you finally get in the right mental state (because it is totally necessary, isn’t it?!) to start unpacking, placing things in their new spots, and turning your house into a home, you’re left with packing paper, empty boxes, and a house begging for a deep clean.

That’s where Merry Maids comes in.

garage-2Our Association has partnered with Merry Maids, a premier home cleaning company with over 30 years of experience to give five lucky military families a free house cleaning in honor of National Military Family Appreciation Month!

To enter: send us a photo of your house at it’s messiest (via Facebook or email to Social@MilitaryFamily.org) by November 30, 2014. A winner will be selected in each of Merry Maids’ five regions.

About that garage–you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

What are your tips for cleaning up and unpacking? Share your tips with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

What to Expect When Your Move is Unexpected?

box-head-movingAs military spouses, we know to expect the unexpected. Yet, somehow the unexpected often catches me by surprise. Early one morning this past June, I was sipping my coffee and browsing the Internet for exotic European vacation deals. We were beginning the third and final year of our tour in Vicenza, Italy and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

My husband walked into the room holding his Blackberry saying, “We need to talk.” My stomach turned a bit. I knew something was up, but what would it be this time? “I’ve been offered a job in Georgia and I will need to report as soon as possible.” I can’t remember now if I ever answered, or if a flurry of questions about the kids, school, camps, scheduled trips, commitments and so much more simply filled my head.

There are many PCS resources available for military families, but I couldn’t find the one that told us how to successfully complete an overseas PCS within 3 weeks.

Week 1, we scheduled movers, scheduled our flights, spoke with the schools and frantically began researching the city that would be our new home. This move was really happening.

Week 2, purging and organizing was the name of the game. Every closet and room was accosted by every family member – talk about some special bonding time. Week 3 came quickly, the movers arrived and we moved into the hotel on post. Two years had gone by faster than I had realized. Goodbyes are hard, but I found that the unexpected goodbyes were even harder.

Days later, we headed to the airport in the early morning hours. After flight cancellations, delays, and a myriad of other travel issues, we touched down in Atlanta, GA. We had arranged to stay the night with some friends. One night quickly turned into 6 weeks. That’s right… my husband and I, our three children, and our 80-pound Bernese mountain dog moved in with our civilian friends for 6 weeks!

We bought and closed on a house in record time. We balanced work, illness, surgery, and the every-day adjustments due to moving back to the US after our European stay. We registered the kids for schools, sports, and activities in hopes of making some connections before the school year began. As many of you experienced this summer, our car shipment was delayed and our household goods came later than expected. Somehow, as military families often do, we got through it.

There were frustrations and tears mixed with adventures and memories that make me proud of how this lifestyle has molded our family. Each of our children has struggled in one way or another. I could actually write on and on about the pain of watching the kids struggle with what has been the most difficult move each has experienced.

The first quarter of school just ended and autumn has begun. Military kids are resilient and mine are adjusting and thriving and handling struggles as they come their way.

I still find it hard to believe that we completed an overseas PCS in 3 weeks, but we did. I have learned once again that military kids are strong, my husband is a patriot that is honored to fulfill his military duty, my friends are like family, and that home is where the Army sends us.

Kim-EdgerPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

All Roads Lead to the Pentagon…I just didn’t know I’d be Driving!

map-of-washington-dcFor many military families, a PCS to Washington, DC is an inevitable stop in a service member’s career, and from some perspectives, viewed as a necessary evil. For me, raised in DC’s military suburbs, it would have been returning home. And as a career civil servant, it represented a virtual mecca of job opportunities compared to alternatives like Fort Rucker, AL or Fort Bliss, TX.

But when my active-duty husband, an E-8 in the US Army, received a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Spring of 2013, a PCS to anywhere, much less the Nation’s Capital, seemed unlikely. MS is considered a Service Connected disability, so the only trip the Army had planned for my husband was the long and winding (read: a year and four months counting) road of a medical board and an official status of “unfit for continued military service.”

I’m not going to lie, the diagnosis and its aftermath were hard. Imagine being told you have an incurable neurological condition, and are being removed from your position, becoming non-deployable persona non gratis in your unit. Then you hear, “Thank you very much, but after 22 years we no longer require your service,” all in just a few months time.

We had a rough year, but after being transferred to Fort Campbell’s Warrior in Transition Battalion (WTB), things started looking up. My husband started getting the medical treatment he needed and receiving the compassion he deserved. We started looking forward to the reality of transition from military life, with the primary wrinkle being that we weren’t sure if my husband would be able to work, or what type of work he might be able to do.

I am a planner by nature and by trade. Since childhood, in somewhat paranoid fashion, I’ve developed plans and backup plans for unforeseeable scenarios that, more often than not, never came to pass. But this time, my fastidious obsession with maintaining my own professional career, along with my husband’s, had panned out. I was ready and able to step up and support our family, even in the unexpected scenario where he might not be able to work.

About a year into the medical board, I started applying to positions, since everyone at the WTB insisted that the medical board would be completed, “any day now.” To my surprise, and in record time for a government hiring action, I was offered a position for the first job I ever seriously applied for. Great! But, now we were in the unfortunate position of me having to relocate to a position in DC, while my husband was still stuck in the quagmire of the VA disability ratings process. We didn’t want to be separated, but who knew if his ratings would come in tomorrow, or if I’d have another opportunity like this one. So I accepted the job, but delayed my start date; meanwhile, he started making pesky inquiries about his ratings status.

And then, by a benevolent force that I never knew existed within the DoD, the fine staff of Fort Campbell’s Warrior in Transition Battalion worked out a miraculous transfer for my husband to Fort Belvoir’s Warrior in Transition Battalion to “accompany me” to my new duty station. And they turned the paperwork around in about two weeks! For me, that is concrete proof the Army really does care about transitioning Soldiers and families.

So here we are in NOVA, living the dream; it’s just a dream lived in a different way than the one most military families experience. Yes, it’s a dream that involves living in a home half the size for double the price, but one with a life lived at the center of it all, in a place littered with symbols of the freedom my husband has fought for over the last two decades.

My new job isn’t actually in the Pentagon, but work requires visiting occasionally. I went last week and stood in the hallowed halls (and drank a tall iced caramel macchiato at the Starbucks), and thought about our military journey. My husband’s career didn’t end the way we thought it would, but our path still brought us here, to the center of the military world. That’s the thing about transition…you don’t know where it will lead you, but you will find your way, and there’s a whole world out there to discover.

Posted by Laura Eileen Baie Yates, National Military Association Volunteer, Fort Belvoir, VA

Permanent Change of Sanity: Our Adventures in PCSing

moving-boxes-leftWhen my Marine told me we would be PCSing to TwentyNine Palms, California in January 2015, I thought, “Nice, there is enough time to mentally prepare and work on building my network without the stress of having to do it with only 30 days’ notice.” I felt like the luckiest girl in the world! Thanks Marine Corps; thanks for giving us an opportunity to actually have a solid (and maybe stress free) move!

In my head, I was planning our “Lowes Are Moving” holiday bash, where we would invite over all of our friends for one final toast in the home we had enjoyed for the last several years. We’d have a garage sale, and get rid of all our dead weight from the last few moves…or as we like to call it: unopened boxes with TMO stickers from 10 years ago. There would be going away parties, a few farewell girls’ nights, and some final visits to some of our favorite spots.

Silly me.

My husband came home a few weeks later and said, “Hey, so…our house will be ready in about 10 days, and the movers will be here at the same time.”

I can’t remember the EXACT conversation, but all my ears heard were ten days. 10 DAYS! Just like that. No parties, no final toast, no garage sale.

PCS translated to Permanent Change of Sanity.

This little change in plans ALMOST crushed my soul. I’m not one of those people who can plan and organize a move with the greatest of ease; I need time to mentality prepare. To the spouses who can easily create neatly organized lists: I salute you! I have marveled at your skills for years.

I’m more of an adventure seeker and “I wonder what’s going to happen next?!” type of person. There’s more flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants than I would like to admit.

If you’ve got a quick PCS coming, take some of my advice:

Don’t stress. Well, a little is okay! Moving is stressful. Try to find ways to cope with the stress. I found a little 45 minute jog does wonders for me. It’s like my reset button. I’m also a big fan of a nice, hot shower to wash off all the cleaning, box dust and stress. Just take a few minutes to decompress.

Get to know your new area…virtually. One of my favorite ways to check out a new duty station is viewing the websites of various organizations. The Marine Corps Community Service page and the Chamber of Commerce are two of my favorite places to start. Are you seeking employment? Check out local job listings and employment pages. Or, are you thinking of a career change, or unleashing your entrepreneurial side? Go ahead and do that! A new duty station is a great opportunity to explore a new career field, or take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Look for opportunities to volunteer in that field while you’re fine tuning your skills. I had been active in our previous community, so the sleuthing began as soon as I received our new destination. Is there a local extension of the organizations I have been working with for the last few years? Where is the gym? Are there spouse groups on this base? Who do I know that’s already there? WHO IS THE LOCAL INTERNET PROVIDER?!

moving-with-soldierGet to know your new neighbors. PCS season is virtually year round, so some of your neighbors are new, too! Our new neighbors brought over a delicious homemade pie the second day we were here. When a moving van showed up at the house next to us the week after, we paid it forward. This is the perfect time to ask for referrals, and recommendations for doctors, or places to go and see.
Take care of you. Take a break when you need it and just be. That could mean doing a coffee run for an iced quad venti caramel awesome latte, or just hanging out with your kids in their new park. The boxes will be there when you get back.

Everything is temporary. You know that moment when your family is begging for food and you can’t find plates in the sea of boxes, the dog throws up on the carpet in your brand new home, the cable guy can’t find your address, and your mom is calling NON-STOP to see how things are going? Yeah, that moment is stressful. And that moment is temporary. Just go one box at a time, and one foot in front of the other.

Cleanse and discover! That military ball dress you wore six years ago, that doesn’t quite fit right anymore… get rid of it. Moving is a great opportunity to cleanse your home of things you don’t need, use, or want anymore. And it’s one less thing you have to deal with on the other side. On the flip side, going through all those old boxes gives you the chance to find things that you haven’t seen in years. I found my degrees and awards hanging out with some old papers in a box that wasn’t even opened at our last duty station. That stuff is going on the wall of our new home.

Learn the local language… and other stuff too! Some duty stations require deep learning. At other places, it’s just a matter of getting out in your local community and asking questions. Last weekend, I had dinner with a group of locals who schooled me on the language, places to see, key phrases, and great places to eat (and some to avoid). Apparently, I was interchanging some phrases that didn’t make sense to the locals, and was referring to places that didn’t exist in the context I was using. But I managed to find a great Thai place for dinner (totally picked via Yelp reviews), and it turned out to be one of the best!

One going away party at Denny’s, and four weeks later, we are settling into our new home. We picked up the “Things to Do Guide,” with at least two years’ worth of action packed adventures. So, we started going through it and put things to do in order of awesomeness – which is a great job for kids and teenagers! We found a hiking group, a yoga group, an entrepreneur group, and a pretty great deli. Outside of the new bugs, insects, and strange little footprints I am trying to identify, it’s been a pretty good experience!

I hope your PCS turns out to be a good experience, too!

Have you ever gotten orders and had no time to prepare?

Posted by Sue Lowe, Marine Corps Spouse, TwentyNine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGG), CA