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Thread: Base Housing VS Private Rental (CONUS)

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    #1

    Base Housing VS Private Rental (CONUS)

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    It's that time, FINALLY!! After years of only seeing each other for months here and there we will finally get to be a "normal" married couple. He got orders to Norfolk and since I'm already here it's making it somewhat easier... except trying to decide where to live. So I am looking for opinions on which is better (if you have personally lived in base housing in VA & private housing in VA especially). I only know a little about base housing from when I was active which isn't much to be honest... and I also don't want to run into a crappy landlord situation like I have right now. Any opinions and info will be appreciated. Thanks!!


    P.S. Does the military member have to be present to get on a waiting list for housing if we go that route? Or can I take his hard copies in to get on the list?




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    #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Buckeye14 View Post
    It's that time, FINALLY!! After years of only seeing each other for months here and there we will finally get to be a "normal" married couple. He got orders to Norfolk and since I'm already here it's making it somewhat easier... except trying to decide where to live. So I am looking for opinions on which is better (if you have personally lived in base housing in VA & private housing in VA especially). I only know a little about base housing from when I was active which isn't much to be honest... and I also don't want to run into a crappy landlord situation like I have right now. Any opinions and info will be appreciated. Thanks!!


    P.S. Does the military member have to be present to get on a waiting list for housing if we go that route? Or can I take his hard copies in to get on the list?
    To get on the wait list for base housing, he can send all his documents over to them through email.




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    #3
    I've not dealt with base housing in VA, but here are the big factors we consider when trying to decide where to live:

    1. Quality of the area we are looking at. At our current base, if you want to live in a lower crime area, you're looking at a 30 minute drive to base, or living on base itself.

    2. The cost difference between base/off base, compared with the quality of house you get. At our current location, the housing on base is privatized and takes the full amount of your BAH. Even if your BAH increases, and you stay in the same house, you now pay more for that same house. Might not be bad if you are happy with the housing.

    For us, base housing means a two-family town home with nearly no yard. We like not sharing a wall with our neighbors, and having a fenced place where the kids have room to play. We were also able to find a single family home to rent for less than our full BAH allowance, so it made the longer drive a more than acceptable trade off. The answer might be different at a different base, though.
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    I don't have first hand knowledge of base housing in Norfolk, so this is just general base housing vs. private rentals. First, a lot is dependent upon whether or not your base housing is privatized. If they are, renting may not be much different than renting on the community. For example, our current home is privatized and we pay rent (not full BAH being taken out, our rent is less than our BAH) and we pay an electric bill. Our water/trash/septic is including in rent. Other housing on the same base is how 'normal' base housing works in that they take their full BAH regardless of size of house/rank and all bills are included.

    Pros for base housing:
    1) Safety. For us this was important because the base in Albuquerque is not in a good area. There are, of course, good areas, but the affordable ones are pretty far from the base and with my husband's weird flying schedule I'd rather see him as much as possible. Some people will say living on base can give one a false sense of security, but this is only true if you don't continue to to protect yourself. Just because it's base housing you should still lock your doors, ya know? But I don't feel like I'm going to be murdered walking to the mailbox at 10pm and I would feel safe remote starting my car in the mornings so to me that's a win.

    2) Short commute. As I mentioned above, we like that DH can come home during lunch sometimes and he's home a lot with the kids. If our kiddos were older or if we didn't have any the commute may not matter as much.

    3) Saving money. We just had a second baby and I decided to stay home. Base housing is, in general, less expensive than living in town for most people. Now of course if you don't have kids and can live in a small apartment you may save money. Also, the higher ranking the AD member is you may save money if your housing office takes your entire BAH. For us, we would actually save more money because our rent is not dependent on what his BAH is.

    4) Walking to places. I love being able to walk to the pool, BX, parks, etc. Our current base is pretty kid friendly so that's a plus for us. We also have a dog park right near our home which is awesome.

    5) Sense of community. Now this is very base dependent. At our last base the sense of community was overwhelming, it was great. Here, not so much.

    6) Landscaping. This is typically included, at least the front yard. Many I've found also offer to do you backyard as well if your spouse is deployed and you need help.

    Cons:

    1) Depending on rank, many base housing units are duplexes. This doesn't bother us at all because our homes are connected in a way that we never hear our neighbors (both here and at our last base).

    2) Always 'on duty'. My husband doesn't feel this way, but I see people post that as a con often so I thought I'd add it.

    3) Following base rules. This one isn't that big of a deal to me either because I'm used to living in subdivisions with community rules. So obviously you can't park nine cars in your yard, you have to keep your lawn mowed, etc. If you are moving from a non-neighborhood area this could cause some issues, though. One huge rule here that people are having issues with (because it's new) is that you will no longer be able to park a camper in your driveway. People are pisssssed about that and I can understand why.

    4) Can't choose size of your home. I've never understood this, but your home is typically determined by your household size (until a certain rank is hit, then you automatically qualify for certain sized homes). Like, it blows my mind that we can't choose to pay more money for a larger home.
    Never do anything halfway unless you want to be half happy.

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    #5
    I've not lived in housing in VA but there are several areas in the Hampton Roads. It would depend what is available and what y'all qualify for. We elected not to live in housing while there because we found better schools associated with places that were cheaper. We also liked other areas more. And we ended up buying so we owned for most of our time there. We lived in VA Bch but in the middle of Oceana and Norfolk. When we did rent (after we sold our house and before we PCS'd) we ended up renting from another military member that had OCONUS orders. That was a good experience on the landlord/tenant aspect. You could try AHRN, Craigslist, Rose and Womble (they have rentals as well).

    Your DH does not have to be present as he can send the information from afar. But he will need hard copy orders. He may need to have checked out of or even into his new command (it depends on that housing company). But when they get all the info they can tell you what you qualify for and what he wait list is.

    I would just look at rentals in areas you like and see what the cost of those are in comparison of BAH. And then see what the housing areas are like. I believe some/most have pictures on the housing webpage and/or, Facebook page Moving House for the military spouse, or even Pinterest. And take into consideration that your utilities, trash, etc will be paid for.
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    #6
    This is such an individual thing. You have to decide what 2-4 things are most important to you about your housing situation. Thats a good place to start. Also very relevant to the conversation is your husband's rank and family size. In general, the lower the rank and the larger the family, the better deal military housing is financially. Of course, finances aren't necessarily the only concern.

    For me, I can't imagine a scenario in which I could ever choose to live in military housing. I like privacy and being away from the military. I like picking a floor plan that works for us and our lifestyle. We live in housing now because it's required (we are OCONUS). It's okay, but not what I'd choose.

    As for the wait list, what you can do without him (or what documents you need) may depend on the location. You may be able so submit everything ahead of time (for the Navy, the system is called HEAT, but it may be different for other branches). But that doesn't actually get you on the list. It gets your file started, but your place on the list is could be based on when you check in, when you check out of the new system, etc.
    Science always wins over bullshit. ~Dick Rutkowski
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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by villanelle View Post
    This is such an individual thing. You have to decide what 2-4 things are most important to you about your housing situation. Thats a good place to start. Also very relevant to the conversation is your husband's rank and family size. In general, the lower the rank and the larger the family, the better deal military housing is financially. Of course, finances aren't necessarily the only concern.

    For me, I can't imagine a scenario in which I could ever choose to live in military housing. I like privacy and being away from the military. I like picking a floor plan that works for us and our lifestyle. We live in housing now because it's required (we are OCONUS). It's okay, but not what I'd choose.

    As for the wait list, what you can do without him (or what documents you need) may depend on the location. You may be able so submit everything ahead of time (for the Navy, the system is called HEAT, but it may be different for other branches). But that doesn't actually get you on the list. It gets your file started, but your place on the list is could be based on when you check in, when you check out of the new system, etc.
    The whole 'it's individual' thing is so very true. I just realized the poster that posted above me is at the same base I am and we have two opposite answers to why we chose to live where we did. It truly is based on what your family needs.
    Never do anything halfway unless you want to be half happy.

    Is this a dream? If it is, please don't wake me from this high. I'd become comfortably numb
    until you opened up my eyes to what it's like when everything is right...I can't believe you found me ♥

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