The Aftermath of PCSing

When you receive orders to a new base, you immediately think of all the big things to take care of – and for good reason. You need to start planning to move out of your current residence, find a new place to live, decide if you’re going to do a DITY move or have the government take care of it, take care of all the change-of-address hassles, take care of school for the kids, etc, etc etc. But when you actually arrive and the cloud of stress and constant activity begins to settle, you find yourself getting back to your real life. And in real life, you need more than boxes, packing tape and forms.

It doesn’t unravel all at once, but bit by bit you begin to realize that you need something you no longer have a person for. You need your hair cut, a massage (if you’re really lucky), an accountant, pest control services, heating and air professionals, a handyman, a plumber, a car repair shop, a shipping store, jeweler, gym… and the list goes on. All those errands and day-to-day things you did before the move still need to be done, but there’s the added burden of needing to figure out where to go and who’s reputable.

The tough part about finding many of these types of businesses is that “word of mouth” is generally thought of as the way new customers (ie you) are referred to them. And now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because when you just moved, you don’t know anybody! And those you do know, you just met. Sure, they might be willing to tell you who they use, but you don’t yet know them well enough to know if their “stamp of approval” matches up with yours.

I’m not going to pretend all those things are of paramount importance, but you do need them and it’s easy to forget that you do until your car starts to smoke or your hair starts to act the way it does when it’s time for a trim. So my recommendation? Use this resource as your jumping off point. The businesses that are listed are here for the sole reasons that they understand the value of the military community to their business, they want to say thank you, and they are reputable. I used this to find just about everything I needed when I arrived, and I have yet to be disappointed. So take a look around the Business and Professional Services section of any of our base guides, give these wonderful people a call, and let them know how you found them.

And if you wish, let us know how your experience was. Tweet us @militarymedia_ or leave us a message at Facebook.com/MilitaryMediaInc

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To Rent or To Buy? Part Two

It’s a beautiful (and extremely necessary) thing the military gives its service members: BAH. When we were trying to make the decision of what to do with it (rent an apartment or house, or buy a home), we had a lot of options to weigh. At the time, we decided to rent just because it was easier and we had never owned a home before. While it was the right decision for us then, we found ourselves with four months left in our lease deciding we wanted a bigger place. Though we initially had the intent to rent a house, we quickly realized buying in this area can really just make more sense. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen lower home prices… especially not a mile from the beach.

So, why did buying make more sense? Well, assuming you have a budget of about $1100/month, you can find a house in a decent neighborhood with anywhere from 1000 – 1500 square feet of living space. But with buying, we were able to find a home in very nice neighborhood that we could rent for about $1400 – $1500/month whenever we have to PCS again. And here’s the kicker – our mortgage, with insurance and property tax included, would be about $100 a month less than the rentals I was talking about. Especially considering the housing market is just now rebounding but still low, it’s a good investment.

On top of that, you should consider the area. This area is gorgeous, meaning you might very well want a property here either to vacation at or eventually retire to. Even if that’s not up your alley, look at the rent I mentioned above. While I will never say it will be “easy” to find a renter, there are a lot of military installations in this area. That means there will be constant influxes of new people coming in that guess what? Need homes to rent.

While I think buying, especially here in this market, is a great move, I’m not going to pretend home ownership is all flowers and roses. If something breaks in our home, we will have to fix it ourselves or hire a handyman – no more property management office to call for free. Whenever we do PCS, we’ll either need to find a buyer or a renter instead of just vacating and washing our hands of it, like with a rental. And there will be projects. All the time (even though they can definitely be fun).

So think long and hard about what you want to do with your BAH. Consider your needs and those of your family (if applicable), and then consult a realtor. There are tons of amazing ones listed in this section (I know ours was a lifesaver), and when you’re the buyer – totally free. They get their commission off the sale of the house. It’s like using a travel agent – it makes your life simpler and it costs you nothing. Enjoy living on the Emerald Coast!

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To Rent or To Buy? Part One

It’s the classic question from the time you move out of your parents’ house (or dorm) until seemingly forever: should I rent or should I buy? There are plenty of arguments one way or the other filled with facts and opinions galore, but at the end of the day, you need to make whatever decision is right for you. And since I didn’t start writing this article to tell you nothing, here are some of the pros of renting on the Emerald Coast.

  • It makes your life easier

When it all boils down, renting an apartment just plain simplifies things. Your shower/dishwasher/stove/window lock broke? Don’t pay for a handyman – just call the maintenance office. Think you need new carpet? Great – you won’t be paying for it when it gets installed. Time for the roof to be replaced? You might suffer through some noise, but your bank account won’t budge an inch. Owning a home comes with plenty of maintenance costs and headaches, all of which are built into your rent and taken care of by the property management staff. It’s a wonderful thing.

  • You get amenities

In this area more than any other I’ve lived in, most of the moderate to nice apartment complexes come with a lot of amenities that can make you feel like you’re in a great hotel (in a good way). It is not uncommon to find a complex that offers one or multiple pools, a sauna, a workout facility, a business center, free coffee and/or snacks in the clubhouse, playgrounds, putting greens, tennis courts, basketball courts, car wash stations, etc. It’s really pretty impressive. And the best part is the rent costs are much less than what you’ll find in most areas of the country.

  • You meet a lot of people

PCSing means leaving behind the friends you made at one duty station and finding new ones wherever you’re going. While you’ll still have neighbors living in a single family home, there are many more people living in an apartment complex. And from what I’ve seen around here, it makes meeting friendly people much easier. You’ll not only meet your immediate neighbors, but you might bump into other people at the mailboxes, the pool, the gym, etc. Apartment living offers a great opportunity to feel welcomed much more quickly after you arrive.

  • Military Discounts

Aside from the benefits of the VA loan for home buyers, you don’t exactly see military discounts offered off the purchase price of the home or your closing costs. But many rental apartments offer discounts that make the process of moving in more affordable. For instance, you could find you’re able to have your application fee waived, background check fees waived, and security and pet deposits cut in half. All in all, several hundred dollars of discounts. Not too shabby.

  • You can be in and out

Signing an apartment lease gives you a whole lot more flexibility and less stress when it comes to the possibility of getting orders again. It may be the last thing you want to think about when you’re in the process of PCSing, but you must always realize unexpected orders are a very real possibility in the military. When renting an apartment, it is quite simple to walk down to the leasing office with a copy of your orders and an intent to vacate letter and get on with your list of to-do’s. At that point, you can move on and wash your hands of it without any stress – something we all need when we’re preparing to move.

Like I said, everyone is different and you need to make the decision to the rent or buy question on your own. However, the above are what I have found (in my personal experience) to be important things to consider. So, take a look through the Apartments and Rental Properties sections in the Eglin Guide (eglinguideonline.com) and Emerald Coast Military Directory (ecmdonline.com) and check out some of the great communities offered here. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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