Ahhh, your forever home. You know, the one you dream about when you close your eyes at night. The one with the backyard big enough to BBQ and the perfect spot for a vegetable garden. It’s close enough to your family but not too close. A magical, mythical place where you can paint the walls whatever darn color you want and use nails instead of Fun Tak to hang your family photos.
You likely already know exactly what you’re looking for in a forever home. But if your home address still varies dependent upon the whims of the military, you’re not working on a forever home schedule right now. You’re interested in buying your not-forever home. And that’s a whole separate animal. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
Figure out your non negotiables. If you have children, maybe a great school district tops your list of priorities. Perhaps you’re worried about the commute time for your significant other or the proximity to post. Maybe Spot is your world and a yard with a fence is a requirement for you. What are the things that aren’t up for debate? Once you’ve determined what those things are, be prepared to be more fluid and flexible with the other items on your “would-be-nice” list. Compromise on your forever home? Of course not. On your not-forever home? Absolutely, especially if your goal is to have the best possible financial outcome both as a new homeowner and as a future landlord.
It’s not just about you. Okay, it is about you, but not entirely. Yes, this prospective not-forever home should be able to accommodate you comfortably now. Yes, in a kind world it should be a happy and welcoming place for you. Yes, it should put you in a good financial position where you’re not paying two mortgages concurrently.
But your not-forever home should be attractive to your future tenants as well. Your one-of-a-kind taste in wallpaper or funky bathroom tiling is, well, one of a kind. Keep in mind that you’re going to need other people to like what they see, too, or you’re going to struggle to keep the home rented out when you’ve already moved on to your next duty station. This reality means that you either need to consider purchasing a home that’s generally appealing rather than quirky. Or you need to be prepared to make it more attractive at your expense before renting it out—and toss those numbers into your financial math.
Do your homework. Research what the property values are where you’re looking to purchase a home. How long do houses typically stay on the market there? How close to asking price do sellers usually get? Are home rentals common in the area? If you’re looking off post, is the area one where military folks are known to rent or own? The information you gather will tell you whether the home is a good fit for you now. But it will also give you a sense of how easy it will be to rent or sell your home when you’re moving on to your next location.
Remember that a great realtor can make a world of difference. You want someone who will be a fierce advocate for you. Someone who knows the area; is clear on your budget, needs, and non-negotiables; and is prepared to walk through fire to get the deal done for you. Such a person is worth every penny, both financially and for the “emotional savings” you’ll earn by having a highly competent professional on your team.
Until it’s time for the forever home, here’s wishing you luck in finding a perfectly adequate not-forever home. May it provide you warmth and security and wonderful memories. And when it’s served that purpose, may it quickly be grabbed up by the perfect future tenants who will protect your financial health.