Managing your housing expenses while serving in the military can be challenging, especially when Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) may not keep pace with current market costs for rent or a mortgage. There are many considerations for making sure your dollars stretch effectively. Below are five suggestions to help you make the most of your housing allowance.
Choose the Right Location
- Research Local Housing Costs: Begin by researching the housing costs in the area where you’re stationed. Websites like Zillow, Trulia, or local real estate listings can provide valuable insights into average rent and home prices.
- Consider Commute Times: Evaluate the balance between proximity to your base and affordable housing. Sometimes, living a bit further away can lead to more cost-effective housing options.
- Explore Off-Base Housing: Investigate off-base housing options, including apartments, condos, and houses for rent. Don’t forget to consider utilities and maintenance costs in your budget.
House Hacking and Roommates
- House Hacking: If you purchase a home, consider house hacking. This involves renting out a portion of your property, such as a spare bedroom, to offset your mortgage costs.
- Find Compatible Roommates: If you’re comfortable with roommates, seek out other military members or individuals who understand the unique demands of military life. Sharing expenses can significantly reduce your housing costs.
- Review Lease Agreements: Ensure that your lease agreement allows for subletting or having roommates, and follow all legal requirements and base regulations.
Utilize Housing Assistance Programs
- Explore Military Housing Office Resources: Contact your base’s Military Housing Office for information on available housing assistance programs and resources.
- Investigate VA Loans: If you’re considering homeownership, explore VA loans, which often have favorable terms, lower down payment requirements, and competitive interest rates.
- Look into Housing Choice Vouchers: Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8), which can help subsidize your rental costs in the private housing market.
Financial Planning and Budgeting
- Create a Detailed Budget: Develop a comprehensive budget that takes into account all your expenses, including housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, and savings.
- Emergency Fund: Build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or fluctuations in your BAH. Having savings can provide peace of mind and financial stability.
- Financial Counseling: Consider seeking financial counseling or assistance through organizations like Military OneSource or your base’s financial readiness program.
Negotiate Rent or Mortgage Terms
- Negotiate Rent: When renting, don’t be afraid to negotiate with your landlord, especially if you’re a responsible tenant with a steady income. Ask if they are willing to reduce the rent or include utilities.
- Explore Homebuyer Assistance Programs: When buying a home, inquire about local or federal homebuyer assistance programs that can help you secure a more favorable mortgage rate or down payment assistance.
- Consider Refinancing: If high-interest rates are currently increasing your monthly payment beyond what is comfortable, explore the option of refinancing to lower your monthly mortgage payments if there are rate drops.
Every military family’s situation is unique, so it’s essential to adapt these strategies to your specific circumstances. Whether renting or buying, your BAH can go further with the right approach and informed decisions. Your housing allowance can work harder for you, allowing you to focus on what matters most – serving our nation with dedication and honor.