As a military spouse who’s bought four homes with VA loans, I can’t say enough good things — at home or work — about the product.
By Jeanie Byrd, AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC
Getting a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) in the military is like being transferred to a new job in the private sector. Whether that move is domestic or takes you halfway around the world, it means pulling up roots and moving quickly, within months or even weeks.
If the active duty servicemember leaves first to start in their new role, their spouse has to handle all the logistics of finding a new home, which can be a daunting task, especially if you have kids.
As a MilSpouse myself, working in the military mortgage services industry and with eight PCS moves of my own under my belt — four of them involving buying a house — I have some tips to share.
- Rent vs. Buy
Deciding whether to rent or buy a home depends on your family’s situation. There are pros and cons to each option. As a rule of thumb, if you know the area where you want to live, perhaps in a certain school district or within commuting distance of the base, and that your assignment to that base will last more than three years, buying could be a smart option. Rather than writing a rent check each month, you’ll be paying a mortgage (usually gaining equity), and you may be able to write off a portion of your mortgage interest on your taxes. Just be sure you check with your tax advisor. Online calculators like this one can help you understand the costs of buying vs. renting.
- Ask for Help
I was one of those people who tried to do everything on my own — to be strong. Well, after eight moves, I’ve changed my tune. Companies like AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS) specialize in helping military families navigate the home buying process. I work with military families every day, answering questions about forms and next steps. In addition to companies like AMS, there’s a whole network of MilSpouses who have “been there and done that.” As you plan your move, network, ask your peers for help, ask them questions about the area or local school districts. If your move is beyond the reach of your existing network, you can get help from resources like SpouseLink, which supports, informs, and inspires the MilSpouse community and GoMillie, which specializes in supporting military families through the PCS process. There is no need to feel alone when so many people are out there willing to help you.
- Research VA Loans
Of all the things involved in a PCS move — researching schools, packing, and transporting everything — the VA Loan has been the easiest part of the whole process. VA Loans are only available to current and former U.S. military servicemembers with qualified credit, and can offer a lower interest rate than conventional loans. Also, there may be no down payment required, which may help some first-time buyers. Finally, applying and closing on a VA Loan can be fast and easy, which is critical for a smooth PCS move.
Your Next Move
Okay, so am I a pro at this? Yes and no. We currently live in the Fayetteville, NC area, near Fort Bragg. When our kids graduate from college, my husband (now retired) and I will move once more, to buy our forever home.
Finding the right property may be challenging, but one thing about the move is certain: we’ll use a VA loan for the fifth time. It’s that good. We understand how these loans work and appreciate that they’re a military benefit you can use more than once.