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Planning Ahead for a Smooth PCS Move


As we enter peak PCS move season, generally from May 15 through August 31, many military families will be relocating. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, military families move about every two to four years — sometimes even more frequently.

Any time you’re reassigned, you’re likely to experience mixed emotions — excitement for a new start, sadness to be leaving your current community, and uncertainty about the logistics of it all. As you settle into the idea of moving on, you can start to alleviate some of this stress by preparing yourself, your spouse and your family as much as possible by understanding your new housing options — for instance, will you rent or buy? There are pros and cons to each option.

If you buy, rather than writing a rent check each month, you’ll be paying a mortgage and starting to build 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.) Renting instead allows you to get up and go at a moment’s notice (usually a 30-day notice), but all the money you spend on rent goes to your landlord, and you do not gain any financial advantages from it. Online calculators like this one can help you understand the costs of buying vs. renting.

“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,” advises Kevin Crooks, Jr., Business Development Manager with AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS) who grew up at Camp Lejeune while his father served in the Marine Corps and is a military Veteran himself.

One additional piece of advice: Don’t try to time the market. “Whenever you’re financially ready is a good time to buy. If interest rates drop, you can always refinance,” Crooks adds.

Related: Rising Rents, Uncertainty Make Buying Attractive

Benefits of a VA Home Loan

If you run the numbers and decide you’re ready to buy, you’ll want to learn a whole lot more about 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,” says Jeanie Byrd, a military spouse who works in post-closing for AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS) and has experienced eight PCS moves (so far).

A VA Home Loan is a mortgage guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and issued by a private lender like AMS. With possibly no down payment required and easier credit terms to qualify, VA Home Loans can help many first-time military buyers, but repeat buyers can also use them. VA Home Loans are only available to current and former U.S. military servicemembers with qualified credit and may offer a lower interest rate than conventional loans.

The VA Loan entitlement is the amount of money the Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees for eligible servicemembers and Veterans seeking a home loan. Unlike conventional mortgages, the VA doesn't set a maximum loan limit but allows lenders to determine how much they’re willing to loan a particular borrower. The VA Loan entitlement is based on one-fourth of the conforming loan limit and it is possible (and quite common) for someone to have more than one VA Home Loan at a time. “The takeaway here is that military homebuyers know this is an option and reach out to an AMS Military Mortgage Advisor to determine how much they can finance at 100% and if there would be a down payment required for their desired price point,” says Crooks.

Servicemembers should contact a loan expert as soon as they know they’ll be moving. “We’re here to educate AAFMAA Members about mortgages, including VA Home Loans, and help them decide what’s right for them,” he adds.

Related: Download Our Homebuying Guide

Be Willing to Phone a Friend

You can also take comfort that you don’t have to “go it alone.” There’s a lot of support for military families moving into new communities. Be sure you tap into a caring network — such as a Facebook or other online group of military spouses in your new area — for referrals and information.

“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,” says Byrd, who works with military families who are moving 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,” she says.

Reaching out to a friendly network can help you plan the “little things,” like finding a pediatrician or sports league, Byrd suggests. Sharing your findings with your family can go a long way in helping them quickly acclimate to the new area.

If your move is beyond the reach of your existing network, you can get help from resources like SpouseLink, whose mission is to support, inform, and inspire the MilSpouse community and MILLIE, 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,” notes Byrd.

Related: What Information Do I Need for a Loan Application Checklist

We’re Here to Help

Whether you’re thinking about buying, ready to start home-shopping in earnest, or considering a refinance, an AMS Military Mortgage Advisor, a licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, will be happy to provide you with an honest and fair comparison of your mortgage options, including a wide range of affordable mortgages designed to meet your needs.

Ensuring AAFMAA Members obtain the best mortgage possible is our mission. Get your free mortgage assessment today or give us a call at 844-422-3622!