Desperation or Love?
If you’re in house-hunting mode (again), you can feel like you’re up against the clock. And if a new duty station is in the cards, that clock can feel more like a countdown timer on a ticking bomb. That does something to a person. It ups the level of stress. It causes panic to set in. And sometimes, more often than we care to admit, it plays tricks with your ideas of what you want in that next place you call home. Love and desperation can feel the same if you’re not mindful when you’re looking at houses.
Your logical brain needs to be able to balance “How can we time this right?” with “Can we make this potential home work for us?” You can make sure you’re working on both sides of this equation if you remember to reference your must-haves versus nice-to-haves list.
Here’s what else you should consider:
Location, location, location. Even the most perfect of perfect homes is not a find if the location isn’t right. How much of a commute to base would it be for the service member in your family? What kind of work opportunities are there in the community if someone in your home will be looking for employment? What are the schools like if you’ve got school-age children? How far of a drive is it to the closest grocery store, coffee shop, or emergency room? Location really does matter—it can impact your quality of life and should count in your considerations.
Character or costly? Consider the home’s “bones.” Is it move-in ready or will it require fixing up? If work will need to be done, are you handy or do you have the budget to hire someone to make any necessary repairs/changes? “Quirky” and “money pit” can be synonymous if you haven’t done your homework. Make sure that you do your due diligence—ask about the HVAC system, the age/condition of the roof, and any of the common big-ticket repair items. A home inspection should catch most of the more costly problems, but don’t let yourself fall in love too quickly without a good sense of what shape the home is in.
Is the love one-sided? If you’re buying a house that only you will live in, then it only has to make you happy. And if what makes you happy is funky wallpaper or a dirt pile for a backyard that you dream of filling with flowers eventually, then love what you love. But chances are pretty good you’re not doing this whole PCS life on your own. If there’s a significant other or children or aging parents or pets, even, then what you love has to work for any combination of those people or critters. And of course, the converse is true—you shouldn’t have to be miserable in a place that someone else with shared decision-making authority loves but you do not.
Avoid future arguments and resentment by hashing any differences of opinion out before you make a purchasing decision. Maybe there will never be a house that all parties love. Maybe that property doesn’t exist and couldn’t even be custom built for you. Perhaps the right home is the one that everyone likes rather than the home that one person loves and everyone else tolerates. Future you will be a happier you if you have as many invested parties as interested as possible in the home you decide to purchase.
Coming and going. Say you find that home that really checks all the boxes for you. You love it. Your partner loves it. It’s got what you want and need. In fact, it’s the best house in the neighborhood you’ve chosen, and you’re really excited. If this is (finally) your forever home, then you’re set. But if in another couple of years you’ll be repeating this process again courtesy of Uncle Sam, will you be able to sell it when the time comes for your next PCS?
That nicest-house-in-the-neighborhood thing that was so appealing when you bought it? That might come back to haunt you when it comes time to put it on the market. You might have a hard time getting it to appraise how it needs to if your neighbors’ homes are valued lower. That’s not to say don’t buy a house you love that you can afford. Just remember that if you’re still in the regular PCS rotation season of your life, you should consider that eventual sale or rental that will have to happen as well.
If this isn’t your first PCS rodeo, then maybe you’ve already had your share of homes you’ve loved and homes you’ve made work while counting down the days until you could move again. Maybe you’ve decided you don’t expect to love any house you look at until you get to (one day!) buy that forever home you dream about. The sweet spot is to be optimistic and practical simultaneously. Having an open mind and an open heart at the same time? That’s the best way to begin any great adventure.