Though some military families decide well in advance that they will always rent, buy, or live on post no matter where they’re stationed, many others (my family included) make the housing decision on a case-by-case basis depending on where they’re being stationed and for how long. Though we really enjoy owning our home, the idea of selling it in just a couple years is constantly in the back of our minds and influences nearly all of our home-making decisions. Because there are many pros and cons of each of the three options, this is typically one of the biggest decisions a family will make before they PCS (move).
Military Housing Options: Which is best?
I recently reached out to several different groups of military spouses and asked about their housing preferences. I really enjoyed their feedback and related to many of their sentiments. I’m sure many of my military readers can also relate to something said below.
On Post/Base Housing (Pros and Cons)
“We lived on base at Fort Lee for six months while my husband attended a school. I loved that he could be home in five minutes and there were tons of playgrounds and very welcoming neighbors. Several of our neighbors were in my husband’s class. There was also tons of closet space (housing definitely thought about families that are always moving and all the random items they had). That being said, there was plenty I didn’t like. When we moved in there were 10 items that needed to be fixed on the house including two broken toilets and no door knobs on the front door! I also didn’t like how small the yard was, having to rent a fence, and being connected to other houses. Also, the base didn’t keep the front yards well kept, which was their job. Lastly, they take every last cent of your BAH for a house that is very basic.” – Noel
“After being active duty and living in the barracks (before I got married), then being a military wife living on post, and then getting out, we both miss being on post. It might be different because I was a veteran myself but there was always a since of community that we have really struggled to find since getting out. We were also enlisted and, believe it or not, that makes a huge difference when it comes to your interactions with other people on base.” – Sarah
“Love living on post! This is our second duty station that we chose to live on post. [We enjoy the] ammenities, community, and feeling of being safe. For our family’s size and my husband’s rank, we could not have afforded to live off post renting. We will not buy until retirement. We do not want to have to worry about selling prior to moving to our next duty station.” – Stephanie
“To start, I’d say I was never interested in living on post, but I think it can be wonderful based on where you live! We elected to live off post at Fort Campbell and Fort Leonard Wood and were happy with our decisions there. However, in Hawaii we decided to give on post living a try, and we couldn’t be happier! My husband is less than a 5 minute bike ride to work and PT, so he comes home after PT to shower and we have our morning coffee together. Any time he gets a call on the weekend, he can run to his office and be home in less than 30 minutes, so we don’t have our whole weekend disrupted. We have so many friends that live within a 10 minute walk, which makes for really fun weekend neighborhood cookouts. HI is difficult to find places that rent to pet owners, and is very expensive, so moving on post was stress-free for finances and for our fur baby. As a whole, we are happy with on post living simply because we get to spend a lot more time together than we did in the past, and the houses here are very nice.” – Hannah
“My husband and I don’t see the point in purchasing a home until he gets out so for now we’ve been living on base. I was super iffy about it at first, but it turned out to be an amazing experience. For someone who had zero experience with the military life, living on base was very beneficial for me. There are so many benefits to live on base, but my favorite has to be the sense of community. I love having instant access to so many great military resources and being surrounded by others who are living the same life I am. It also made it super easy for me to learn my way around and meet new people. It really helped me make the transition into military life a bit easier. I will always recommend living on base to newer military spouses.” – Keating | High Heals and Combat Boots
“We won’t buy a house until we are done with military life. Here’s our reasons: 1) We don’t know where we want to live after the military. 2) We move every 2 years or less with the military. (That said, we are putting money into a saving account for mortgage once we are done with military life.) Right now we are living on base for the first time and even though the house is less than ideal, our neighborhood is amazing. My children have the freedom to ride their bikes to their friends’ houses and I know my neighbors. I feel safe. It’s the best for us at this point in our lives.” – Michelle | Managing Editor of Next Generation Military Spouse
“We bought in 2007, the market crashed, and we’re stuck with a house that we owe more on than it’s worth. We will rent or live on post from now on until we are out of the military. We have lived on post for the last three duty stations and we love it, especially Knox. It’s very small and we could walk to the movies, library, and club. The kids could go out and play without me worrying about them. It was great.” – Allie
“We could not be happier with our experiences living on post both at Fort Riley for 4 1/2 years and now at Fort Stewart for the last month. For me, it’s all about the community, amenities and sense of security. When my husband was deployed, I was NEVER scared to be alone in my own house. I knew I had neighbors around me to support me, even if they weren’t my best friends (though many of my closest friends were on post too!) I also love that there is a park (or two, or three, or five) around almost every corner. After having my daughter, it’s a lifesaver. No need to pack up and get it the car- just a quick stroller ride or walk away. Commissary is close, need I say more? Since arriving at Stewart, almost every time we are out on a walk, someone stops us and says something like “hey, you must be new here…” and introduces themselves. I just love that I’m surrounded by people in a similar situation as me who understand what it’s like to be “the new kid” and most are in a similar life stage to us as well.” – Jessica
Renting (Pros and Cons)
“Love living off post! We love being “separate” from the military community & not feeling totally surrounded by it. We’ve never lived on post so I can’t compare, but I’m confident that we’re definitely happier off post. And we bought a house in Colorado– it’s been a huge headache renting it out! In less than three years we’ve had three tenants cycle through that house (all military). Each time it goes back on the market I’m on the edge of my seat wondering if we’ll find new renters in time. We’ve been renting houses since buying that house in Colorado and it’s so much less stress! When it’s time to move again you just pack up & go.” – Kimberly
“At Fort Campbell we rented a house. We loved that you could definitely get more bang for your buck at Campbell and we were able to rent a three bedroom home. We loved not being connected to any other homes which happens often when you live on base. Our rental agency wa fairly easy to work with and came out quickly when the home had issues. The cons were not being able to make home improvements. It also felt like we were throwing money into a hole. We will never see that money back.” – Noel
“In the 10 years we’ve been at this so far, we have rented and/or lived in on-base military housing. We have never lived anywhere that 1) we really wanted to keep/maintain a house or 2) made sense financially (market wasn’t in a good place for re-sale). Some people feel that buying can stretch your BAH dollar further, but more and more housing agencies are now offering rebates to match the rent/mortgage of off base neighborhoods. The rent rebates combined with the savings in expenses on utilities can add up to significant cost savings, which will help us eventually buy a home down the road! I do wish I was able to make more permanent and “real” changes to the homes we live in, but that very thing is what spurred my blog!” – Megan | The Homes I Have Made
“When we were at the career course, we decided to live off post to “test that option.” To be fair, it was in Waynesville, MO and there is nothing cool there. But, we were at first excited about a much larger house than we’d receive on post. Though the house was great, it didn’t make up for everything we missed about living on post. It was a great “trial run” for us, and I’m glad it was only 6 months. Now we are back on post and loving it. Sure, it will definitely be a smaller house for your money but it feels like home to me.” – Jessica
“While living on post at Riley has been an amazing experience, we are pretty sure we are off post people. We rent, buying is still too scary in that “I don’t want to get stuck in a house” moment. Aaron has never minded the commute- at Campbell we lived in Hopkinsville so he was driving 25-30 mins. We love being able to have “non-military” space. It’s an all consuming lifestyle sometimes so living off post allows us to feel like we can be our “normal” selves. I also like the independence I’m allowed off post. I can sign for our house, set up our bills, and get things situated without a POA, I’m not somebodies dependent. I like being able to be a equal to my husband and that’s not how I’m treated on post, I understand why, but it’s just not my thing. We usually save a good bit of money by living off too, so that has helped with our decision making.” – Mary
Buying (Pros and Cons)
“We won’t buy a house until retirement. Moving every two to four years is stress enough without dealing with buying and selling a house! We’ve had some rough times with rentals and absentee landlords (who were military!). We lived on base in Hawaii due to exorbitant housing costs off base. We currently rent a home in an adorable village in Germany. It’s always a toss-up to have the convenience of living on base or trying to feel like part of a community off base.” – Jennifer | Royal Little Lambs
“My husband and I decided to buy a house here in VA Beach. For a few reasons, one being rent was going to be just as expensive as a mortgage would be. Therefore, we felt our money would be spent in a much better way by having it go towards our mortgage and an investment. This way we were not throwing away money, like we felt we would if we were to rent. Two, we like the idea of renting it out at some point and investing in the house that way. Three, we loved the idea of having a place to make ours. While you can do that with a rental, you are definitely more restricted. While we are in love with our house and are happy with our choice, there are cons of course. 1. We are responsible for anything and everything that’s needs replacing, is damaged, etc. 2. We will be responsible for finding a buyer/renter whenever it is time for us to leave. 3. I’m sure there are more, but those are the 2 that hang over my head ha. We also chose to live OFF base. Wes likes the idea of getting away from work and military life. We actually live 30 min away from his base and love having our own little community outside of the military. I bet living on base would be a great way to feel safe, however if you do your research and look into neighborhoods, school districts, I feel as if you can find an area you feel safe in. Get to know your neighbors. We have made a point to meet many of our neighbors and I feel very very safe.” – Victoria
“We are going on our fourth home purchase since 2008. I love being homeowners not just to call the place our own but the long term investment potential (retirement savings, kids college planning, equity in real estate, etc). Just because you are temporary at a base should not limit your ability to buy if you are in a fortunate real estate market. Instead, take advantage of lower interest rates (with or without your VA financing) and an up and coming market to help with your nest egg towards retirement (not just military retirement but the one when you hit 65).” – Kim | 1200 Miles Away
“We bought a home here because we knew we would be here at least 3 years. We have been in the home now for 4.5. We didn’t want to live on post and we knew a mortgage would be lower then renting. I love living in our neighborhood as it is very quiet and in a good location. Not sure how long we will be here but it was a good decision.” – Julie | Soldier’s Wife Crazy Life
“My husband is wanting to buy at our next post after CCC even though we don’t know how long we will be there either. I think for us it will be a matter of just really wanting a home of our own at that point since we will be in our late 20’s versus our first post when it was right out of college. Hope that helps!” – Amanda
“In Colorado we own a home. I’m able to do whatever I want to it which I love. We bought a home with an unfinished basement. We totally finished the basement and (cross our fingers) have added quite a bit of value to the home. We pay about $450 less a month with our mortgage compared to rentals in this neighborhood. I do have some fears though that we might not be able to sell it though.” -Noel
“Riley is our first post together, but we are LOVING living off post. We both like not being in “Army world” all the time and being able to pick our house/ decorate how we want- especially since the on post options were, in our opinion, less than desirable. Off post living also allows us to split the commute between my work (in Wamego) and his and also lets me work from home in a quiet place that doesn’t share a wall with any neighbors.” – Amy
What can you relate to? Military spouses, what is your personal preference regarding this topic?
Hi! I’m a proud Army wife and mom to two little girls (ages 1 and 4), and I love sharing our lives with you. I blog all about motherhood, our time in the military, our travels, our meals, my fitness journey, my fashion favorites, and so much more. I truly enjoy sharing it all! I can’t get enough of birthday cake ice cream, weekend sunrise runs, or making my girls belly-laugh. I write almost daily about my family’s lives, and though I like to keep things light, I also share the messy parts too. Welcome! So glad to have you around. I’m active on Facebook and Instagram and would love to communicate with you there!