My Blog

Mandatory Repairs to Make Before Listing Your Home

9/14/2018

You’re about to list your home and perhaps feel overwhelmed by the number of things you think you need to deal with before that can happen. The broken things. The worn and torn things. The guidance from your friends with too many opinions and the internet. The easiest way to help that overwhelmed feeling subside is to have a plan of action. That’s what we’ll help you create here.

Keep this in mind: Your list of “must-do” items should not be about doing to your home what would be of interest to you; rather, focus on what a buyer would want. Buyers want to see a home that is well-maintained and in good working order. And most actionable items that meet this need fall into one of two categories for the purposes of this conversation: things that will prevent a sale and things that will make your home more appealing.

Things That Will Prevent a Sale

Unless you’re marketing a fixer-upper, most buyers want to buy a house that’s move-in ready. And after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, they’re not too inclined to take on big-ticket repairs or replacements.

Structural and Mechanical. Some of the highest ticket items in a home are the structural and mechanical systems, including the roof, air conditioning and heating, water heater, pipes, and electrical panel. If you’re aware of a problem with any of these things, this is your priority. Not only do buyers want all of the structural and mechanical aspects of the home to be working and in good shape, but any of these things in disrepair can also impact a buyer’s financing and thus the viability of their purchase, which is especially true for FHA and VA loans.

Roof. If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced, attend to this first. Visible damage to the roof can stop a sale before it even begins, as it’s the first thing a prospective buyer may notice. A home in need of a new roof can be a difficult home to sell. Repairing or replacing the roof is a maintenance issue, and while you can’t count on it to increase the value of your home, it will increase the marketability of your home. Buyers want to know the literal and figurative roof over their heads is safe and sound.

Siding, Shingles, and More. While you’re already outside checking out that roof, look for any missing or damaged siding and shingles, or anything on the external part of the house that buyers will notice. Repairing these things now means you don’t have to make allowances to the buyer later.

Plumbing and Electrical. Now is also the time to fix any plumbing and electrical issues. Outdated electrical panel? Running toilets? Leaky or clogged faucets? Showers that only run cold? Many of these repairs are relatively inexpensive but important. (While not as important, replacing those toilet seats while you’re working on the bathrooms will make the toilets look better, too!)

5 Social Media Hacks for Crushing Your Next PCS Move

9/8/2018



Available technology  makes it easier than ever for military families to learn about their duty station. But searching on Google alone won’t cut it. That’s where social media swoops in to save the day and can make you an expert on your new neighborhood before you even get there!


Hack 1—Pinterest
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how awesome Pinterest is for gathering and storing information  in one place, but it is also a great tool for moving that shouldn’t be overlooked. As soon as you get orders to your next duty station, create a board on Pinterest titled with the name of your new duty station. Then start gathering pins related to the base and the area.

The best part about this? Many other military spouses have already traveled down the road you’re on. So it’s likely they’ve created or shared pins related to your duty station already. What’s better than collecting information curated by someone who’s been in your shoes?

Hack 2—Hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to geotag photos without actually using your GPS or “checking in” anywhere. Any time someone posts a picture to Instagram and adds a hashtag with a location  that will be searchable by you (depending on their privacy settings).

So to start getting a visual idea of what your base and the surrounding areas look like, you can go on Instagram and start searching hashtags. Start by searching “#YourDutyStationName” (as in #FortHood). This will show you what real people are doing in the area and what they think about it.

A word of warning though: Take the comments and captions with a grain of salt. Everyone has a unique outlook on life so their comments might not be very objective.

Hack 3—Facebook Pages
I’m guessing that any time you receive orders, you immediately hop on Facebook and join the local spouse page at your new base. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s so much more to Facebook pages than just the spouses’ groups!

  1. Search for your duty station’s official base page! That’s going to give you accurate information about the base, the facilities, and events occurring on base. This is the best resource for official points of contact. And chances are they’ll have photos of the base amenities, too!
  2. Search for the local MWR, A&FRC or FRG page and follow them. The folks who work in those organizations are typically super helpful and regularly push out important information. Connecting with them on Facebook will allow you to get a jump start on your burning questions before you even PCS!

Hack 4—Snapchat
This one may sound a little goofy since Snapchat is used for more personal purposes (like sending funny photos of your face switched with your cat’s to your best friend). But it can also be used to help you discover more about your next base.

  1. Ask a friend to start sending you snaps of the area. That way you’ll begin to find out what there is to do, what places look like, if there’s a Target (or more importantly a Chipotle), and what to expect once you finally arrive.
  2. You can also ask a friend to send you snaps from inside a property you’re interested in. They can store those snaps in their Story so you can review them over and over throughout the day. If they’re uncomfortable keeping those photos on their Story all day, ask if you can set a time limit for how long they’ll leave those snaps up. Once the time limit expires, they can delete those snaps from their Story, easy peasy.

Hack 5—Facebook Live
Facebook Live is a fantastic tool for checking out a potential property. You can reach out to a friend and ask them to create a Facebook live video for you. They can set their audience for the video to just you so you’re the only one who can view the video.

They can then create a video while walking through a potential property. They can talk about what they like, don’t like, or anything that stands out. The best part about this tool is, once they’re done filming, they can save the video to their timeline (where only you will be able to see it!), and you can go back and review the video over and over again.

This makes it easier than doing a Facetime video with a friend and frantically trying to take notes while also trying to watch everything they’re showing you. This also helps you avoid the Facetime/video call barrier if you have phones that aren’t compatible.

Researching your next duty station doesn’t have to be all work… it can also be fun! By using the five tools above, you’ll get a fuller sense of what your next installation looks like and what life will be like on your next adventure!


                                                                                 

Navigating a Damage Claim

9/6/2018
 

When the PCS Odds are NOT in Your Favor

You prepared, researched like a BOSS, and have the perfect house lined up at your next duty station. Way to work it! Moving day arrives, and you entrust thousands of pounds of your life to a crew of packers and movers and hope/PRAY for the best!

Now, listen friends?—?sometimes this goes smoothly and without any major issues. If you get through a PCS with minimal damage and heartache, stop reading this and go buy a lottery ticket! No, really?—?we’ll wait

Sometimes, however, it can go really, really badly. Summertime is peak moving season and transportation companies are usually overwhelmed by the demand. We know, it confuses us too why “This is such a busy season” seems to be the go-to excuse. Every. Single. Year. There is a huge margin for error on their end and unfortunately we bear the brunt of those errors and suffer the material losses.

So, what do you do when it all goes wrong? You need to file a claim with the moving company, otherwise known as the Transportation Service Provider (or TSP). They broke/lost/mishandled it, so they are responsible?—?not your insurance, not the military, or the Department of Defense. You have 75 days to file the Loss and Damage Report, which initiates the process. After that, you have nine months to file your Claim (what you want them to do about it).

It seems like an overwhelming task (it’s a doozy), during a time when you’re already stressed to the max. But if your losses were significant, DO IT. Not only will this help replace/repair your things, but it will help the DoD track how well their contracted companies are performing. So help out your fellow movers by reporting bad movers!

Step One?—Where to Go

  • Log into the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) using your Electronic Transportation Acquisition (ETA). You should already have this from when you started your move (via move.mil), but if not go ahead and register.
  • In the upper left hand side of the screen under “My Approved Applications” click on the “Claims” tab or “Defense Personal Property System (DPS).”
  • This site contains thorough tutorials and instructions for filing your claim, so I’ll spare you the exhaustive step-by-step.
  • From the “Claims” tab, select “Start My Loss/Damage Report.”
  • Click on the icon to the right of the GBL number (General Bill of Lading) blank box. If you have had more than one PCS you will see all of the GBL numbers
  • Select “Add/Update Claim Items” click on “Add Claim Item.” Add as much information as possible under each item you’re claiming. Don’t forget to click “Save” after every item entered.
  • If you have photos of the damaged items (please have photos), go to “Upload File Attachments” and click on “Add.” Search for your photos select the photos and click “Save” and “Upload File Attachment.” Tip: Snap photos of damaged items as they’re coming off the truck and consolidate them all to a folder on your computer desktop.
  • Once you’re done adding all the items, scroll to the bottom and click on “Submit Claim To TSP.”
  • That’s it for the report, but don’t stop here!

Step Two?—?Complete a Loss/Damage Report

Step Three?—?Submit Your Damage Claim

The Loss/Damage Report is only one step. This form basically initiates the claims process and serves as notification to your TSP that you intend to file a claim. The report must be completed with 75 days of delivery of your HHGs. Your TSP will then contact you regarding your actual claim, which you have nine months to file.  The itemized damage claim must also be filed through the DPS site, and resembles the process to file the Loss/Damage Report - with a little more detail. Once you’ve catalogued all the damage to your items, you can submit the claim to your TSP through the DPS form (I know, enough already with the acronyms!).

Step Four—Hurry up and Wait

So what can you expect to happen now? The TSP has 30 days to respond to your claim. They can either repair your damaged items, compensate you to have items repaired, or settle with you for the Full Replacement Value (FRV) of the item.

If they do not respond within 30 days of the claim, or respond with an unacceptable offer, you can transfer your claim to the Military Claims Office (MCO). They’ll compensate you for the depreciated FRV, and take over the fight with your TSP. If they do well, they’ll pay you the difference.

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Just remember if you had a mishap or an all out PCS tragedy, there is something you can do about it! It’s tedious, and time consuming, and literally the LAST thing you want to deal with, but there is hope! Get organized, make your voice heard, and hang in there.

Home Improvements You Can't Ignore

9/5/2018

 

There are two kinds of people in this world when it comes to home improvements: the handy types who roll up their sleeves and are prepared to take on any project, and those who call in the paid professionals. That first group? Empowered, self-confident. The latter? Not big fans of electrocution or flooding.

Us? We say go big or go home. Or go big enough that there may still potentially be a home to go back to. And we’ve got all the guidance you need right here.

Safety first. If you’re like three. Eye protection? We don’t need no stinkin’ eye protection. Eye patches are sexy and uni-sex. Imagine it: Wearing an eye patch would be like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and Halloween in one—every day. And who needs ear plugs? Seriously? Think about the future money you’ll save not having to try to drown out noisy neighbors or snoring spouses. No hearing? No problem.

Timing is everything. When you do your project is as important as how you do it. Don’t make the mistake of waking up early to take advantage of as much sunlight as possible. It’s far more practical to start work in the middle of the day. You know, right when the sun is highest in the sky and the temperature is equator degrees. If you plan properly, you can make sure that work on the kitchen coincides with the exact time that family members expect to eat a meal of some kind. You’re not a short order cook, right? You’re a home-repairing god. They can wipe the sawdust off the counters and make their own darn sandwiches. Besides, sawdust is fiber and we all know how important fiber is to your diet.

The right tools for the job. You know you’ve got something to fix or improve. It’s time to head to your friendly big box home repair store. Roam the aisles aimlessly. Feel at one with the doodads and thingamabobs. Throw stuff willy-nilly into your cart. You’re inspired! You’re creative! You’re resourceful! Eyeball the length of that shower curtain rod. It looks about right. Right? If you’re the more mathematical type, hold your hands out in front of you about shoulder length apart. Look at the curtain rod. Look at your hands. Look at the curtain rod. Adjust the distance between your hands accordingly. Now you’re talking! Don’t forget that area rug you were scouting. Not sure if it’s long enough for the area you want to cover? Do your best “I swear I’m sober, Officer” walk, heel to toe, the length of the carpet. Perfect.

Before you head to the checkout line, make sure you stop by the rental equipment area. You no doubt need that thingy that makes the loud noises and puts holes in stuff. No clue how to operate it? No problem. After all, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen with a big loud machine that puts holes in stuff? You wouldn’t want to find yourself in the middle of a project and missing an essential piece of equipment.

The right team for the job. Assemble your work crew. This isn’t the time to think about the people you know who actually have any experience with plumbing, electricity, or carpentry. They’ll just give their stupid opinions based on facts and professional experience and science and what not. You don’t want someone else’s opinions. You want brute strength and someone who’s as handy-challenged as you are so you don’t feel insecure. Bonus points if they’re prone to providing free labor in exchange for pizza and beer. And holding their hands on their hips staring at a problem willing it to fix itself.

Get to work! You’ve got your motley crew. You’ve got your doodads and thingamabobs. Did you forget to pick up a stud finder or level? Or to identify which walls are load bearing? No worries. It’s a freaking house. It’s built to stand, right? Grab that big loud machine rental and go to town. You’ve got this!

How to Buy Your Not-Forever Home

8/23/2018




How to Buy Your Not-Forever Home

Ahhh, your forever home. You know, the one you dream about when you close your eyes at night. The one with the backyard big enough to BBQ and the perfect spot for a vegetable garden. It’s close enough to your family but not too close. A magical, mythical place where you can paint the walls whatever darn color you want and use nails instead of Fun Tak to hang your family photos.

You likely already know exactly what you’re looking for in a forever home. But if your home address still varies dependent upon the whims of the military, you’re not working on a forever home schedule right now. You’re interested in buying your not-forever home. And that’s a whole separate animal. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

Figure out your non negotiables. ?If you have children, maybe a great school district tops your list of priorities. Perhaps you’re worried about the commute time for your significant other or the proximity to post. Maybe Spot is your world and a yard with a fence is a requirement for you. What are the things that aren’t up for debate? Once you’ve determined what those things are, be prepared to be more fluid and flexible with the other items on your “would-be-nice” list. Compromise on your forever home? Of course not. On your not-forever home? Absolutely, especially if your goal is to have the best possible financial outcome both as a new homeowner and as a future landlord.


It’s not just about you.? Okay, it is about you, but not entirely. Yes, this prospective not-forever home should be able to accommodate you comfortably now. Yes, in a kind world it should be a happy and welcoming place for you. Yes, it should put you in a good financial position where you’re not paying two mortgages concurrently.

But your not-forever home should be attractive to your future tenants as well. Your one-of-a-kind taste in wallpaper or funky bathroom tiling is, well, one of a kind. Keep in mind that you’re going to need other people to like what they see, too, or you’re going to struggle to keep the home rented out when you’ve already moved on to your next duty station. This reality means that you either need to consider purchasing a home that’s generally appealing rather than quirky. Or you need to be prepared to make it more attractive at your expense before renting it out—and toss those numbers into your financial math.

Do your homework.? Research what the property values are where you’re looking to purchase a home. How long do houses typically stay on the market there? How close to asking price do sellers usually get? Are home rentals common in the area? If you’re looking off post, is the area one where military folks are known to rent or own? The information you gather will tell you whether the home is a good fit for you now. But it will also give you a sense of how easy it will be to rent or sell your home when you’re moving on to your next location.

Remember that a great realtor can make a world of difference. ?You want someone who will be a fierce advocate for you. Someone who knows the area; is clear on your budget, needs, and non-negotiables; and is prepared to walk through fire to get the deal done for you. Such a person is worth every penny, both financially and for the “emotional savings” you’ll earn by having a highly competent professional on your team.

Until it’s time for the forever home, here’s wishing you luck in finding a perfectly adequate not-forever home. May it provide you warmth and security and wonderful memories. And when it’s served that purpose, may it quickly be grabbed up by the perfect future tenants who will protect your financial health.



                                                              

Rent v. Own: Four Factors for Military Families to Consider Regarding Housing

8/20/2018




66,100,000. That’s how many blogs, articles, resources, and opinions Google generously spits back when we type in “military families own or rent.” Obviously, renting versus owning a home is a quandary that’s very much on the minds of lots of folks. In the name of convenience (we don’t imagine you’ve got time to read over 60 million citations), we thought we’d highlight the key factors you should keep in mind if this is a decision that you too are currently looking at having to make.

Just to manage your expectations, we don’t have the “right” answer for you. There are too many variables that are unique to you and your specific circumstances to take into account. But we’ve got some great questions we hope will guide you to making the “right-for-you” decision.  

What is your current housing situation?? Considering whether to rent or to buy is one thing if it’s your first home or apartment. That conversation quickly changes if you’re already responsible for an existing rental agreement or mortgage. For instance, if you’re living with family and searching for a place to call your own, you’re looking at potential numbers. If you’ve signed a year-long rental agreement or already hold a mortgage and are looking at another place, then you have two sets of numbers that need to play nicely together.

How is your financial health?? You need to have a very clear picture of where you stand financially before you think about committing future dollars. You don’t know what you’ll be able to afford if you haven’t yet been really honest with yourself about your current financial situation. If your present financial outlook is grimmer than you’d like, then are there other priorities like reducing debt or restoring a credit score that should take priority over home ownership?

Have you run the numbers for both renting and purchasing a home? Do you have a financial advisor who can review those numbers with you and take into consideration things like tax brackets, tax breaks, real estate appreciation, and such?

How important to you is that VA loan? If you use this benefit and then need to relocate elsewhere, you’ll need to have paid off your VA loan in order to be eligible for another. That means you can’t count on the help of a VA loan for the second property purchased.

Do you have a financial safety net? Are you prepared financially (and emotionally) to pay two mortgages or a mortgage and rent if you’re unable to sell your home before you need to move?


What is your future game plan? ?We’ll give you a moment to stop laughing. You could randomly sample any one thousand strangers on the street and they’d no doubt be as knowledgeable about what the military has planned for you as you are. You may not know where you’ll be in the next six months (we so wish that was an exaggeration). We get it. But what’s your plan for the plan? Are you early in your military career? How many years of PCSing do you anticipate having in front of you? How close—or far—is retirement for your military family? And what’s your plan for when retirement does come? Are you sipping margaritas from an RV that you use to hop from one child’s house to the other? Are you settling into a forever home? Your end game matters…or at least your next-several-years’ game does.

What about the “you” variable that folks forget to consider? ?How risk-averse are you? Are you reasonably comfortable with the uncertainty of the housing market? Are you willing to be geographically separated if the sale of a home requires one person to remain back while another proceeds to a new duty location? Are you open-minded about the idea of being a landlord if you find yourself needing to rent out a house that just won’t sell?

Do you like to shovel? Rake? Weed? Or do you have a teenage workforce to whom you can delegate such tasks? Are you handy or willing to shell out money when it comes to home repairs and maintenance? Do you like purple walls but not the twenty coats of primer necessary to cover them if you move out? (Purple walls won’t likely be your decision-making factor, but how you feel about decorating, renovating, and claiming a space as your own might be.)

Are you prone to collecting children, pets, or big boulders from all the places the military has sent you? How much space will you need? How challenging is it or might it be to find child-friendly/pet-friendly/boulder-friendly rentals in the area you’re considering?


The “right-for-you” choice is…? a series of conversations about your current situation, your financial health, your vision for your future, and your personal preferences and priorities. Nobody who tells you there is a singular right answer regarding whether you should rent or own is as invested in this outcome as you are. When all is said and done, this decision needs to be about what’s most important to you and your family.

5 Ways to Uncover the Secrets of Your Next Duty Station

8/18/2018





5 Ways to Uncover the Secrets of Your Next Duty Station

PCS'ing to a new duty station can be scary, intimidating, and overwhelming all at the same time. And you have no choice but to buck up and move there. Even if you don't have a network to rely on for insider information, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a firm grip on what the area will be like before you get there!

1 — Embrace Your Base

There is always going to be a place you absolutely dread going to (I’m looking at you, Minot, N.D.), but that’s not going to stop the military from sending you there. So instead of going into your next PCS with a stomach full of lead, try looking at the bright side!

Before you arrive at your base, give it a chance. Start looking into the on- and off-base activities. What’s going on in the local area? Are there major cities or attractions nearby that would be fun to check out? Start planning mini-trips and putting local events on your calendar for after you arrive. That’ll help you take a break from all the moving boxes and embrace your new surroundings.

While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with the base. Start looking at the duty station’s website (I know they can be clunky, but they often have a wealth of information). Find out what amenities are available on base and start estimating how much time you plan to spend there. If the installation can provide for your lifestyle better than the surrounding communities, then you're one step closer to making a housing decision.

2 — Go Social
When you find out where you’re headed next, get on Google and search “pcsing to ____.” Look past the first few results to some of the lower results on the first page, and even consider going to the second page (eek!). You’ll often find forums or chats related to your duty station where people have already asked questions that you have right now.

Dive headfirst into the blogosphere to learn from fellow military spouses, local photographers, foodies, and real estate agents about what the area is like. Many of these people write posts on their personal experiences of the area, which is a great first-hand resource to tap into! Just be sure to look out for sponsored posts, and keep their affiliate status in mind when weighing their input.

Getting connected with installation-specific Facebook groups is a popular recourse as well. Ask members of the public groups if there are any secret groups available for you to join. Make it clear you have specific questions to ask that you’d feel more comfortable asking in a more secure group (sometimes unit-specific groups are secret and you'll need an admin to invite you). Oftentimes fellow group members will add you, or at least vouch for your entry


3 — Work Your Network!
Military spouses have networks that even put Kevin Bacon's fame to shame. As soon as you receive orders (or a hint that you’re moving in the future) reach out to your network and ask if anyone has lived at the duty station you’re headed to. Take it one step further and ask them to introduce you to someone they know who has lived there or currently lives there. Then pick their brains on the base and the area.

4 — Nail Down the Brass Tacks
There are two critical things you need to figure out about your new duty station right away: The housing market and the schools.

For the market, using Zillow can provide a good baseline for what home prices are like in the area. Start looking for homes in areas around the base that you find attractive. Then take it one step further and click on the link for “county data” or “see more resources.” That will offer you specific neighborhood names that you can then reach out to your networks and ask about. This in-depth research will give you a more realistic idea of what the neighborhood is like. For a more in-depth, customized approach, working with a Realtor (hint, hint) is going to be your best bet.

While this can be a lot of work, in the end, it’s worth it. However, if research really isn’t your thing and you’re worried about finding a good neighborhood, that's what I'm here for!

For school research, start with GreatSchools.org. They gather tons of information from schools every year and compile it all into one score that you can use to compare schools in the area. But be aware that those scores are just numbers at the end of the day.

You can also go one step further and connect with your base’s School Liaison Officer. They’re going to have the best info on the schools in your area and will be able to guide you to one that’s appropriate for your kids. You can also check out my School Scope toolkit for a comprehensive overview of what to look for in a new school and where your child will thrive!


5 — Map It Out
As soon as you find out where you’re moving next, hop on Google Maps to get a visual of the area. Start by finding out where the base is located and then work outwards from there.

The cool thing about Google Maps is you can customize them and create labels, notes, and other designations that are relevant to you. You can outline general areas you’re considering buying a home in; you can drop a pin at the nearest Target and Chipotle (two essential items); you can note where other vital amenities are and how far of a commute they are from the base or your potential home.

The possibilities are endless.

Then use Google Street View to see what the area actually looks like, from an on-the-ground perspective. By going one step further and mapping out your next base, you’re acquainting yourself with the area, and saving yourself the headache of repeatedly getting lost when you first arrive.

Getting a jump on this research will help orient you to your new home and help you start identifying where you think you're interested in living! Once you have an idea of that, or even before, let me know what you're thinking and I can help you find the perfect home. I know it's hard, but we can start working well before the ink is dry on your orders and have on your way to a smooth, much coveted door-to-door move!



5 Mistakes Military Homebuyers Make

8/15/2018


5 Mistakes Military Homebuyers Make
And How to Prevent Them From Happening

Too often, military families feel like homeownership is out of reach. Maybe they've heard of friends being upside-down on a house in a bad market, desperate to sell. Or perhaps they struggle to find and keep renters in their home once they move away. Because of horror stories like this, many military families choose to be long-term renters until they can put down permanent roots.

Because military families often have compressed timelines and additional stresses to consider when buying a home, such as an unfamiliar city or upcoming deployments, they are at additional risk of making critical errors early on in the process. Fortunately for prospective military home-buyers, these worst-case scenarios are preventable, and home ownership can be a personally and financially rewarding experience if approached properly. Here are the top five mistakes to look out for if you are a military family considering a home purchase and, more importantly, how to avoid them!

Mistake No. 1 — Starting the Process Too Late

While some people are apt to wait until they arrive at their new installation to start house hunting, this rarely works out well.

On average it takes between 30 and 40 days to close on a home. But the military only offers you ten days of “free” temporary lodging. That means you have to account for 20-plus days of out-of-pocket living expenses. That can get expensive, stressful, crowded, and frustrating in a hurry.

Solution: As soon as you have an inkling you’ll be PCS’ing, start looking for a new home. Once the official orders arrive, you’ll be able to begin the process of buying or renting a home. That way, when you finally arrive at your new base after spending 50 hours driving across the country, you can skip temporary lodging and move straight into your new place.

Mistake No. 2 — Buying a House When You’re Not Financially Ready

The VA Loan is a benefit that makes homeownership a real possibility for many military families. But buying a house means you’re also buying into a lot more responsibility.

Air conditioning units break and water heaters tend to explode. Natural disasters CAN happen to anyone, and kids sometimes hit baseballs through windows. That’s life. And it’s pretty expensive sometimes. Putting all those home expenses on credit probably isn’t the best choice. And then the military will ask you to move once again, and you could suddenly find yourselves paying a mortgage on two homes because your old one hasn’t sold yet.

Solution: Before you buy a home, make sure you have a robust emergency/rainy day fund built up. That financial cushion will allow your family to take care of home emergencies without your finances spiraling out of control.

Mistake No. 3 — Not Buying a House for the Long Game

This is probably the biggest mistake military home buyers make. Homes appreciate (gain value), but it takes years to see the value increase. Location impacts this significantly. But buying a home with the expectation you’ll be able to sell it for a profit in just a couple years when you get new orders isn’t very realistic. If you're selling after only a few years you’ll be lucky to break even, and you’ll be more likely to lose money on the transaction.

Solution: When buying a home, buy it with the long game in mind. That means being prepared to become a military landlord the next time you PCS. Selling too soon might result in the loss of thousands of dollars, whereas renting the property ensures that the mortgage is covered by tenants and you can continue to build equity. Military homeowners have to think beyond the two or three-year planning horizon that is typical for military families.


Mistake No. 4 — Buying in the Wrong Market or Neighborhood

You always hear real estate agents talking about “location, location, location!” There's a good reason for that. A home that’s in a desirable neighborhood for your family doesn’t mean it’s desirable to everyone else.

You also have to consider the market. Are there enough people moving to and from the area to support you being able to rent or sell your home? Is the market over-saturated with homes, making yours just one of the thousands up for sale? Not enough demand can be bad, but too much supply can be worse.

Solution: When buying a home, think beyond your family and your circumstances. You might love living out in the country, but many other families might not want to live so far from the installation. A downtown loft might be ideal for your family, but too expensive and too cramped for many other families. Think about your potential buyers and renters before committing to a new place. 


Mistake No. 5 — Buying the Wrong House

Yes, that is a thing. Just because you like a house, doesn’t mean other people will. When buying a home at your new installation, keep in mind that it’s not going to be your forever home. Even if you plan on coming back to it in the future, you need to have a plan for what you’re going to with it in the meantime.

Solution: When buying a home, think beyond your family and your circumstances. You might love having a split level home with only two bathrooms, but that could be an absolute deal breaker for many other families. Ask yourself, “What is desirable about this house to the general population? What is undesirable about it?” Considering what would be desirable to other families before committing to a house will help your chances of selling or renting out your home when it comes time for you to PCS again.

Conclusion

Buying a home while still serving in the military can be risky, but when done properly it comes with the reward of long-term financial stability. Do your homework, keep the potential hazards in mind, and find a savvy agent. So long as you avoid the common mistakes that military families sometimes make, you too can own your very own piece of the American Dream!

Top 3 VA Loan Myths Debunked

8/7/2018



One of the biggest hurdles real estate agents face with connecting to the veteran and military population is a lack of understanding of the VA loan process.

In the next 5 minutes, you will learn about the Top 3 VA Loans Myths.

Myth 1: VA Loans Take Way Too Long To Close

Fact: VA Loans Close Just as Fast as Conventional Loans and Even Close More Frequently

There’s a lingering myth that loads of red tape cause VA Loans to close more slowly than conventional loans. This is simply not true.

According to national data collected by Ellie Mae, conventional loans closed in an average of 40 days while VA Loans closed in an average of 41 days.

Ken Robbins, Co-Founder of Millie, personally experienced this process just a few years ago. He was buying his current home with a VA loan as he was transitioning from the military. The home closed in just under 30 days.

Not only do VA Loans tend to close just as fast as conventional loans, but the Ellie Mae data also suggest that borrowers who take out VA Loans are actually more successful in closing than those who take out conventional loans. Typically, 68% of VA Loans closed while only 49% of conventional loans closed.

 

Myth 2: VA Loans are More Risky Than Conventional Loans

Fact: VA Loans Have Been The Safest On the Market Since The Housing Crash of ‘08

VA Loans’ competitive interest rates and $0 down payments often leave people thinking, “What’s the catch?” Many assume that VA Loans are more risky because they come with so many benefits. The fact of the matter is: VA Loans have had the lowest foreclosure rates of any type of mortgage for the last seven years, according to the National Delinquency Survey.

This is something we have seen SO many times. A realtor on the selling side will tell their client to turn down an offer from a buyer using a VA loan despite the offer being for MORE MONEY than the conventional loan buyer. Thus, they just cost their seller money. The amount of money for a down payment is not an indicator of the strength of the buyer in all cases.

 

Myth 3: The VA Appraisals Tend to Be Conservative and Undervalue Homes

Fact: All Appraisals Cause Differences of Opinion, and VA Appraisals Are No Different

VA appraisals have developed a bad reputation for undervaluing homes, but no data suggest that these appraisals over more conservative estimates than conventional appraisals. Rather, it seems as if difference of opinion about property value is just a common phenomenon that affects all types of loans.

A 2012 study from the National Association of Realtors showed that 1 in 3 real estate transactions had problems because of an appraisal.

The VA appraisal process, like all other appraisal processes, is influenced by subjective judgments and statistics from supposedly comparable homes that might not offer good market information.

In Ken’s experience, he rarely saw VA appraisals differ significantly from others. When he and his wife bought their home, the VA appraisal was ABOVE their purchase price, meaning they gained instant equity in the home.

The appraisal was done efficiently and they missed no closing deadlines as a result. 

If you need an agent that understands the VA Loan Process and can help with your real estate needs please feel free to reach out to me at your convenience at 702-815-9478, or RobertK@bhhsnv.com

 

I Pledge to Serve Those Who Have Served

10/31/2017

Every real estate agent has a responsibility to provide the best home buying experience and resources available to his or her clients. That's why I've pledged to ask every client "Did You Serve?" As a Veteran, you are eligible for many benefits earned through your service, among them is the advantages of the VA Home Loan program. It's my privilege to educate you on these homebuying benefits and to help make those benefits accessible and attainable.

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